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Guarding Against Colds, Flues and the Winter Blues
Winter is a time of stillness and naturally we want to slow down, but this can seem impossible in our busy world of work and with expectations of the festive season. The flu can strike at the most inopportune moments and some people hate winter because they suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder). But these things can be guarded against by giving your body what it needs to get through the deep mid winter, feeling healthy, strong and vibrant!
S.A.D. and Vitamin D
Seasonal affective disorder has a simple cause. A lack of sunlight. Vitamin D is the hormone that our body makes when our skin is exposed to the suns UVB rays. Vitamin D is essential for many functions in the body including 5% of our gene expression and a healthy working immune system. A lack of vitamin D can therefore cause many problems as well as SAD.
From November through February above a latitude of 35 degrees north, only UVA rays reach the earth, with no UVB getting thorough. Here in Cumbria we are at 54+ degrees north, so winter vitamin D deficiency is a common problem.
Our body has the ability to store vitamin D, so if you get plenty of summer sun you may avoid a winter deficiency altogether. But if your summer sun exposure is limited, because you work indoors for example, then the chances are are by November/ December you will be experiencing a vitamin D deficiency. It may come in the form of SAD – feeling blue. Or it could show itself in an increase propensity to colds and flu, achey joints, or an excessively sweaty head! Bizarre but true.
A note on skin colour. Vitamin D deficiency, at our latitude, is more common for those with a darker skin colour. Skin pigmentation limits the body’s absorption of UV rays including UVB.
There are two ways to remedy a vitamin D deficiency. One is with a sun lamp (make sure it emits UVB rays and always follow manufacturers instructions). The lamp will make it possible for your body to make it’s own vitamin D.
The other simple solution is supplementing with vitamin D. However it is important to note that because the body can store vitamin D it is possible to over dose. Without having your levels tested, the safe way to take vitamin D is a moderate dose in the deep winter months – 3000iu a day for the 4 months, November to February. Or if you think you need a bit more, take it between the clock changes over winter.
Enjoy the sun on your skin when you can (just avoid burning). Not only does the sun help us make vitamin D, but it increases β-endorphins – which make us feel happy!
Colds and Flu
There are some key aspects to supporting your body to ensure that you ward off the winter viruses and if you do get them, that they pass quickly. Firstly keeping your immune system boosted. Secondly keeping your antioxidant levels up. Thirdly to ensure your body has what it needs to detox well. Fourthly, if you do get a virus, take an antiviral tonic. A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetable is essential, but then there are mother nature powerhouse tonics, which come to our rescue. Many of these that overlap in function, so lets look at some of our favourites.
Olive Leaf Extract
Olive Leaf Extract is one of my favourite natural medicines to take in the winter. It is a highly effective antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal agent. Plus it is a very powerful antioxidant. It is great to take if you feel a little under the weather, and if you have full blown flu, it will help reduce symptoms and restore your energy! Get the liquid form such as Comvita as this stuff is best taken by the spoon not the drop.
Higher Nature Immune +
Higher Nature Immune + is vitamin C with bioflavanoids which are all antioxidants and zinc which in clinical trials has been shown to be the most powerful cold prevention out there. Making this a great supplement to keep on the shelf.
Vitamin C is the King of antioxidants. Humans are one of the few animals that can’t make vitamin C, along with other primates and guinea pigs! What is interesting is that animals like goats, with a weight equivalent to an adult human will normally make make 2,000 mg of the vitamin C a day, but if sick or stressed will make as much as 20x that = 20.000 mg. A good indicator that maybe we should take more if sick or experiencing stress. If you are poorly or detect the first signs of something coming on, you can take up to 6 tablets a day. Take them a couple of hours apart as vitamin C is water soluble so you will pee out the excess. Immune + is also an excellent hangover remedy. Take one at bed time and one the following morning for best effect.
Echinacea is an immune stimulating herb and useful for all types of winter illness. Many people find it helpful to take as a prophylactic in winter to ward of colds and flues. Astragalus is similar in action and some people prefer it to echinacea.
Beta Glucans is compound found in medicinal mushrooms, yeast, oats and barley. It is a powerful immune modulator. If you suffer any viral infections beta glucans is an excellent aid to help fight the infection. It can be taken as a natural medicinal mushroom extract or as a complex specifically designed to support the body when under attack from a viral infect such as Pharma-Nords BetaGlucans Plus.
Garlic is a powerful antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal agent, and especially useful in winter. It can be eaten raw or taken as a tablet. It is a good one to use if the digestive system is affected by an illness as it will help combat any bad bugs in the gut. Allicin Max is the most powerful garlic product on the market as it contains the stabilized active ingredient in garlic – allicin. Take garlic as a treatment or a prophylactic.
L-Lysine is an amino acid that is very useful in the specific treatment of the herpes virus. It is an excellent for cold sores and can be taken as a supplement or a topical ointment.
There are many natural health products that contain a combination of the supplements mentioned above, but all should be taken in combination with a healthy diet. A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables is the best thing to keep your gut healthy. This is where the first line of immune defense lies. A healthy gut will also aid detoxification another essential part of staying healthy in winter!
Living Food Nutritionist