Autumn seems to have come quickly this year and even though we’ve yet to have a really cold snap the season has changed and warm days are few and far between. It’s in early Autumn that coughs, colds and flu abound and can drag on for ages, lowering energy levels and disrupting our lives and generally make us feel below par.
Rather than reaching for the usual medicines which may only mask the symptoms, a more natural approach using tried and tested nutrients has been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms and the length of the illness.
There have been numerous studies on the antioxidant Vitamin C and recent research shows that 1000mg of Vitamin C daily, in a divided dose, can reduce the frequency and the length of the common cold by about half. Many people are low in Vitamin C, which is commonly found in vegetables and fruit, and it seems that these are the people who would most benefit from taking a supplement. What’s more the research showed that those taking the supplements considerably improved their physical activity.
Where to find Vit C: fortunately this vitamin is abundant in vegetables and fruits but some particularly good sources include: peppers – both bell and chilli; cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower; leafy greens, like kale and mustard tops; guava – not such a common fruit to find but it really packs a punch with this vitamin; citrus especially oranges; strawberries and kiwi fruit.
Elderberry extract is traditionally used to help reduce the severity of both sinus and chest infections whilst boosting the immune system. Elderberry is a great remedy for children who are bringing up lots of mucous – it is available in pleasant tasting syrup (watch out for the sugars!, supplements and herbal tea – and can really help support immunity through the winter months.
A 2012 study found that taking regular doses of Echinacea can prevent colds and is beneficial to people who are most prone to them eg. those with weakened immune systems. The duration of the illness was also reduced as well as the recurrence of colds which in some cases was reduced by 60%. Echinacea is available in tablets and tinctures and there are over the counter remedies specifically formulated for children.
Garlic has been used for many different health conditions due to its anti viral, antibacterial and anti fungal properties. It can be taken boost the immune system and speed up recovery times. Garlic can be eaten raw for its most potent benefit (crush into oil and vinegar for a salad dressing) or use the cloves in cooking. You can even make a beneficial syrup to help a chesty cough by crushing three cloves of raw garlic, sprinkling over one tablespoon of brown sugar and leave in a covered saucer for six hours. Sip the liquid throughout the day until the cough has gone!
Top tip: did you know that garlic release its potent compounds if left for a little while after cutting or crushing so if you are using it for cooking make sure you prepare it before anything else.
As soon as you feel a sore throat coming on, start taking zinc tablets or lozenges. They have been shown to cut the duration of a cold by half and help to reduce the symptoms of coughs and blocked noses. Zinc is an important mineral for immune support and is often found in flu, cough and cold remedies.
Best sources of zinc: meats – beef and lamb followed by chicken and pork; legumes including chickpeas, adzuki and kidney beans; pumpkins seeds; seafood especially oyster and shellfish; nuts and wholegrain.
Beta Glucans 1,3 and 1,6
Beta Glucans are compounds that help support the immune system and have been shown to prevent colds, improve symptoms and increases the body’s potential to defend against invading pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. They are especially useful for those with upper respiratory tract infections and are able to provide allergy relief without the side effects of medications such as steroids.
Did you know: Beta glucans are also great for rebalancing cholesterol levels? They are able to reduce potentially harmful LDL cholesterol and support the health of the heart.
Dietary sources: whole grains: whole oats, barley and rye; mushrooms especially shiitake.
All of the above nutrients can be found in a variety of ‘over the counter’ medications which are formulated for different age groups and in different strengths.
If you think your immune system is struggling why not make an appointment to see our Nutritional Therapist, Pippa Mitchell, who can give you specific diet and nutrition advice to support your immunity and overall health.
If you are taking prescribed medicine please consult with your GP before taking any other medications especially over the long term.