A change from warmer to cooler outdoor temperatures can leave many people sneezing, sniffling and coughing. But instead of reaching for those medicine bottles and pills, there may be some natural and alternative ways to either avoid, or help relieve the symptoms of, common colds and the flu.
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Believe it or not, those annoying symptoms you’re experiencing are part of the natural healing process — evidence that the immune system is battling illness. When the body’s defenses are weakened, infections (bacteria, viruses, or fungi) are able to manifest in the body. Fighting infection is best handled by building up the strength of the whole body. Here’s how you can do so, naturally:
Eat your fruits and veggies
Eating a wide variety of fresh, wholesome foods packed with powerful vitamins and minerals is the first step to ensuring a strong immune system. Vitamins A, B6, C and E and the minerals zinc, iron, copper and selenium are critical for maintaining strength and immunity. Make sure that your diet consists of a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to ensure that you are getting all of the necessary nutrients. Supplementing your diet with a daily multivitamin will fill the gaps where your diet falls short and should be an essential part of your health regime. During cold and flu season, increase your dosage of vitamin C for added virus fighting benefits. Should you still become sick, studies have shown that the powerful antioxidants in vitamin C can reduce both the symptoms and duration of the flu.
Eat more garlic
Certain foods can give you an extra boost and should be factored into your regular eating habits. Garlic is known for its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties and can prevent infections from taking hold and spreading. A daily serving of two raw garlic cloves will provide you with the bulbous herb’s healthy benefits. Tip: To avoid offensive garlic breath, cut the cloves into smaller pieces and then swallow them with water or herbal tea. Follow with a sprig of parsley.
A mushroom a day
Mushrooms have been found to increase production and activity of white blood cells, improving your chances of fighting off infection. Both shiitake and maitake mushrooms provide the biggest immunity boost.
Jump-start your immune system each morning with a fresh pot of black tea. While the healthy properties in black tea have been known for centuries, a recent Harvard University study confirmed its healing effects. The study found that people who drank five cups of black tea a day for two weeks had 10 times higher levels of the cold- and virus-fighting chemical interferon than those who did not drink tea. Researchers suspect that green tea has the same effect.
Exercise it away
Exercising for 30 to 60 minutes daily can give your immune system the extra kick that it needs. A study conducted by David Nieman at Appalachian State University found that people who walked regularly for 12 weeks had half the number of colds and sore throats as people who were less active.
Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and its harmful effects on the immune system. It has been estimated that 90 percent of illness and disease is stress related. But don’t overdo it! Too much exercise can have the opposite effect on your immune system. Exercising for more than 90 minutes a day could make you more susceptible to the flu virus.
Get some sleep!
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for the immune system to recharge itself. An overly fatigued body doesn’t have the necessary strength to fight off infections. With eight hours a night of solid sleep, your body will be ready to face a new day and ward off pesky invaders.
A strong immune system should be able to combat the flu virus, but washing your hands frequently can increase your health odds even more. Use warm water and soap and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes to prevent the virus from entering your system.