It’s February and we are still seeing patients come in for the common cold or the flu. Besides the respiratory viruses that were prevalent earlier in the winter season, our healthcare team at the Tao of Wellness has seen more stomach virus cases since the beginning of the year. This has been true with other healthcare groups I’ve spoken to around the country. These viruses are highly contagious often affecting every member of a family and cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and with or without fever.
Each year, one in three Americans suffers from the common cold or the flu. In earlier articles I have suggested natural ways to support the healthy functions of your immune system in raising your resistance against the common cold. Common sense practices include washing your hands frequently with soap, and washing your face at least twice a day. Refrain from touching your nose and face with your hands except with tissues. Also, protect your upper back and neck area when it’s cold or windy by using a scarf, because this is where most of the colds will attack the body leading to stiff and achy neck and head. Here are six more natural strategies to avoid the common cold and the flu.
1. Rest up to restore your immunity. Studies show that your immune system function drops by an average of 60 percent after just three nights of poor sleep, so be sure you are getting plenty of quality rest, at least eight hours each night. Can’t fall asleep or stay asleep? Try taking a hot bath at night before bedtime or soak your feet in Epsom salt bath for 15 minutes. It will help relax your mind and body in preparation for your sleep.
2. Eat sweet potatoes and mushrooms. These foods help optimize your body’s immunity function. Sweet potatoes contain higher amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene than carrots, as well as being rich in plant source DHEA, a potent immunity booster. Certain types of mushrooms, like shitake, maitake and reishi, contain polysaccharides, sterols, coumarin, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that have been found to increase immune functions and activities.
3. Garlic keeps more than vampires away. Throughout human history garlic has been loved as well as loathed. Loved by those who enjoy its intense aroma and pungent flavors and loathed by those who are repelled by its odor. The strong odor of garlic actually comes from a sulfur-compound called allicin that studies have found to be a powerful antibacterial and antiviral agent. Not only has it been shown to be effective against colds, flu, stomach virus and candida yeast, it has also been shown to be effective against antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria such as MRSA. Besides repelling microbes, apparently even vampires don’t like it either.
4. Vitamin C to your rescue. The late Nobel laureate Linus Pauling did pioneering research on the benefits of vitamin C. It is regarded as the safest and most effective nutrient. A recent look at over 100 studies on vitamin C in the last 10 years revealed many conclusive benefits of the vitamin. Not the least is its well-known property of supporting immune functions especially when the immune system is suppressed by stress. It may not prevent the common cold or the flu but it can reduce the risk of complications like pneumonia and lung infections. One can safely take up to 2,000 mg of vitamin C daily.
5. Look to nature for ammunition. Throughout Europe and Asia, pharmacies offer herbal medicine alongside drug medication. It’s indicative that people in other cultures recognize the benefits of nature’s herbal remedies. As a result these cultures are generally healthier than ours. Luckily the U.S. is catching up. It’s easier now more than ever to find herbal remedies in your local drug and health food stores. Herbs with known immune system properties include ligustri, Cherokee rose, honeysuckle, astragalus, and all heal (prunella). These and other herbs constitute a formula called Perpetual Shield that I put my entire family on during the cold-flu season.
6. Keep your middle warm. In Chinese medicine, the abdomen is considered the storehouse of the body’s energy. Keeping your abdomen warm and protected from coldness has immense immune benefits. A good way to replenish your energy bank is to regularly place a hot water bottle on your abdomen. Also beneficial is applying abdominal wraps soaked in warming and rejuvenating herbal teas made from ginger, fennel, anise, cinnamon and clove. You can also drink the tea to keep your middle warm.
If it’s too late to prepare, and you are already suffering from the runny nose, sore throat, headache and fever of cold and flu, we often recommend to patients the Cold and Flu Formula that contains natural herbs like burdock, kudzu, forsythia, indigo, mint and others that support healthy immune function, and comfort cold and flu symptoms. I hope you use these suggestions in times of health and sickness and that they serve you well.
May you live long, live strong and live happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, also known as Dr. Mao, is a doctor of Oriental Medicine. He practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, a Wellness Medicine group that he founded with his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni. He is also the cofounder and Chancellor of Yo San University in Venice/Marina del Rey.
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