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The common cold is so widespread that few of us escape infection. The Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University says that today’s busy lifestyles and overcrowding provide prefect breeding ground for the cold virus, whilst most colds are actually passed on at home. This is probably due to the children picking up the infection at school and passing on the germs to the parents and on it goes. With the current forecast of population growth and the risks of super bugs you can see why research is being pushed at a pace to find a cure for the common cold.
The body responds to colds by increasing mucous production, hence the nose blowing and this carries infected matter out of the body. Given the close proximity of ear, nose and throat it is not surprising that hearing, breathing and speech are affected.
Dietary changes can benefit the conditions including cutting back on sugars, fat and alcohol. The typical western daily diet contains around 150g of refined sugar. At 100g it has been shown that the immune system function is cut in half and in addition reduced amounts of Vitamin C enter the white blood cells. Excessive alcohol severely depletes zinc levels – essential for a health immune system.
Nature of course has a few answers and there is evidence that complementary remedies such as certain herbs and supplements may help to prevent the onset of the common cold and / or shorten the duration of the symptoms. Here are a few:-
Research published by the Lancet found that Echinacea can halve the risk of catching a common cold. Echinacea can be taken as a preventative measure during the cold season to encourage a healthy immune response. It is available in tincture, tablet, throat-spray and lozenge format. Getting into the blood stream quickly the tincture passes right through the membranes of the throat to the lymphatic tissue where they exert a beneficial effect on the immune system.
Taken along side Vitamin C it is very effective and has been shown to reduce the cold incidence by a significant percentage.
Well known for its general health benefits and evidence has found that in suitable doses (1000- 3000g/day) may have a preventative effect of catching a cold. As a general immune support 600-1000mg /day during the winter months is well advised. There is a broad range of Vitamin C products from chewable, liquid, powder and low acid. Good sources of Vitamin C includes: – broccoli, red peppers, currants, Brussels sprouts, parsley, potatoes, citrus fruit and strawberries. Vitamin C is also available as ‘Ester C’ which is a citrus free format.
Traditionally used as a gargle for sore throats laryngitis and tonsillitis. It has a numbing effect on the throat, is astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and helps to actively ease pain. Taken with Echinacea allows infection relief to be more effective. Available as tincture and tablet format.
Well known antioxidant mineral which is essential for the maintenance of a healthy immune system. Recent research highlights the fact that zinc can inhibit viral infection and may actually prevent common cold viruses from attaching to the nasal cells in the first place. Available as tablet/capsule format and combined with Vitamin C.
Plantain ( Plantago)
Relieves congestion in the mucous membranes and can reduce inflammation – so is just the job for swollen glands, glue ear, coughs, colds and sinusitis. It is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and is a natural antibiotic with antihistamine properties. Available in tincture format.
Strengthens and cleanses the mucus membranes and ideal for coughs, bronchitis and any condition where mucus builds up in the lungs. A warming expectorant with antibacterial properties particularly suited for chronic conditions.
Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties that make a perfect remedy for treating a wide variety of infectious conditions. Garlic is effective in killing many infectious bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics by stopping them from multiplying. Available in odourless capsule format in different strengths and in high strength liquid.
Elderberries stimulate the immune system and have anti-catarrhal and local anti-inflammatory actions, making it especially good for heavy colds and flu involving deafness and sinusitis. Test tube research has shown that elderberry stimulates the production of interferon-like substance in human immune cells, which inhibits the growth virus.
Goldenseal is a popular herb which is often combined with Echinacea. It stops infection binding to host cells and stimulates the spleen which filters organisms from the blood. Goldenseal also exhibits broad range antibiotic activity and reduces severe fever. Combined with Echinacea it is an ideal remedy for acute infections.
Moderate exercise has been shown to increase the immune system effectiveness in the fight against colds. It has a number of added benefits particularly increasing the blood flow. Research has advised us that 30 to 45 minutes of moderate daily exercise is ideal with results indicating an increase in levels of leukocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infection.
However all exercise comes with a health warning. Overdoing it may actually weaken the immune system and anybody on a training regime should already be increasing their natural barriers by additional nutritional help either through diet or supplements.