Fight the Flu Naturally

Cold and flu season is upon us once again. The flu (short name for influenza) is a highly contagious infection caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs creating fever, malaise and fatigue.

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Cold and flu season is upon us once again. The flu (short name for influenza) is a highly contagious infection caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs creating fever, malaise and fatigue. The flu is normally a relatively mild disease for people who are healthy. However, the flu can be an acute disease for the elderly and for people of any age who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart, lung or kidney diseases.

Can you Count on your Immune System?
Each winter, millions of people suffer from the flu. It comes about quickly and can linger for days, even weeks. So, what are you doing to protect yourself against the flu? Can you count on your immune system? The immune system is the body’s defence mechanism that protects us against infections (viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi) and foreign substances. Unfortunately, the immune system is subject to many negative lifestyle choices and environmental hazards that may weaken its status. By understanding the enemies and friends of the immune system, we can slowly learn how to take care of ourselves and stay as healthy as possible.

Friend or Foe?
The following is a list of possible contributors for a weakened immune system, resulting in frequent colds/flus and long-term illnesses:

• stress and poor stress coping mechanisms
• inadequate nutrition
• excess refined foods (i.e. white sugar) and caffeine
• inadequate sleep
• lack of exercise and movement
• environment: smoke, pollution

By acknowledging and recognizing the effect that these enemies have on our immune system, we can slowly start to change our behaviour and habits in order to help our body become stronger and healthier.

The following list includes a few basic guidelines to assist you in achieving a balanced immune system:

• get adequate rest/sleep and exercise/movement
• eat your fruits and vegetables and good quality protein
• ensure you receive adequate amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc and selenium. Refer to TruePROTECT for more information.
• Drink plenty of water and herbal teas. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
• .Boost your immune system with nutritional and herbal supplements such as ginseng, licorice, astragalus and echinacea. Refer to TrueDEFENSE for more information.

Three Common Ginsengs
Every year, there are a billion upper respiratory tract infections that occur in the United States. It is no wonder that researchers and virologists constantly strive to come up with effective treatments against these viruses. As we come closer to understanding the process of how these pesky viruses change each year and how they impact our immune system, the viruses continue to mutate and become more virulent. As a result, the flu is a common cause of morbidity every year. Thankfully, different treatments are being explored such as supplementation with various vitamins and minerals (i.e. vitamin C and iron), botanical herbs and the flu vaccine.

A recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined the effects of North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) on the immune system. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that ginseng has the potential to modulate the immune response thereby playing a large role in preventing colds. From the study, researchers concluded that administering a standardized extract of North American ginseng (rich in poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharide) for four months was effective in reducing the absolute risk of recurrent colds, the mean number of colds per person, proportion of subjects experiencing two or more colds, the severity of symptoms and the number of days cold symptoms were reported.

Ginseng is a product commonly seen on the shelves in health food stores. What many people don’t know is that there are many different types of ginseng available. Three common ginsengs sold all over the world are North American, Asian and Siberian.

North American Ginseng (Panax quinqufolium) is a plant that grows wild in northern and central United States and in parts of Canada. It has been used in conditions such as type 2 diabetes, athletic performance, infection and stress. The active ingredients are compounds called ginsenosides, which are thought to fight fatigue and stress by supporting the adrenal glands and the use of oxygen by exercising muscles. From an Eastern philosophy, North American ginseng is considered to be more “yin” (in the balancing of yin and yang) or ‘cooling’ and is better suited for long-term use.

Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), on the other hand, incorporates Korean, Manchurian, Vietnamese and Chinese ginseng and has been a part of Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. It is considered to be very “yang” or ‘warming’ and is normally used for relatively limited periods of time. Like American ginseng, Asian ginseng contains ginsenosides, but contains roughly half the amount. Its effect is a complex interaction between all constituents in the plant that make Asian ginseng so effective against a wide variety of conditions such as erectile dysfunction, male infertility, type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, immune function, athletic performance, chronic fatigue, cancer and stress.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutheroccocus senticosus) is not really a ginseng at all. The active ingredient is not a ginsenoside, but a compound called eleutherosides. Similar to the other ginsengs, Siberian ginseng may benefit energy, stress and fight infection.

Balance your Immune System
It is natural to get sick every year or once every other year. In fact, exposing our body to new viruses strengthens our immune system and keeps it up-to- date so it can help with future infections. By following the above recommendations and by improving your lifestyle choices, your immune system will be closer to being in balance. When you have a healthy immune system, you will reduce the severity and shorten the duration of each subsequent illness.

So, the next time you feel a sore throat and fatigue coming on, rather than waiting for the “pesky bugs” to invade your throat, nose and chest, be proactive naturally and stop the invasion from happening in the first place. If you are unsure about what to take, consult your Naturopathic Doctor or other health care provider.

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