Cold and Flu season isn’t over yet… learn how to protect yourself with safe, natural treatments.
Often times, patients wait until their symptoms become unbearable and only then attempt to use over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to alleviate their symptoms. But did you know there are supplements you can take that can actually reduce the overall duration and severity of your cold?
There are three aspects to combating the common cold:
1. Treat the symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, congestion, cough, fever, etc.)
2. Kill the viral/bacterial pathogen
3. Boost the immune system’s ability to overcome the illness itself
I will focus on natural products shown to boost your immunity and others that have antimicrobial properties.
These are the most common herbs used for stimulating the immune system. These herbs work by proliferating and engaging your body’s white blood cells to destroy invading pathogens. Some herbs, like elderberry, include direct antimicrobial effects. This means it kills and inhibits the growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites alike. Clinical studies have shown these herbs help reduce the severity and duration of the common cold.
Oregano Oil “The Natural Antibiotic”
Oregano oil is a surprisingly potent and effective remedy with broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity. This is my favorite remedy of the season, especially for sore throats. Place two or three drops in a mouthful of water, swish and gargle for a couple minutes, and swallow it down. As a preventative measure use once a day, for relief of acute illness use once every few hours.
Vitamin C & Zinc
These nutrients help maintain a healthy immune system and may reduce cold duration. Additionally, zinc has intrinsic antiviral properties that prevent viral replication and attachment to cells in the nasal passages. By reducing histamine and other mediators of inflammation, zinc can help diminish many upper respiratory tract symptoms. The key to using Vitamin C and Zinc is to dose them sufficiently, in quantity and frequency every couple hours throughout the day. Lozenges are great for this purpose.
Did you know that vitamin D influences the expression of over 200 genes and is essential to a healthy immune system? A major source of vitamin D is exposure to natural sunlight. The average person falls far short of the daily sunlight exposure necessary for optimal vitamin D levels. This is why supplementation leading up to winter is so important. Depending on the level of deficiency, individuals should take 5-10,000 IUs of vitamin D per day at least 2-3 months before winter begins. Clinical data shows higher vitamin D levels correlate with a decreased risk of contracting seasonal viral infections. There is also evidence that taking a mega-dose (upwards of 50,000 IUs) can be used to boost immunity during an active infection.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that confer health benefits to the host when administered in proper amounts. Ingesting lots of good microorganisms (probiotics) prevents detrimental microorganisms from taking over. This delicate balance in the digestive system is essential to maintaining a healthy immune response and preventing infections. Probiotics should be taken on an empty stomach to avoid reduced potency from acid destruction.
Probiotics During/After Antibiotic Therapy
Antibiotics do not just kill bad bacteria, they can kill good ones too. The resulting microflora imbalance can weaken the immune system and put patients at increased risk for future reinfection. For this reason it is important to supplement probiotics for two weeks after any course of antibiotics.
Here’s a tip: probiotic supplementation during antibiotic therapy can reduce many of the gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea and diarrhea. To do this effectively, take daily probiotics two hours before, or three to four hours after, an antibiotic dose. Because of this I often recommend adding probiotics to a patient’s bedtime regimen.
With these natural supplements it is important to take action promptly while viral counts are still low and symptoms are mild. That means frequent and high doses immediately upon experiencing the beginning stages and symptoms of a cold. I always recommend having a few of these supplements ready at home, especially during winter.
For more information on dosing or which specific product is right for you, please talk to your friendly Dougherty’s Pharmacists for individualized advice.