Immune Support this Winter

By Dr. Mary Frazel

Along with all of the great events and activities of winter come the common cold and the flu. Depending on your health over the last months you may be ready for winter to be over --- but officially there is still one more month or so for it to pass. Here are some suggestions for keeping the last bit of winter a healthy time for you and your family.

As you may know the tenacious viruses that are the source of colds and the flu are spread quickly through respiratory droplets that are sneezed, coughed and exhaled into the air --- interestingly the flu spreads faster than a cold. Which means that you are especially susceptible to these common illnesses if you often find yourself in a large group of people such as at a school or in an airport.

Luckily there are many easy and natural ways to address an oncoming cold or flu before it becomes a problem in your household. Typically you can ward of sickness just by maintaining good rest patterns, minimize your stress and eat a well-balanced diet of quality foods. Additionally you can boost your immunity through the following naturopathic immune supports:

VITAMIN C: At the first sign of a cold or the flu, take 1000 mg of Vitamin C every 2 to 3 hours. Remember that it is a water-soluble vitamin and will therefore pass out through your urine --- so take it frequently as your body cannot produce or store this useful nutrient! The sicker you are, the more Vitamin C you will need. If loose stool or diarrhea results from high dosages, reduce the amount and continue on a maintenance dose.

ZINC: This great immune booster can be found in chewable tablets of 25 mg dosages. To boost your immunity you can take this mineral up to 3 times a day.

VITAMIN D: If you live in the rainy and gray Northwest, hopefully you have already had your Vitamin D level checked through a blood test and are already taking a 2000 IU/day dose to help you through the winter months. Studies have shown that we are more susceptible to the flu when sunlight is scarce and Vitamin D levels are lower.

GARLIC: Garlic is reputed to have antibiotic properties --- so if you like the taste, add this pungent spice raw to your daily meal plan and eat 1 to 2 cloves of raw garlic 2 to 3 times per day at the first sign of illness. If the taste is too strong, consider chopping it up and adding it to an oil and vinegar salad dressing or crush the garlic and add to butter on toast. The following tea recipe is a simple home remedy to drink when you have a cold: Garlic and Lemon Tea: Bring a cup of water to a boil. Cut up and crush 1 to 2 small cloves of garlic. Add the garlic along with the juice of ¼ a lemon and 1 teaspoon of peppermint leaves to the boiling water. Brew for 5 minutes and add honey if needed for taste. Enjoy!

WARMING SOCK TREATMENT: This very old, tried and true, hydrotherapy treatment is recommended at the first signs and symptoms of sickness. All you need is one pair of cotton socks, one pair of wool socks and water! First, make sure your feet are good and warm. You can soak them in a basin or wrap them in warm cloths for a few minutes. Then take your cotton socks, wet them with cold water and wring them out well. Find a comfortable position to sleep for the night and slide on the cold wet cotton socks (yes, they will make your warmed feet tingle!). Next slide a pair of dry wool socks over the wet cotton pair and burrow into bed for the night. In the morning all of the socks will be dry and hopefully you will feel better.

STEAM INHALATION: This treatment aids in the opening up of a congested and stuffy head. Boil a large pot of water and add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil to it. Turn off the burner and put the steamy pot of water on the table and use a towel to cover your head and the steaming pot. Inhale the moist aromatic steam for about 5 to 10 minutes. Come up for air as needed, because it will get warm under the towel. If your child is congested you can invite them under the "tent" as well --- sit them on your lap and enjoy the treatment together.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER & HERB TEA: When your throat is dry it acts like sand paper and allows the viruses to burrow in for the long haul. By consuming plenty of fluids you can maintain a moist pharynx and respiratory tract; which won't allow the viruses to stick around. Fresh juices and vegetable broth can also be nourishing and healing for immune support.

AVOID DAIRY: While you are stick stop consuming milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream because they tend to produce more mucus and create a burden on the respiratory, digestive and immune systems.

AVOID SUGAR & SWEETS: Sugars feed bacteria and reduce the ability of the white blood cells to fight infections. Studies have shown that our white blood cells (called Neutrophils) activity to fight infection is negatively affected for 5 hours after eating sweets.

CHICKEN SOUP: This folk medicine has been used for centuries --- now there is scientific literature to backup its efficacy. So it's worth a try!

HERBS FOR IMMUNE SUPPORT: Common herbs that I recommend for immune support include: Echinacea, Hydrastis, Ginger, Garlic, Elderberry, Olive Leaf Extract, Licorice, Fenugreek, Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Cayenne. They can be used and combined in ways that are dependent upon your specific symptoms. Teas, tinctures and pill forms are available.

HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES: Since cold and flu symptoms vary by virus and person, a Naturopathic doctor can best match you with the appropriate remedy. The more specific you are about your symptoms the greater the chance your homeopathic remedy will support your health. Some of the symptoms to consider include: if you want to drink cold or hot beverages, if you are restless or want to lie still, and the color of your discharge. These are all unique to your body and how you are sick.

Sometimes getting sick can be a gift for us to slow down and take time off from our busy and often hectic lives. All of us, including children and adults need some time to stop and rest and nourish ourselves on a physical and emotional level. Take the time you need this winter to take care of yourself and your family.


If you would like to receive quarterly health news and updates from the doctors at NCHC, please sign-up for our E-Newsletter here.

Return to the Archives >