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.

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