The Common Cold
An occasional cold if managed sensibly may be a yearly occurrence for most people. In fact, during early childhood, the common cold may help to balance our immune system over the long term. The key is that the common cold is a relatively rare event (1-2 times per year for a few days) rather than a regular occurrence and is mild in nature.
However if you have any serious medical condition any cold may be detrimental to your health and preventation and management is critical.
What if I get the common cold/flu more regularly than this?
First of all discuss with your doctor the importance of immune system health. There are many factors that influence the immune system and make it more or less likely that you will contract the common cold or other similar symptoms.
If your symptoms are recurrent and/or prolonged, you may wish to have more in-depth studies undertaken to assess whether any serious diseases exist, especially if you are in an high risk group for immune deficiency. Once these are excluded, there are many different complementary therapies that can assist in immune system boosting.
When should I use Antibiotics?
Antibiotics should only be used if you have an infection of bacterial origin. Many throat infections are of viral origin for which antibiotics are ineffective. On occasion a doctor may prescribe antibiotics if they are concerned that any opportunistic bacterial infection may arise with a viral infection in a susceptible person. However, in most instances antibiotics are not warranted due to the self limiting nature of minor infections.
What if I need Antibiotics?
Can I minimise their effects?
Yes. Many people suffer with yeast infections (thrush) or diarrhoea whilst on antibiotics. A good yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisea can help maintain gut function while using oral antibiotics. When you have completed your course of oral antibiotics, it is important to take a course of good quality probiotic formula to return gut health to your stomach/small intestine.
What Nutrients/Herbs should I try?
Zinc is an important immune system regulator. In the case of throat infections, it may be taken in a lozenge form. If you are susceptible to ongoing infections, supplementation is suggested. One indication is white marks on the fingernails.
Vitamin C is a powerful immune system booster as is concentrated Garlic. The use of both need to be in the range of at least 3 grams each for effect during the acute stage. Lower levels are useful for general maintenance of the immune system.
Astragalus membranaceous is a Chinese herb that has been found to bolster the immune system over the long term.
Andrographis and Echinacea are two herbs commonly used during the acute stage of infections. They are short term rather than long term interventions.
Can Foods be Responsible for my Symptoms?
Yes, although this in effect is not the common cold or sore throat but a food intolerance. There is no infection, rather the irritation and mucus is being created by a delayed immune response to maldigested food fragments. Often the difference can be noted in the colour of the mucus, yellow green for infections and clear for a food intolerance.
If you have frequent symptoms of sore throats, congested sinuses or runny nose, trial a Food Elimination Regime. Dairy is more often than not an underlying cause. Also take note of whether a high fruit intake causes your symptoms as some people may be salicylate intolerant (another indication is if salicylate containing drugs such as aspirin make your symptoms worse)
Can Foods support my Immune System?
Yes. You should have a high fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds intake. A Low Inflammatory (High Immunity) Healthy Eating Plan is an excellent bolster to the immune system, ensuring you take out any foods that may be implicated even if generally considered to be healthy.
What about exercise?
Maintaining general exercise guidelines helps increase immune strength but you should not exercise during an acute stage of infection.
Smoking?...The answer's Obvious
This is probably the most significant change you can make in your life if you are a smoker. If you cannot quit without assistance, this being the majority of smokers, it may be sensible to join a multidisciplinary programme. Peer support if often essential to the success of any quit smoking plan.
Remember, although pharmaceutical approaches that replace nicotine via chewing gum, patch or otherwise are helpful, eventually they must be weaned otherwise you may simply be trading the risk of lung cancer for other diseases.
Do Stress Management and Relationships help?
In fact they do. Studies of the likelihood and length of infection that may occur when a virus was planted in the noses of a study group indicated that the levels of present stress and stress in the last 6 months was a significant factor in infection risk.
Similarly, the quality, number and type of relationships that you participate in has a significant effect on infection risk.
Low immunity therefore appears to be related to overall health and happiness irrespective of the presence or absence of infection.