We’ve come to expect that the cold weather season brings more cold and flu viruses. But we don’t have to enter cooler weather worrying about inevitable illness. We can defend ourselves effectively by supporting our immune systems. By making a few wise lifestyle choices and using supportive therapeutic products, we can maintain vibrant health all season. If we do happen to catch a virus, these same methods, employed to an enhanced degree, will bolster our ability to fight off the virus, or at least reduce its severity, and, possibly its duration.
As Whole Approach members, you may be currently completing detoxification or anti-fungal therapy. If you are actively fighting a virus you’ll have a much better chance of staying well if you take a break from your cleansing.
The Whole Approach food therapy recommendations provide excellent guidance for an immune boosting lifestyle and the online store stocks many excellent immune supporting products. In addition to eating vitalizing foods and using quality therapeutic products to fight infection, strengthen immune function and clear intestinal wastes, we can also utilize other self care strategies to prevent illness. Good hygiene and appropriate rest, combined with compassionate attention to our emotional and mental health, also help to bolster optimum mind-body well-being. If we do happen to become infected, a bit of mindful hygiene can help prevent those around us from also becoming ill.
If we are stressed, exposed to people who are sick or fighting the early warning signs of a virus, it’s important to emphasize nourishing foods. Likewise, it’s even more important than usual to avoid food choices that suppress our healing. These include food additives, refined fats, starches, sugars of any kind, and mucous producing foods like red meat, dairy or cheese.
Concentration on light, alkalizing (and thus immune supporting) foods like salads, and grated or steamed vegetables for a few days will give your body what it needs to put up a strong defense until the infection risk has passed. Homemade bean or vegetable soups and other veggie-based dishes are also helpful. Generous quantities of herbal tea and equal amounts of pure water to counteract the diuretic effect of many herbal teas, will keep the body hydrated and in a gentle cleansing mode. An extra-special cold season drink is fresh lemon juice added to hot, fresh ginger tea. This amazing tonic helps increase circulation and warms the body to help kill off the virus.
We can also use a variety of natural herbs and supplements to stay well. Many of the following products are available through the Whole Approach online store. (Those that are have an asterisk beside them in the list below.)
As recommended with all herbal/nutritional products, please consult a health care practitioner prior to using the following products if you are pregnant or breast feeding; have been diagnosed with a medical condition; or if you are taking prescription medications. Also, if symptoms persist, consult a health care practitioner. Reduce dosage or discontinue use if you experience a hypersensitivity reaction.
For Regular Use to Prevent Cold and Flu
Deep Immune* (formerly named Astragalus Combo)
This product is for daily, whole body and immune support to help prevent viruses and other infections. I personally love this product. The health boost is definitely palpable! Its deeply vitalizing effect almost feels like a coat of armor from within as it bolsters our resilience to infections.
Saint Francis Herb Farm writes the following about this famous herbal blend, “From what we know historically as well as from current research studies, the consensus is that the Chinese tonic herbs in this formula serve not only to enhance general health, but also to treat various diseases. This can be attributed to the high nutrient levels of these herbs as well as their immune-enhancing qualities.
Deep Immune offers restorative support to help the adrenal cortex, improve stamina, overcome fatigue and exhaustion, and help the body deal with stress and chronic illness. It helps overcome chronic infections and can improve the white blood cell count during chemotherapy. In addition, this formula is beneficial for the liver, acting as a liver restorative and protective to help in malnutrition and mal-absorption and to rebuild the liver after hepatitis or jaundice. It is also recognized as an anti-viral and anti-allergic remedy.”
Deep Immune is not intended for acute viral treatment and should thus be discontinued at first sign of a virus. As discussed above, used in the early stage of an impending cold or flu virus, EchinaSeal can effectively prevent its onset.
Use: This is best taken on a daily basis and cycled on and off so that the body does not become too accustomed to it. One way is to use it three weeks out of each month and take a break for the fourth week.
This is a highly-potent probiotic that helps to normalize intestinal flora, boost immune function and stave off intestinal infections. It also combats food-borne bacteria. All probiotics are definitely not created equally and I recommend some reading about product quality. When it comes to choosing probiotic supplements, quality and human-compatibility of the bacterium in the formula are important. Contrary to what most people believe, the bacteria counts listed on the labels of most probiotics are all but irrelevant to their effectiveness. For more information about probiotics, here is a link to a detailed post about probiotic quality and a subsequent link to the Probium Probiotics – Learn More
Probium Probiotic Blends, Multi, 10 Strain,
Vitamin D3 Drops (D-Drops)*
Vitamin D3 is a perfect vitamin for support through the cold and flu season. It is currently enjoying new fame as a fresh face in the defense against colds, flu’s and cancer. It acts like a hormone in the body and is involved in the regulation of many functions. An adequate vitamin D level has been found to be helpful immune support. Vitamin D is also beneficial to mood. We could all use a little buoyancy in our mood and immune system during the darker, colder months. It’s also been shown to be an effective treatment for Seasonal Effective Disorder. D3, or cholecalciferol is recommended at doses varying from 1000 iu to 6000 iu daily depending on the results of blood tests to monitor healthy levels. There does seem to be a fair bit of controversy about the appropriate therapeutic doses and how high a blood level is truly optimum.
The ongoing research on vitamin D covers a wide range of additional benefits. The good news about vitamin D is plentiful and there is sure to be much more of it to come. Whole Approach sells a very good quality, additive-free brand of vitamin D3 drops, called D Drops. Here’s a link to more information about them on the Whole Approach online store:
Vitamin D3 Drops
SBX with Soil Based Micro-Organisms*
This product contains micro-organisms that are supportive to our intestinal flora combined with highly nutritious, potent super-food extracts. In combination with Deep Immune and Probioplus, SBX can help insure a stronger base level of health to help us ward off infectious conditions. Here’s a link to the product on the Whole Approach website where you can read more about it: SBX with Healthy Soil Micro-Organisms
Its manufacturer, St Francis Herb Farm indicates that it is especially potent for bacterial infections, but when used at the first signs of a cold or flu, it can also be a powerful virus inhibitor. The ingredients in this formula have years of traditional use behind them. Individually, these herbs have a long history of clinical evidence of their ability to treat upper respiratory tract infections. When used together, the anti-infective (prevents infection) properties of each herb are improved by their synergistic dynamic. The herb, Echinacea, well known as the infection fighter par excellence; is even more potent in combination with the other herbs in this formula. Goldenseal, myrrh and propolis are all anti-infective as well. Propolis has the added benefit of analgesia, and thus eases the pain of sore throats. Wild indigo is anti-infective and greatly boosts Echinacea’s activity, while cayenne makes all of the herbs in the formula work better.
Use: Take 1-2 ml (30-60 drops) three-six times daily in a little water on an empty stomach. This combination can be gargled before swallowing. For prevention, continue using at least three times a day for three days after the symptoms disappear. This insures that the virus does not come back after the herbal defense is discontinued. Use for a maximum of ten days. SFHF Echinaseal
Contra-indications and Cautions:
Do not use this product if you have an allergy to bees or bee stings or to the Asteraceae family of plants.
When cold and flu symptoms are affecting the lungs, this product can be used in combination with Saint Francis Herb Farm Respirafect, (Usnea Combo). See below for more details.
Buffered Vitamin C*:
Vitamin C is crucial for immune function, collagen formation, and antioxidant protection. Infection, physical or emotional stress, and chronic disease all deplete the vitamin C concentration in white blood cells. Vitamin C enhances immune system response similarly to interferon, the body’s natural antiviral and anticancer compound, so it is very helpful when we are fighting a cold or flu. Dr Ron’s Buffered Vitamin C is naturally additive-free and combines 500 mg of vitamin C with 25 mg Alpha Lipoic Acid. Here is a link to Dr Ron’s Buffered Vitamin C on the Whole Approach website: Dr. Ron’s Ultra-Pure Natural Buffered Vitamin C
Oreganum Plus’ Supreme Wild Oregano*
Oreganum is an excellent defense against acute infectious conditions like colds and flu’s. It can also be effective against some stomach viruses and food borne bacteria. Studies have confirmed that Oregano Oil has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic properties. If a virus is putting up a strong fight, even against the defense that Echinaseal and Buffered Vitamin C provides, I personally reach for the added ‘punch’ of Oreganum and put a few drops in a capsule, three times a day. The combined power of this tri-fold attack is more than most viruses can endure. For more information about this potent oil, see the Whole Approach website: SFHF Oreganum Plus
Fresh Ginger Tea: As mentioned above under “Healing Foods”, ginger tea has a great heating action which warms up the body and helps fight off viruses. Use a minimum of a half teaspoon of grated ginger root per cup of water and steep for five or ten minutes. Alternately, the same ratio of sliced ginger and water can be simmered for ten minutes. Ginger can be frozen to make it easy to keep on hand.
Homeopathic Aconitum Napellus (30c): This remedy is appropriate for early cold symptoms that come on suddenly (especially when chills and sneezing are present.) Aconitum, like most homeopathic remedies, generally comes in sugar pellets and the recommended dosage is three to five pellets. However, we can actually get a full dose of medicine by consuming as little as one single, tiny pellet and this helps reduce our sugar intake. If you can, buy your homeopathics in liquid form. Taking the remedy in between meals and away from strong flavors like toothpaste, coffee or chewing gum can improve its effectiveness. When sneezing is present, this remedy may be taken three times in a day. If the prevention attempt is unsuccessful and the cold becomes established, a different homeopathic remedy would be suggested to address your unique set of symptoms.
Homeocoksinum – Flu Buster: This is another, better-known homeopathic remedy to prevent flu. For more general flu symptoms, it can be better than aconitum and can be used during a viral infection as well. Also, if a trial with aconitum does not stop the virus, this could be used as a second level of defense.
Zinc lozenges (preferably stevia sweetened): These are a very helpful support when sore throat is the first symptom of a cold or flu. Zinc can cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach.
Goldenseal Tincture: If a throat condition develops, especially a bacterial infection, it’s important to see your doctor for a swab test. However, goldenseal is a very powerful anti-bacterial and can prevent and even conquer some throat infections. Thirty drops in a tiny bit of water makes a great (though awful tasting!) gargle. After rinsing for thirty seconds, swallow. In acute cases, this can be used frequently for a few days. Consult with your ND for specific instructions. Concentrated goldenseal treatment is best kept to short term (less than ten days) in order to minimize the loss of beneficial intestinal bacteria from its antibiotic properties.
Avoiding germ exposure is important to prevent viral and bacterial infections. A key strategy is to wash our hands frequently and thoroughly, especially before eating. Colds and flu are passed mostly through contact with our mouth, eye, nose or ears. In addition, acute hand hygiene is required, i.e. we need to avoid touching any part of our face with our hands. Some careful practioners even say we need to avoid touching our ears in case of viral transference through the ear, nose and throat canal.
The ancient practice of nasal irrigation is a powerful offense against cold and flu. Rinsing the nasal passages with salty water (of appropriate pH for the nose) is a great way of dislodging and flushing out viral populations where they are most like to multiply. There is ample information online about how to safely and effectively perform nasal hygiene using traditional equipment like a netti pot (which looks like a tiny tea pot.) There is also a more modern syringe method that uses a syringe with a soft silicone tip to administer the saline.
In addition to washing our hands before eating or touching our faces, it’s also helpful to be aware when we’re most exposed to germs so that we can clean up as soon as possible after exposure. The most germ-infected surfaces include door handles, shopping cart handles, cash cards (or machines), anything in a hospital, and, much less obvious – our car keys and our purse or wallet.
Portable, natural sanitizing gel or wipes are a great idea for those times when we just can’t wash our hands. They don’t necessarily kill viruses but they can damage their viability as well as reduce their populations on the surface of our hands. However, there really is no replacement for a thorough hand washing with running water and soap. To reduce the introduction of outside germs into our home environment, it’s a great idea to always wash upon arriving home and to wash all food products before eating them. In the case of a full blown flu epidemic, we might step up the above measures and even take them further. For example, we might wash anything that could have been handled by others (e.g. jars, cans and the outside of produce), before storing them in the kitchen.
Once we are eating well, reaching for the nourishment of the right herbal supports and keeping our germ exposure down, we need to further care for our health by knowing when to slow down. Most of us are on the go all the time. To be truly well, we need to rest when we’re tired or sick and we need to care for our emotional being as well.
With today’s fast paced lives, it’s easy to find ourselves putting everything and everyone else before our sleep. Sleep offers our body the essential opportunity to rejuvenate, heal and rebuild. Much of our immune activity and healing happens in the night. A good night’s sleep is a crucial part of the defense against an attacking virus.
Manage our Stress with Compassion
Regular relaxation or self awareness practice like meditation or Tai Chi can help take the edge off of the stress we encounter throughout the day. It also breeds kindness towards ourselves and acceptance in general. Even ten minutes of a self-regulatory practice offers practice at staying with whatever is happening in the moment and cultivates the skill of calm patience. After just a few days of regular practice, the benefits are easily evident. We’ll sail more smoothly through our day and experience fewer of the stress reactions that trigger immune-suppressing hormones. Our minds and our bodies get stronger and healthier from self-regulation practice.
Tune in Emotionally
Negative emotions can be destructive to our health, especially when these feelings are suppressed rather than acknowledged and faced. Because of the destructive impact of the hormones that these emotions trigger, these negative reactions act like poison to our body. It’s important to acknowledge our feelings fully and then release them in a healthy, conscious way so that stress hormone levels are minimized. There are various ways to improve our emotional health including: reflection, self-regulation techniques and meditation.
Taking care of ourselves emotionally is as important to our immune health as any other aspect of health care. Here is a link to an article on the Whole Approach site about the emotions and our immune system: Emotions and the Immune System
In addition to eating healing foods, potent herbal and nutritional ammunition, smart hygiene and caring for our need for rest and emotional balance, we can keep our health strongest if we create a healthy home and work environment. This means maintaining hygienic, pleasant, healthy home and work environments that are free from pollution and VOC out-gassing from furniture or chemically-intensive decorating materials. It’s also import to avoid having electrical or radiation fields in our living environment (wireless devices and wi-fi.)
If we are unfortunate enough to become ill with a cold or flu, there are many ways that we can responsibly avoid spreading it to others. If we are sick, staying home from work or school is much kinder to others than ‘toughing it out’ and sharing the misery by spreading the virus. It’s important to know that a cold or flu virus is contagious even a few hours before symptoms appear so when the symptoms are just coming on, we can definitely make others sick, even if the cold or flu is not yet ‘full blown’.
We need to wash our hands (or at least use sanitizer) every time we blow our nose to avoid contaminating everything we touch. If we have to cough or sneeze, turn away from others. Sneezing or coughing into our sleeve or a tissue is much more hygienic than using our hand. Also avoid sharing cups, cutlery, food, cigarettes or beverages with others while we are infectious. These are effective ways that we can care for others by keeping our germs to ourselves.
Know your Body and Catch it Early
Catching a virus early and then taking time to rest and give our body the support it needs is really our best course of action. Learning to recognize the subtle symptoms of a cold coming on allows us time to act against it before it has settled in to our body. When first infected, the symptoms many people notice include: fatigue, irritability, fuzzy-headedness, thick mucous (especially in the mouth), frequent urination, fever or chills, a swollen or scratchy/tickly feeling in the throat, sneezing, runny nose, or a headache. At the first sign of any of the above, it’s time to slow down, seek calm, increase our nutrition, introduce the herbs and attempt to get extra sleep. Best of Luck!
For more tips to support your immune system during cold and flu season, and all year round, you may wish to have a look at the WA Article called, “Fourteen Strategies to Boost Immunity”
This article has been revised from an article previously written by Tarilee Cornish. Tarilee is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a special interest in pure, ethically-sourced foods, immune and digestive recovery and recovery from food allergies and candida overgrowth.