Paul A. Goldberg, MPH, DC, DACBN, DCBCN
That uncomfortable time of year is upon us when we brace ourselves for the potential misery of colds, flu, bronchitis and in some cases pneumonia….days of runny noses, sore throats, achy muscles and joints and crabby dispositions.
Realistically, once a cold or flu is acquired one has to endure a number of days (usually between seven and fourteen) of discomfort allowing nature take its course to rebalance our immunity, rest and clean out the system and neutralize opportunistic organisms.
“Catching” A Cold or The Flu
Colds and flu represent inflammation of the upper respiratory tract usually triggeredby different viral strains. Notice the word “triggered.” One must first be susceptible to being ill to become ill. A previously un-encountered viral strain poses a challenge to the body since it will not have antibodies to neutralize it quickly, but there are numerous other factors that make people either more or less susceptible to acquiring these acute miseries.
It is common to hear from one of our patients that they had not suffered a cold or flu for a number of years and then one hits. Almost invariably the patient, upon questioning, acknowledges having been pushing the envelope for a good while prior to the onset of the discomforts. Stressors such as lack of sleep and rest, long hours at work, extended fighting with a spouse, business worries, over-engaging in food, partaking of drugs and alcohol, over exercising and other burdens normally can be found in the background. The viral agent simply takes advantage of a person’s tired system, ripe for the picking, and they “come down with a cold or the flu.” When colds or other acute illnesses occur frequently or the person has problems getting over them it is prudent to identify and address the reasons for the low resistance prior to more serious issues arising…and they can. The repeated acute illnesses of ones youth can evolve into the chronic illnesses of adulthood.
Few understand and take the warning signs of the body. We ignore the clock and stay up late. We overeat, over work, over play, over worry and engage in other destructive behaviors. Nature cares not one wit if the reasons for our excesses were for good causes or were not our fault…nature simply takes steps to remedy our excesses often by allowing acute illnesses to evolve into chronic diseases regardless of our motives.
Mistakenly, the average person rather than identify and address why they got ill, will start looking for a “cure”. Off to the physician for antibiotics…but the cold and flu are viruses unaffected by antibiotics. Physicians are too eager (as statistics bear out) to quickly prescribe an antibiotic, even knowing it will do no good. On the contrary, as our public health authorities have warned us for decades, the massive over-prescription of antibiotics not only creates a plethora of side effects for the individual taking them, but also has created an explosion of life threatening “superbugs” that antibiotics cannot touch. One error in giving antibiotics quickly gives rise in many cases to other prescriptions for antibiotics, steroids and other drugs as side effects mount with many patients not realizing how the drugs they take destroy their health. We have repeatedly seen cases of pseudomembranous colitis and other forms of inflammatory bowel disease (among other issues) that had their genesis in the single prescription of an antibiotic which was useless for the original illness it was given for.
Viruses are not affected by antibiotics and were at best intended for serious bacterial infections and only when the body’s resistance is too low to recover on its own. Antibiotics are vastly over and wrongly prescribed and have led to a host of serious personal and public health problems in the United States and this often has its start with patients being prescribed them for colds and flu.
Most colds last about one to two weeks. If you follow the right course of action the cold will not lead to any complications and you will be in good shape when the body has run its healing course.
Different viruses cause upper respiratory infections, colds and the flu. Cold and flu symptoms are similar but have different intensity levels. A cold usually begins with minor sniffling or sneezing while the flu hits you suddenly. Fatigue and muscle aches occur with both but are more severe with the flu.
How To Help Prevent Colds and Flu
The best way to help prevent colds and flu (and other illnesses) or at least lessen their severity is to take simple hygienic steps to keep your whole body at its top potential including:
1) Get sufficient rest and sleep (too little sleep = lowered immunity)
2) Eat a nutrient dense diet. All essential nutrients (not just vitamin C and Zinc) play a role in your immune system well being.
3) Obtain moderate exercise
4) Obtain sufficient sunlight to keep your “Vitamin D” levels optimized.
5) Avoid excessive stress (colds and flu often follow long term stress). Try to find time for enjoyable activities on a regular basis as this will greatly assist your immune system.
6) Keep your digestive tract healthy by not abusing it. Many people will benefit by taking a good quality probiotic appropriate for them. Most of your immune system is located in your digestive tract.
7) Give and receive love from/to your family, friends, dog, cat and other significant others.
What to do if you have the cold or flu?
The universal and best approach is extensive rest and sleep. Allow your body the opportunity to marshal its defenses. Don’t look for “cures” but create the right conditions to allow your body to heal. In addition to extra bed rest, a light diet or a liquid diet of herb tea, water, and broth for a couple days is often helpful. This will take the burden of digestion off of your system and allow your body to focus its energies on getting well.
Many people develop colds and/or the flu after the holidays when they have overindulged in food and activity, so a few days on a light or liquid diet can be very useful. Neither a cold nor the flu is fun but you can work with your body or against it.
Anything else can you do?
Make vegetable broth and take a few cups per day.
Keep yourself warm
Take a shower or bath each day
Get as much rest and sleep as possible
Avoid worry and other activities that drain your body of energy
Should Supplements/Remedies be Employed for Cold and Flu?
I do not recommend loading up on supplements and remedies with a cold or flu. Leave out the so-called natural aids such as colloidal silver and Echinacea and other health food store potions and pills. They do not address the causes of your illness. Massive doses of Vitamin C? Extra Zinc? These are necessary nutrients but will not alleviate your symptoms unless you were very much deficient in them to begin with.
Tylenol? Nyquil? Other over the counter drugs?You are best off staying away from these. They will only burden your body further. If in doubt leave it out. Let the body have the opportunity to recover without interference. If you cooperate with your body you will likely find that when the cold is over you feel even better than you did before it began.
Run to the Medical Doctor for prescription drugs? To the herbalist for herbs? Not only rarely necessary, but all these may well interfere with your getting well. If you are having repeated cycles of colds, flu, bronchitis, etc., then the reasons your resistance is low need to be clearly identified and addressed. We are here to help our patients in that regard so that such cycles can be brought to an end and a higher state of health can be achieved.
Keep in mind that when you have a cold or flu your body is trying to “cure” itself. Don’t try to cure a cure! Have faith in the process, go to bed, get lots of rest and be at peace with the world. This too shall pass. Work with your body rather than against it and you will end up being well rested, energized and ready in short order to again face the challenges life presents to you.