With the government in New Zealand making moves on restricting access to cold and flu medications containing pseudoephedrine without a visit to the doctor, it may be time to reacquaint ourselves with what nature provides. The cost of visiting the doctor unless you have a community services card may cost over $50. Then add the cost of a prescription around $15 per item could have you spending $65 to $80. For natural health supplements depending on what is recommended, you may well spend less than this. Not only could it be cheaper, you can also be enhancing your body to mend itself while also suppressing the symptoms of cold or flu.
Some simple tips such as including adequate amounts of protein in your diet can hugely increase the immune systems fighting ability. Protein is not just for body builders, but for every one of us. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins, thus a diet with adequate protein is essential. The amino acids join together to make all tissues in the body, skin, hair, blood, muscles, heart, brain, ligaments, tendons and the arteries, veins etc. They also make our hormones, insulin and are involved in liver function and the building of our immune system. These major proteins in the immune system make up antibodies to help fight foreign substances like viruses, bacteria and parasites as well as fighting against allergies and intolerances.
There are 22 amino acids. All but 8 amino acids can be made in the body from other amino acids. The 8 that are unable to be made are called essential amino acids. This means that it is essential that they are obtained from the diet on a daily basis. Meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, lentils and kidney beans are good sources of protein. A vegetarian diet where no meat is eaten at all will not have all the amino acids, thus it is essential to have nuts, seeds, grains and lentils or kidney beans and tofu/soy etc in one day to have a complete protein. A complete protein has all 22 amino acids such as meat.
If one amino acid is low or missing, even temporarily, protein synthesis will fall to a very low level or stop altogether. Signs and symptoms of protein deficiency apart from lowered immune function can be, depression, tiredness, poor sleep, hair loss, swelling of the joints, weak muscles – including the heart muscle, weight gain and brittle nails to name a few. We require 1gm of protein per kg of body weight. So if you weigh 60kg you need 60gm of protein. This is best spread out over the day rather than a 200gm steak at night to provide 40gm of protein. Protein will help balance energy, aid in weight loss, and help treat depression and stress.
Next to water, protein is the second most plentiful substance in the body. A high percentage of those I calculate protein intake for are protein deficient. The majority of them are only getting about half of the amount they need per day. Unfortunately many people cut down their protein intake due to cost or because they think that’s what puts on weight. In actual fact it helps to loose weight because it aids in maintaining muscle mass and this is where the calories are burned. ’s.
Nutrients that are useful to help build your immune system and reduce symptoms of cold or flu are:
Vitamin C – An antioxidant, which helps to reduce inflammation in the body, is also a natural antihistamine. Vitamin C levels in the plasma and white blood cells (WBC) declines rapidly during infections and stress. By taking vitamin C daily it decreases the risk of viruses, bacteria or fungal infections. This is because vitamin C can directly destroy viruses and bacteria – even dormant viruses. Vitamin C is effective at reducing the symptoms and severity of the common cold. 1-6 grams per day can reduce cold and flu symptoms and severity significantly.
Zinc – Zinc is required for protein synthesis, thus a deficiency will impair the formation of the immune proteins. WBC formation and function will cease. Zinc like vitamin C has some antiviral activity against several viruses that cause the common cold. It is noted to be able to inhibit viruses from replicating.
Probiotics – Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in the intestines. Probiotics help to protect the mucosal linings against viruses and bacteria by inhibiting the pathogens from being able to attach to the linings. They aid in reducing the growth of pathogens by competing for nutrients, altering the pH and oxygen levels and physically engulfing the pathogen. Research also suggests they have some immune system stimulation. Common symptoms that occur when these good bacteria are low include, wind, bloating and possibly poor digestion of foods.
B vitamins – The B vitamins are required for immunity because they are cofactors in the synthesis of the antibodies and WBC within the immune system.
Vitamin A – Vitamin A is a mucus membrane tonic and aids in protecting the linings of the nasal area and throat. It is also antiviral. If fever is present increase vitamin A & C.
Echinacea – Echinacea increases the number of circulating WBC, monocytes, neutrophils and natural killer cells. These WBC are the body’s troops. Echinacea may be best used in acute situations where high doses are used only during the infection and then stopped once the symptoms have subsided. This is due to the potential increase of inflammation and inflammatory conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s disease.
Elderflower or elderberry – Helps to reduce a fever and mucus in both colds and flu, while reducing the symptoms and severity. It is also antiviral and immune building.
Andrographis – reduces the symptoms of upper respiratory viral and bacterial infections. Aids in a faster recovery and a much-reduced risk of complications. – has been shown to protect against various viruses and to decrease the symptoms of colds and flu ’s.
Sage & thyme – make a great gargle for sore throats which is highly effective
Garlic – is anti microbial so include this in the diet.
In conclusion, there is much that can be done to support ourselves in staying well and to fight against these viruses. Even taking a high strength multivitamin and mineral and having the right amount of protein will go a long way to improving the immune system. The herbs and nutrients mentioned above are only a few of what nature has available for us. We even have some New Zealand natives such as Kanuka and Kawakawa to assist in keeping us well.
Written by Carolyn Fletcher