Proactive cold and flu management

The best approach to managing your cold or flu is to support the immune system so that the symptoms are short lived and you can return to normal life more quickly. It is important to understand what your immune system is trying to do so that your efforts don't sabotage your own healing process.
The most important thing to remember is in an emergency the rules change. This means that at some point you have to be ready to abandon the idea of supporting the body's natural healing process and stop it from hurting you in an effort to fight off the infection. The approach presented here is for the situations where the body is well within its healthy working limits. This means that if you are having your standard cold or flu symptoms then follow this approach, and if it feels worse than normal, consider professional guidance.

  • Feed your body the nutrients it needs. When your body starts fighting an infection it uses up the stores of minerals and vitamins that run your immune system, so you need to replenish the stores during and after an infection. Some of the nutrients that are key are vitamins A, B's, C, D, and E. Sound easy to remember? Some of the minerals you need to focus on are zinc, magnesium, and selenium.

  • Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar. I know people like their comfort food when they are sick, but refined carbohydrates and sugar decrease immune cell activity for hours. This creates an interesting dilemma with fruit juice because they contain a lot of simple sugars and relatively minimal vitamin or mineral content. While orange juice may contain vitamin C, so does broccoli, and broccoli doesn't have anywhere near the amount of sugar. We need to stay hydrated, but downing liters of sugar laden juice is not the answer for your average cold or flu. Soups are probably one of the best ways to stay hydrated, if they are made with vegetables, whole grains, and beans or meats. This means ichiban noodles aren't going to cut it.

  • Stay hydrated. As noted above, juices contain a lot of sugar and little nutrients whereas home made soups are a much better option. If you consider that fruit juice has as many calories per can as Coke or Pepsi you could be consuming around 500 calories of sugars alone just by having 1L of orange juice. That is 25% of your daily calories as sugar. This doesn't mean that orange juice is all bad, but don't fool yourself that you are doing a good thing by guzzling liters of juice.

  • SLEEP. Sleep is essential, so stay home from work and sleep if you are ill. By staying home you will decrease the chances of you passing on your infection to your coworkers and you will get over your infection faster.

  • Let your fever work, within reason. The body creates a fever because the immune cells operate better at higher temperatures. Therefore taking something to bring down the fever only slows your immune system down. Would you rather have 2 days of mild to moderate fever and be over your cold quickly or 2 weeks of mild, nagging symptoms that you have to constantly medicate? Fevers in very young children need to be monitored more closely it would be safer to consult your physician about what temperature is safe, but for adults anything under 103 Celcius is safe, unless there are underlying health conditions.

  • Take something to help your immune system. There are so many botanicals and homeopathics that are reported to help that it can be hard to decide which ones work. Personal preference will vary, but consult with your health care professional as to which one they feel helps most.

  • These suggestions are not meant to replace the sound advice of your health care professional, but they are a good starting point for helping your immune system fight off an infection.

    Preparations for flu season: Prevention

    When it comes to surviving the cold and flu season you need to look at prevention, symptom management, and recovery. Starting with prevention, consider the following in your efforts to say healthy and happy:

  • Wash your hands. Viruses are dealt with far better by hand washing than with alcohol sanitizers. Since the majority of colds and flus are viral, it is important to wash your hands regularly, especially before eating or rubbing your eyes.

  • Avoid putting objects or fingers in your mouth. If you have a habit of chewing on pens or pencils or finger nails this can be a source for exposure to pathogens. These habits take time to break, but they are not helpful in cold and flu season.

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes with unwashed hands. The membranes around your eyes are easy access points for pathogens because they are always moist, so don't rub them with dirty fingers

  • Avoid exposure to people who are cough, sneezing or otherwise appear to be sick. If you are sick, then save everyone else the trouble and stay home from work. The extra rest will help you recover faster and you will reduce the risk of spreading it to your productive coworkers.

  • Take a multivitamin. Your body requires nutrients to fight off infection, so you will want to replenish its stores of useful cofactors regularly. Even if you don't feel sick, your immune system is actively fighting off infections all the time.

  • Take an immune boosting herbal supplement. There are many options out there and I would leave it to your health care provider to let you know which is best for your situation. At the very least, drink fresh ginger tea regularly.

  • Take a probiotic periodically. Studies of infants have shown that probiotics can help reduce the frequency of colds. These beneficial bacteria help force out the bad strains that make you sick. It may be overkill to take these all the time, but if you know you have been exposed or are going to be exposed, it can help to take some for a few days.

  • Get a good nights sleep. Sleep is essential to good immune function, and without a restful nights sleep you will be more susceptible to infection.

  • If you feel you need it, get a flu shot. Bear in mind that the flu shot is based on viruses that were spread months ago and are estimates of what you might face during this flu season. Also keep in mind that the preservatives in vaccines are usually aluminum or mercury which are not helpful for brain function and may linger in the body for years. Be aware that a flu shot causes an immune response which temporarily consumes the immune resources leaving you vulnerable to infection. Finally, if you are already sick then you should wait until you are better before getting a flu shot.

  • If you can follow these recommendations, you will be well on your way to preventing many of the colds and flus that come your way.