Thursday, November 29, 2007

Self Care for Colds and Flu

Larry Trivieri, the publisher of 1healthy, and the brilliant editor of Burton Goldberg's Definitive Guide to Alternative Medicine, just sent these tips to share with our blog readers. Dr. Goldberg is a member of the Biosyntrx scientific advisory board.

...As with all other disease conditions, prevention is the best way to deal with colds and flu. In this case, prevention means improving the health of your immune system so that it can swiftly respond to attacking cold and flu viruses and eliminate them before you develop any symptoms. The following recommendations can help you do so:

Eat a healthy diet that is free of sugar and artificial sweeteners, simple carbohydrates, and processed foods. Drink plenty of pure, filtered water throughout the day, and emphasize fresh, organic vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables. During flu season, also regularly consume fresh vegetable soups, and drink fresh-squeezed vegetable juices.

Take a daily high-potency multivitamin/multimineral supplement.

Wash your hands frequently throughout the day, especially when you come in contact with people suffering from colds and flu. Also avoid rubbing your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Get adequate sleep each night.

Learn how to manage stress, and take time out for yourself each day to engage in activities you enjoy, as well as spending time with your loved ones.

Engage in regular exercise. One of the easiest and most effective exercises for all age groups is a daily 45-minute walk, which can dramatically boost NK cells and help keep your body’s lymphatic system free of toxic waste buildup. Yoga, particular the “cobra pose,” is also useful for keeping your respiratory tract healthy. To perform the cobra pose, lie on your stomach and raise your upper body backwards off the ground, bending at the waist as you inhale deeply. Hold this position for five seconds as you continue breathing. Then, as you exhale, return to your starting position. Repeat five to ten times. This exercise helps to expand your chest and lungs and can free up trapped mucus and phlegm.

Should you develop congestion in your sinuses or chest, massage your chest with menthol-based lotion or ointment (avoid products that contain petroleum) before you go to sleep. This will help clear your air pathways and increase the supply of blood to your thalamus, one of the organs that control your immune system.

Throughout the day, tap your chest over your thymus gland, located in the center of your chest approximately one inch below your collarbone. This will help to stimulate your thymus gland, which in turn will help to boost your immune function.

Self-Care Treatments

The key to treating colds and flu is to increase your body’s immune function activity. The following natural therapies can help you accomplish this goal safely and effectively.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture helps to restore your body’s supply of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, which is produced in all cells and responsible for energy) and cortisol, a hormone necessary for properly adapting to stress. Both of these results help to improve immune function. Acupuncture can also help to balance and improve digestion, endocrine gland function, and the health of the lungs, and other organs, all of which also helps your body fight off and resist cold and flu infections. In addition, acupuncture treatments can help prevent colds and flu from ever occurring.

Aromatherapy: Add any of the following essential oils to a pot of hot water: camphor, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, peppermint, pine, rosemary, or tea tree oil. Cover your head with a towel and bend over the pot, inhaling deeply.

Ayurveda: Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine treat colds and flu by helping the body to eliminate indigestible toxins, which attract viruses and impair immune function. Among the ways that this is accomplished is through the use of herbs such as ginger, cayenne, black pepper, long pepper, and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), all of which stimulate digestion. Patients are also advised to drink plenty of warm water throughout the day, as well as ginger tea, in order to break up mucus and phlegm. Ginger tea can easily be prepared by adding a few slices of fresh, raw ginger root to boiling water, and letting the mixture steep for 20 to 30 minutes before drinking. In cases of colds of flu accompanied by a dry cough, adding pieces of licorice root to the mixture is advised.

Another common Ayruvedic practice for treating and preventing colds and flu is the cleansing of nasal passages. This is done by filling a teapot with a quart of warm water and one teaspoon of sea salt, and then slowing pouring the water into one nostril and out the other. Doing this to both nostrils once or twice a day keeps the nostril linings moist and free of germs, and helps to open up the air pathways.

Diet: To improve your ability to resist colds and flu, emphasize fresh, organic vegetables, such as carrots, leafy greens, onions, and orange squash, that are eaten raw or lightly steamed. You can also make fresh vegetable juices and soups, which will help your body remain in a slightly alkaline state, free of over-acidity. Also be sure to drink plenty of water during the day, and avoid mucus-forming foods such as milk and dairy products, wheat, and most grains (millet and brown rice are acceptable exceptions). Also eliminate all processed foods and commercial poultry and meats, choosing organic whole foods and free-range chicken, turkey, and beef.

Herbs: Herbs have long been used by most world cultures to treat and prevent colds and flu, due to their ability to stimulate immune function, as well as their antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-catarrhal properties. Herbs that can increase immune function include astragalus, echinacea, goldenseal, licorice, and St. John’s wort. Goldenseal is also excellent for helping to reverse inflammation of the mucus membranes.

Another important herb that can protect against colds and flu is lomatium, which acts as an antiviral agent and an immune stimulant. It is particularly helpful for treating cases of the flu, often bringing about complete recovery in 24 to 48 hours. Some herbalists recommend mixing lomatium with echinacea for even better results.

Other useful herbs are boneset, which stimulates the immune system, encouraging white blood cells to destroy viruses and bacteria; elder flower, which acts as an immune stimulant, anti-inflammatory, and anticatarrhal agent; elecampane, which helps to soothe irritating coughs and bronchial infections; eyebright, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps heal irritations in the nasal pharynx and the sinuses; and yarrow, which is particularly useful for colds and flu associated with fever, loss of appetite, and overall malaise.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is another excellent herbal remedy for colds and flu. For best results, take garlic in high doses at the same time as you take your nutritional supplements. High-quality deodorized garlic capsules are more effective in this regard than garlic cloves because they offer more concentrated doses of allicin, garlic’s active ingredient, which has been shown to increase immune function and to stimulate the production of flu antibodies.

According to Jonathan Wright, M.D., a leading holistic physician, the following herbal combination formula is also excellent for both colds and flu: cayenne pepper, echinacea, myrrh, osha (also known as Porter’s lovage), and red clover. This combination can be taken as a tea (3-5 cups per day) or as a tincture (30 drops of each herb, four times daily).

Homeopathy: Useful homeopathic remedies for colds and flu include Aconitum napellus, Allium cepa, Baptisia, Belladonna, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Natrum muriaticum, Nux vomica, and Viscum album (mistletoe), a homeopathic remedy that can be taken either orally or by injection.

Another popular homeopathic remedy for colds and flu is Oscillococcinum, which is widely used in Europe. For best results, at the onset of your symptoms, take six pellets dissolved under the tongue, every six hours. As with other homeopathic remedies above, avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes before and after each use.

Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy helps to strengthen the immune system and detoxify the body. For colds and flu, consider contrast hydrotherapy, which involves exposing your body to alternating hot and cold water as you shower.

Another useful approach is to make a throat or chest compress before bed. Do this by applying a warm washcloth to your throat and chest, followed by a cold cotton wrap to the same areas of your body. Cover your neck with a wool scarf and your chest with a wool sweater and go to sleep.

Hyperthermia: Hyperthermia helps to stimulate immune function and detoxification through sweating and artificial fever. This can be accomplished by using hot baths or showers, hot water compresses, or far-infrared sauna treatments. While soaking in a hot bath or in the sauna, you can enhance the benefits of hyperthermia by drinking hot tea.

(Note: Your body temperature should never be permitted to rise above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. To prevent this from happening, monitor yourself and, if necessary, cool off by sponging with cold water.)

Juice Therapy: The following juice combinations can be helpful: carrot, beet, and cucumber; carrot, beet, tomato, green pepper, and watercress; carrot and celery; carrot and spinach; and lemon, orange, pineapple, black currant, elderberry juice. For added benefit, you can include garlic, ginger, and/or onion in any of the above juice combinations.