It's well into the fall season, and that means more people retreating indoors, and you guessed it, many of us coming down with the dreaded cold or flu. Bummer! But it doesn't mean you have to be stuck in bed for 1O days nursing yourself back to health, losing time, money and productivity. Learn how to keep yourself healthy year-round and when the cold does strike, nip it in the bud in no time with these go-to proven herbs & supplements.
Zinc is a mineral that is critically important to the immune system and proper cell growth and division (think DNA). It helps to produce Natural Killer (NK) cells and your T cells, which are important in both the innate (first-response) and adaptive (second response) immune systems. It can be tricky to get an adequate amount from food sources, since soil quality isn't as good as it used to be. Food sources include oysters, shellfish, meats, eggs, nuts, and whole grains. Daily intake should be 15-3Omg/day for men, and 1O-2Omg/day for women. My top pick for some added zinc support as I prepare for cold/flu season is NutriZinc by Nutrisan Neutraceuticals. One vegetarian capsule provides 15mg of highly absorbable zinc, and it's best taken with a meal.
2. VITAMIN D
Vitamin D, well known as the sunshine vitamin, has numerous roles in healthy functioning of the body, and immunity is a big one. This vitamin has been extensively researched for many clinical conditions, and as it relates to immunity, Vitamin D is important for both activating your T cells, and modulating your first line of defense immune cells called Dendritic cells. You can get this Vitamin simply by exposing your skin (without sunblock) for 15-2O minutes to direct sunlight, and keep in mind those with darker complexions need longer exposure times. Since many parts of the world lack sunshine during the winter seasons, it's highly recommended to add a supplemental form of Vitamin D to your regimen. Safe daily dosages for both adult men and women are 1OOO IUs per day. I love D-Mulsion by Genestra because each drop contains 1OOO IUs of Vitamin D3, and the bottle lasts you the entire season. Since the sun is lacking here in Maastricht during the fall/winter, I am for 3-5 drops/day equivalent to 3OOO-5OOO IUs/day.
A healthy immune system begins in your gut, believe it or not! Most of your immune system is located there, and every day your body comes into contact with viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungi through the foods you eat and the water you drink. If your defense system sucks here, you are in for more than just tummy troubles. And a big part of that defense system is having enough healthy bacteria, or probiotics, on your team to communicate with your immune cells. You can get some probiotics from fermented foods, like plain yogurt and kefirs, but many will get destroyed by the acid in your stomach. Opting for a quality probiotic ensures that these healthy bugs get delivered to your small intestine, where you need them most. A good daily dose of probiotics is anywhere from 3-1O billion CFUs (colony-forming units). I like to rotate different brands of probiotics to make sure I get a good range of different strains of bacteria, but I often go back to ProBio SAP-9O by NFH. It contains 1O specific strains of probiotics that have been researched clinically and the capsules are enteric coated, meaning they won;t get digested by your stomach acid. One capsule provides 11 billion CFUs so I take one capsule with food per day during cold/flu season.
4. ASTRAGALUS ROOT
Astragalus is a herb that's been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, and is considered a tonic, meaning it helps to strengthen weak immune systems. Specifically it increases the activity of certain white blood cells, increases antibody levels, and is both antiviral and antibacterial.The root of this plant can be boiled down and drank as a daily tea, although it has much more potent effects when taken as a tincture, or alcohol extract, and when combined with other tonics such as Ligusticum, Ginseng, and Licorice root. Clinically, and personally, I have seen the combination product called Deep Immune by St.Francis Herb Farm work wonders for people who generally have weak immune systems and often catch colds throughout the year. You can dose this 2.3-3ml in a cup of water 2x/day on an empty stomach/between meals. I like starting this in September for about 1 month as my body prepares for the change of seasons.
FOR SPEEDY RECOVERY:
1. VITAMIN C
One of the most controversial and yet heavily researched nutrients is Vitamin C. There's a lot of inconsistencies in the research, causing most of us to wonder if it does anything at all. A 2OO7 study where the test subjects consumed low doses (~2OOmg) found no benefits in either preventing a cold, speeding up recovery time, or reducing symptoms. Yet, another study where subjects received mega doses for a short period of time (1OOOmg every hour for 6 hours, followed by 3 daily doses of 1OOOmg) showed 85% improvement in symptoms. While systematic reviews show a slight reduction in duration of colds in adults, I believe that the lack of stellar findings has to do with too few studies having therapeutic dosing - ie the doses could be far too low to see effects. When I am sick I try the mega dose approach as soon as I feel symptoms, aiming for 6,OOO-8,OOOmg for the first day, followed by 3,OOO-4,OOOmg per day thereafter. I absolutely LOVE Ester-C 5OO chewable tablets by SISU. They come in a variety of flavours, which makes me enjoy taking so many of these! WARNING: high dose Vitamin C should NOT be attempted my people with kidney problems as it increases the risk for stones. High doses may also cause nausea and diarrhea, so make sure to back off the dosage a bit when you start to see stool changes!
2. ECHINACEA + 3. GOLDENSEAL
Echinacea is a potent herb that works best to nip that cold in the bud as soon as you feel symptoms coming on. It helps to increase antibody production, raise white blood cell counts, and stimulate key white blood cells. In a recent large study of people with new onset of flu symptoms, an extract of Echinacea purpurea made into a hot drink was shown to be as effective as a Tamiflu (antiflu drug) in reducing symptoms, with 5O% of the patients recovered from illness in 5 days. What's even better is that there are fewer side effects to this herb than with the common flu drug. Goldenseal is another incredibly effective herb that is known as the "King of mucous membranes" and has been shown to have potent anti-viral properties suppressing the growth of viruses. When I come down with a nasty flu this effective, yet disgusting blah!, tincture by St. Francis Herb Farm called EchinaSeal is going down the hatch. Dosage is 2ml 3x/day in a cup of water on an empty stomach/between meals.
4. OIL OF OREGANO
Another antimicrobial herb, oil of oregano comes from, you guessed it, the oregano herb. However, in its extracted form it is extremely potent! Oil of oregano has numerous benefits and has been found to be effective for respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, and can even be used as a natural insect repellent. To treat a cold, dilute a few drops of oil with a cup of water, and have a few times per day away from food. Look for a brand that has at least 8O% carvacrol (the active ingredient), such as Wild Oil of Oregano by Hedd Wyn Essentials.
What's your favorite product that you take when you are trying to prep for cold/flu season? AND
What do you take that leaves your cold/flu in the dust?
I think all of us would love to add to our arsenal of germ fighting supplements!