Thursday, January 3, 2013

Four ways to stop a cold or flu in its tracks

Have you caught the dreaded change-of-season cold?  These four tips can help you shorten the duration of a cold and alleviate symptoms.

Perhaps it was the person at the office who sneezed a little too close to you. Or maybe it happened on the crowded bus, where you were surrounded by a symphony of coughs and sniffles. Either way, now you’ve woken up with a change-of-season cold, and you’re not alone.
It may be too late for you to keep yourself from getting sick in the first place, but the good news is that there is plenty you can do to shorten the duration of a cold or flu and alleviate the symptoms while you’re waiting to recover. Here are my top four tips for sending the sniffles packing.
1. Triple your vitamin D for three days
Low vitamin D is common in people who live in northern climates. When we start heading indoors to get away from the cooler temperatures, the subsequent decrease in vitamin D — which our body produces when sunshine hits our skin — leaves us more susceptible to viruses.
The immune system’s front-line soldiers are the T-cells, which are dormant until they are activated to detect and kill infections from viruses and bacteria. A Danish study found that the first stage of T-cell activation involves vitamin D — when a T-cell is exposed to a virus or bacteria, it sends a signal to search for vitamin D in the blood. Without vitamin D, T-cell activation is stopped in its tracks.
At the first sign of a cold or flu I recommend taking 25,000 to 30,000 IU of vitamin D a day for three consecutive days only. After that, drop your dose down to 4,000 to 5,000 IU, taken daily for long-term health. Children may take 1000IU for three days, then decrease to 200 to 400IU per day. As always, discuss new supplement use with your health practitioner.
2. Top up your vitamin C
When it comes to stifling the symptoms of your cold, much like with vitamin D, you need vitamin C to boost your defences. Vitamin C influences your ability to fight off infections by stimulating white blood cells and increasing the rate at which they travel to the site of infection. Scientists from the University of Texas Health Science Center studied the white blood cells of 12 patients before and after each patient took one gram of vitamin C daily for two weeks and found that their disease-killing white blood cells became much more active with the increase in vitamin C supplementation.
I recommend taking four to 12 grams of vitamin C, spread throughout the day, at the first sign of a cold. If you develop loose stools, then simply reduce the dose.

3. Put on wet socks and hit snooze
It may not sound appealing, but this natural remedy can stop a cold, flu, or fever in its tracks by stimulating the immune system and improving circulation. Best of all, you only need a few simple ingredients: a pair of cotton socks, thick wool socks, and a towel.
First, soak the cotton socks in cold water. Wring them out slightly and place them on your feet. Then take a pair of thick dry wool socks and put them over the wet socks. If desired, you can set a towel under your feet — then immediately go to sleep. Do this for two or three nights, or until you feel your illness has passed.
4. Pump up the probiotics
Everyone can benefit from the use of probiotics for healthy digestion, regular bowel function and immunity. When your immune system is under attack, however, you need to increase the dosage. Clinical trials show that probiotics may decrease the incidence of respiratory tract infections and that antibiotics may turn the immune system “off” while probiotics turns it back on “idle,” possibly leaving your body more able to quickly react to new infections.
Look for a supplement with 10 to 15 billion cells per capsule. Take two upon rising and before bed, on an empty stomach. For maintenance, drop to one or two pills each morning.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.