The end of summer marks a new season for everyone: cold and flu season! While it can be unpleasant being sick, it is actually a good sign that our immune system is working. This is especially important for people under chronic stress because stress suppresses our immune system, which means our body cannot fight off germs and bacteria until we are out of stress mode. And of course this tends to happen at the most inconvenient times. How many people have gotten sick right at the beginning of their vacation?
In August, many of my patients told me they had to take time off of work because of the flu. Being sick presents a particular challenge for my patients such as Jan, who was working tirelessly to prepare for a closing only to come down with the flu the day before the closing date. Talk about stressful! So rather than focusing on cold and flu prevention, I thought I’d suggest some natural tips on how to lessen the duration of your cold or flu. After all, getting sick isn’t necessarily a bad thing (albeit an inconvenient thing), but it doesn’t have to be a long, uncomfortable and fatiguing experience either.
Steam Inhalation for Congestion
Steam inhalation is a great way to lessen sinus congestion and clear out the upper respiratory system. It quickly makes us feel better and speeds up our recovery time. If you’re suffering from sinus congestion and headaches before trying a cold medication, first try some basic steam inhalation to break up the congestion. What’s important to note here is that it’s not so much the steam but the warm moist direct heat that helps loosen the mucous and eases congestion. This is why you won’t find the same benefit from staying in a warm steamy shower. For maximum results from steam inhalation fill a large bowl with steaming hot water and add one drop of tea tree oil (too much tea tree oil may cause burning and irritation to the mucous membranes, so be careful not to add more than one drop). Make a tent cover for yourself under a large towel or blanket. Breathe deeply over the bowl and allow the vapours to go deep into the lungs. The heat will start to open the nasal passages. Be sure you’re close enough to the steam to feel a nice red flush of heat on the skin without being burned. Stay under the blanket or towel for 2 minutes, then rest. Add more hot water and repeat a few times. When sick the treatment will have the best results if repeated at least 3 times a day.
Warming Socks for the common cold
A popular remedy suggested by most natural healthcare practitioners is to use warming socks for relief from a common cold. It works by forcing your body to raise its temperature enough to kick start your immune system. This is similar to how a fever helps without the complications of having a fever. This remedy is best done just before you go to bed. Start by soaking a pair of nylon or light cotton socks in cold water. Wring them out so they are not dripping (to near dry). An additional option at this point is to soak your feet in a bath of hot water for 2 minutes, then remove your feet from the hot water. Next, put the damp socks on your feet and a dry, thick comfortable pair of socks (ideally wool) over the nylon socks. Get into bed and have a nice restful sleep. This may seem slightly uncomfortable at first, but once you do it you’ll be surprised how comfortable and how effective the remedy actually is. While you are sleeping your body will be working hard to boost your immune system by slightly raising your body’s temperature to dry the wet socks. By forcing your body to raise its temperature you also invigorate your immune system so when you wake the next morning your cold symptoms will be much improved. If you still feel sniffles by the end of the day, perform the procedure each night until you feel relief.
Relief from Sore Throats and Dry Coughs
When you first feel a sore throat coming on try gargling some water with a couple drops of oregano oil. Although oregano oil has been hailed as an “all in one” remedy, it is best used for the relief of sore throats. If you’ve tried some oregano oil and you’re still experiencing a sore throat then you can make your own cough medicine. This natural remedy is great for coughs and will also bring relief to sore throats. To make the cough medicine you will need the following ingredients: ¼ of chopped onion, and 2-3 tablespoons of honey. In a small bowl (preferably not plastic) mix the ingredients together, cover and let sit in the fridge for one hour. The honey will become a thin liquid which you can either drink or use as a gargle. Honey and onion together are great natural remedies to relieve a sore throat and/or cough.
If you’re coming down with a cold or the flu make sure to keep these dietary recommendations in mind. First and foremost, drink lots of water. Runny noses and upset tummies can lead to some dehydration, so make sure you are keeping yourself well hydrated. Being well hydrated will also help reduce congestion as it keeps your mucous thin. Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water per day. You can also reduce congestion and blocked sinuses by removing mucous forming foods from your diet such as bananas, oranges and dairy. Lastly, eliminate sugar from your diet and increase protein. Sugar has a negative effect on our immune system by temporarily suppressing it (turning it off). To boost your immune system make sure you are getting lots of protein in your diet as it is needed to build white blood cells which help our body to fight off sickness. Great sources of protein are lean meats, poultry, fish and soy.