the holidays are over, it’s time to dive into the new year.
The busyness of the season left many of us overstretched and
sleep-deprived, and at higher risk for illness, including
colds and flu. Now’s the time to put in place some practices
that will leave your immune system operating at peak
are a number of supplements and botanicals that can help to
reduce your risk of getting sick. They include the following:
is important for a healthy immune system, and the elderly in
particular are often zinc-deficient. Be sure to eat zinc-rich
foods, including oysters, beef, liver, poultry, crab and pork.
Zinc is not well absorbed from multivitamins, so if you need
extra zinc, take it as a separate supplement. The RDA is 11
milligrams per day for men and 8 milligrams for women, though
some people need more.
may help to prevent colds or reduce the duration of symptoms.
They seem to work by stimulating immune function. Try
lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or a mixed probiotic containing
lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. The optimal dose is
uncertain, but usually about 10 billion colony forming units
per day for kids and 25 billion CFU for adults.
American ginseng (also known as panax quinquefolius) may
reduce the risk of developing colds or influenza if taken for
three to four months during the winter months. It may also
reduce the severity and length of illness if you do get sick.
The dose is approximately 200 milligrams twice daily.
data suggest that vitamin C may reduce the incidence of colds,
especially in people exposed to extreme stress, physical
exertion, or cold weather; their incidence of colds was
reduced by 50 percent when they took vitamin C. Vitamin C is
considered to be a safe supplement especially if taken in
moderate doses, such as 250 to 500 milligrams twice daily.
tea may have antiviral effects; preliminary research suggests
that it may help to prevent colds and flu. Drink three to five
cups per day.
you do get sick, here are a few things that can help to reduce
the severity or length of your symptoms:
lozenges may also help to stop a cold; they must be started
within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Look for zinc
acetate lozenges that contain 13 to 25 milligrams of zinc per
lozenge; other formulations of zinc are not as effective.
Dissolve a lozenge in the mouth every two hours until you have
consumed at least 75 milligrams total per day; stop after
seven to 10 days.
may help to reduce symptoms of the flu by boosting the ability
of the immune system to fight off the infection; it is active
against both influenza A and B and may even be effective for
swine flu. Sambucol by Nature’s Way is a standardized
extract of elderberry that can shorten the duration of the flu
by at least 50 percent and also reduce fever and muscle aches.
The dose is 1 tablespoon four times daily for three to five
herb andrographis may also help to reduce the severity and
duration of upper respiratory infections. Kan Jang is the
Swedish andographis product that has been studied the most; it
is often combined with Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus). It
needs to be started within 48 hours of symptom onset. The dose
is two capsules three times daily for five days.
may help to reduce the length and severity of the common cold,
though not all species are effective; Echinacea purpurea is
the one that seems to be the best. It should be started at the
onset of symptoms and continued for seven to 10 days. Try
EchinaGuard by Nature’s Way.
garlic may help to thwart a cold — eat one raw clove of
chopped garlic every hour at the first onset of symptoms. Stop
after you’ve eaten six to eight cloves, or if you get GI
distress (or if you start to smell like a garlic factory!).
is an effective cough suppressor and can also ease a sore
throat; take one or two teaspoons, either by itself or in some
warm herbal tea. It can also be used safely in children over
the age of 1.
is recommended by the German Commission E for inflammation of
the upper respiratory tract. It fights viruses, helps to
loosen secretions, and can soothe a sore throat.
soup seems to reduce inflammation, and if you throw in some
mushrooms, onions and garlic, you’ll be supporting your
immune system as well.
avoid illness by getting plenty of sleep, reducing your stress
levels, working in lots of laughter every day (a great stress
reducer), eating a healthful diet, getting moderate exercise,
washing your hands frequently or using an alcohol hand
sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, and getting a flu
shot. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014.