Welcome to a new feature here on the Brightpath blog – Ask a Naturopath. Our in-house Naturopath Dr. Gayamali has put together some of the most frequently asked questions she gets about cold and flu season and ways to use natural medicine to stay healthier this winter.
1. Can Taking Supplements Help me Fight Off a Cold?
Yes! Our body needs to maintain certain levels of essential vitamins and minerals to keep our immune system functioning properly. If your diet or environment are not providing the level you need, supplements will top you up.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which contributes to immune defence by supporting cell function. If you aren’t getting enough vitamin C from your diet, then a supplement can improve your body’s ability to fight off colds and flu or decrease the time you are ill.
This is absolutely essential in our northern climate where we rarely spend enough time outdoors to absorb enough naturally, especially with our shorter days and longer nights. There is a good reason the incidence of colds and flu is higher in the winter, and it’s not just because it’s chilly out! Sunshine (or its equivalent, Vitamin D) is an important regulator of your immune system.
As a kid you were probably told you needed vitamin C and sunshine, but it was rare for parents to tell us to “get our zinc”. We know now, however, that zinc plays an important role in informing our cells when an infection is present and slowing down the spread of that infection. Taking zinc when you first notice cold symptoms can reduce the duration of colds.
This is an herbal remedy that some believe reduces symptoms and duration of the common cold. While a recent study was not able to find any statistically significant improvement in patients who took echinacea, it also won’t do any harm.
A plant with known anti-viral properties and has been shown to be effective against several strains of the flu, reducing the duration of symptoms by 3-4 days. Elderberry is usually consumed as a syrup.
2. What environmental or physical conditions can weaken my immune system?
What you eat plays a significant role in your overall health, including your immune system. Make sure you are filling half of your plate with colourful fruits and vegetables to get the most from your diet.
Following Canada’s Food Guide is a great place to start.
Stress also plays a big role in your body’s ability to protect itself. If your body is constantly trying to counter the impact of stress on your body, it doesn’t have a lot of reserves left for when a cold or flu virus shows up. We’ve shared some good advice on reducing stress and anxiety previously on the blog.
The time you spend sleeping is when your body works hard to repair cell damage and prepare itself for another day of hard work. If you don’t get enough sleep then your body may not have the time it needs to make cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Check out our blog on avoiding sleep deprivation for ways to ensure your body is well rested and ready to fight off viruses.
Use of Antibiotics
Finally, prolonged antibiotic use will also increase your likelihood of getting sick. Ironic as it is, an antibiotic targets all infections in your body, a form of breaking you down so you can build backup. If you have an infection that requires antibiotics, try taking a probiotic and getting additional rest while your immune system builds itself back up.
3. I seem to get Sick Easily, how can Naturopathic Medicine Help me?
As a naturopathic doctor, I take a holistic approach to what may be causing you to get sick. Through some simple testing, I can identify underlying nutrient deficiencies and provide dietary counselling. I can also recommend supplements and herbs to further boost your immune system. Finally, I would take a look at any possible lifestyle modifications you could make that would benefit your overall health.
If you have more questions for our naturopath, feel free to contact her by email or call our clinic at 647-931-8108. If you’d like to find more about how you can boost your immunity this winter, book a Free 15-minute Virtual Consultation.
Written By: Dr. Gayamali Karunaratna, ND
Date: Oct. 22, 2020