Woken up with the sniffles? Never fear, here’s our guide to giving the bugs the heave-ho!
But NOT ibuprofen, or any cold ‘remedy’ containing it – a large study found that it has very little benefit for treating colds or flu, and it may even prolong the illness. Take instead the ancient medicinal herb astragalus root, which has been found to activate immune cells within 24 hours. Don’t take if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, however, and check with your doctor for any possible interactions if you are on any other medication. Try Nature’s Garden Astragalus, £15.99, hollandandbarrett.com
to loosen mucus, and then get cracking with some poached eggs on toast, if you can manage it. Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they have all nine essential amino acids, and your body needs protein to fight infection.
“Hydration is crucial when you are fighting a cold, as a low grade temperature increases the amount of liquid evaporating from the body, and this puts you at a higher risk of dehydration,” says Egzona Makolli, technical and commercial nutritionist at Kinetic Enterprises. “Adequate fluid intake also helps your body wash away mucus which accumulates in the throat and nose.” And take note: in Ayurveda, the ancient system of medicine, the advice is very specific – drink HOT water. Why? Because it flushes out ama (toxins) that compromise the immune system, it’s easier for the body to absorb, it loosens mucus and pacifies the cold, dry vata dosha. And make it all the more effective by adding honey and lemon. “Warm lemon tea with Manuka honey can help speed up the duration of a cold as lemon stimulates the digestive system and honey gives you anti-bacterial properties and relieves a dry throat,” says Egzona.
“Often when we have a cold our digestive system doesn’t work as well and we get bloating and don’t have much energy to digest a big meal,” says Jeannette Hyde, nutritional therapist and author of The Gut Makeover (£9.99, Quercus). “Have a bowl of chicken broth. If you’ve been sweating due to the cold, and losing lots of micro minerals, this can replace those, and is easy to eat and digest. I keep home made chicken stock in my freezer for days like this, or you can buy it ready made in shops in the fridge department. Add a little salt and sip. “You can pre-make your own by boiling a chicken carcass and bones for a few hours, cooling it down, then storing in containers in a fridge or freezer. The bones leach minerals into the water, which then becomes a high-mineral broth or stock food for you.”
But only if you feel like it. Your body’s working extra hard to fight infection, so a quick shut-eye will give it a boost and replenish your energy, but don’t nod off for longer than 40 minutes as you’ll wake up groggier than before and might have trouble sleeping later.
If you’re feeling up to it, go for a stroll. Fresh air will improve your mood and the exercise will get your circulation pumping. And you’ll boost your vitamin D. “Winter illnesses such as flu are commonly transmitted through the air via coughs or sneezes,” says Jonathan Hobbs, vice president of the Federation of Holistic Therapists. “If you have flu, your body produces large amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, which are typically responsible for the symptoms of fever and headaches. Vitamin D supresses the excessive release of them. It also increases the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphate, which are all important for our health. However, as we get most of our vitamin D from exposure to sunlight during the warmer months, staying indoors and a lack of direct exposure to sunlight in winter can lower our vitamin D levels, which can make us more susceptible to infection. Those who are frail, housebound or have naturally dark skin may wish to consider taking vitamin D supplements, under medical supervision.”
According to ayurvedic theory, ginger’s pungent nature reduces the kapha dosha which is very active during a cold and produces excess mucus when it’s out of balance. Steep a couple of inches of fresh grated ginger in boiling water for ten minutes, strain, then sip for the rest of the day. (Don’t combine ginger with any kind of blood-thinning medication as it has a similar effect).
And pour in plenty of magnesium. “Magnesium is a mineral most of us get short on if we are highly stressed, as the nervous system uses a lot to produce the stress hormones,” says Jeannette. Try BetterYou Magnesium Flakes (£3.49, betteryou.com) in a hot bath, which will help to boost your body to fight against infection, relax your muscles, and help induce a deep, healing sleep. Which leads perfectly to...
Hit the pillow early and get some decent shut-eye. Yes, you’ve heard it all before, but sleep really is important. Numerous studies show our T-cells (a type of white blood cell that is of key importance to the immune system) reduce in number when we’re sleep-deprived. In simple terms, the more sleep you miss, the less ability your body has to fight germs. One reason for this is our body uses fever to battle infection, and it does this more effectively at night. If we’re not sleeping enough, we aren’t getting the full benefits of the body’s fever response. So turn off that light, and look forward to a brighter day tomorrow!
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