Note: This article was written for ENJO (www.enjo.com). Many of you have heard me talk about their innovative cleaning products that get your house deep down clean and sanitary, without the chemicals that are making so many of us sick.

Let me start my confirming a myth. When it comes to colds and flu, boy germs are worse than girl germs. Women have the protective effects of estrogen, which means they do not experience the symptoms of colds and flus as badly as their woosey counterparts.

Colds and flus can strike at anytime, not just during winter. I believe that we get more colds in winter because our bodies are more depleted in immune fighting nutrients, such as vitamin D from the sun, and there are more viruses around. The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to prevent getting the “dreaded lurgie” and shorten its duration and intensity, if you do.

Viruses cause colds and flus, not bacteria. Antibiotics are not able to kill viruses; they are only able to help with bacterial infections. Some doctors still prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infection. All they do is destroy the good flora in the gut and severely deplete your immune system at a time when it is needed most.

There are over 200 strains of these minute infectious viruses, which invade and hijack your cells. The immune system recognises viruses as invaders and attempts to destroy them before they can invade your cells. However, if your immune system is out of balance, it may not be able to destroy viruses and you get sick.

It helps to know if you have a cold or the flu, as they are different things. The following table should help:

SYMPTOMS COLD FLU
Fever Rare Usually high, lasts 3–4 days
Headache Rare Prominent
General aches and pains Slight Usual, often severe
Fatigue, weakness Quite mild Can last up to 2-3 days
Extreme exhaustion Never Early and prominent
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore throat Common Sometimes
Cough Mild to moderate hacking cough Common, can become severe

The first and most important thing you should do in your quest to prevent colds and flu is to build up your immune system so that your body can defend itself. There are dietary and lifestyle changes that can strengthen your immune system, including:

  • Eating a well balanced diet including fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, legumes and lean red meat.
  • Reducing your intake of mucus forming foods such as dairy.
  • Avoiding foods low in nutrients that suppress the immune system, such as sugar, white flour products and alcohol.
  • Avoiding foods and chemicals that you are allergic to.
  • Drinking at least 2 litres of filtered water every day.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • De-stressing! Enjoying plenty of rest and relaxation.
  • Supplementing your diet with nutrients and herbs

Specific nutrients are vital for optimal immune function. Vitamin D supports the immune system by stimulating the antimicrobial activity of immune cells, enabling a stronger resistance against infection. A zinc deficiency causes a weaker immune response, creating a vulnerability to catching colds and flu. Vitamin C is also important as it increases the activity of infection fighting white blood cells. Both zinc and vitamin C are antioxidants and have been shown to shorten and reduce the symptom of the common cold.

Over 80% of the immune system is in the gut. A healthy gut flora balance is essential for a healthy immune system. Modern living and pharmaceutical drugs drive an imbalance in the gut flora. Many people take probiotics, however in winter, certain strains protect against infection.   Look for a probiotic containing the following three strains:

  • Lactobacillis acidophilus (NCFM)
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus (HN001)
  • Bifidobacterium lactis (HN019).

Then there are the so-called “super foods”, such as reishi, shaga and shitake mushrooms; Echinacea and olive leaf. You can get a combination product containing all these things.

If you are one of those people who are getting more than your share of colds and flu, then this is a clear message that your immune system needs some support. Now think about that, if your immune system is not protecting you against colds and flu, what else is going to get through?

The second thing that you should do is to avoid the viruses as much as you can. People with colds carry the virus on their skin. The virus remains alive on the skin and is capable of infecting another person for at least two hours. Some cold viruses can also live on surfaces (such as a counter top, door handle, or phone) for several hours. Thorough hand washing, using tissues and less hand shaking and kissing are the order of the day. However if you can’t follow the kissing rule, several studies have shown that during intercourse, certain chemicals are produced that reduces the severity and length of colds.

Teach your family members and work colleagues to sneeze into a tissue, not spray their viruses into the air that you breath.

If you do not adhere to the first two strategies and you do end up with a cold or flu, then here are some things you should try.

Fortunately there are herbs that can kill viruses and deal with specific symptoms such as: fever, sore throat, productive cough, dry irritating cough, and/or sinus congestion. I recommend a four-pronged attack:

  1. Taking an herbal cold remedy that contains the following herbs: Andrographis paniculuta, picrorrhiza kurroa and elderberry.
  2. Taking anti-inflammatory and pain relieving herbal formulae containing: curcumin, boswellia, white willow bark, ginger, quercetin, bioflavonoid extracts and capsicum extract.
  3. Taking zinc, vitamins D and C, and the right probiotic, as outlined above.
  4. Inhalations and sprays of eucalyptus, peppermint, and/or lavender oils can clear blocked passages and help induce a restful sleep.

I also highly recommend my mother’s secret recipe (a secret no longer):

Bring 1 litre of water to the boil. Take off the boil and add:

  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger
  • 1 lemon sliced (leave skin on)
  • 1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon of fresh chopped chilli or cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of turmeric

Simmer for a few minutes. Allow to cool slightly and drink the warm tea.

My mother would make it again at night, just before bedtime but this time, make it stronger, using less water, and adding a tot of whiskey. The alcohol actually helps the goodies get into the cells, but it is not a case of two tots helping more.

Many doctors recommend having the flu vaccination, however the vaccine only addresses certain strains of influenza. It gives no protection against the common cold and comes with its own set of side effects.   The drug companies have an agenda to have everyone on flu shots, every year, for their entire lives. Do the maths. The dollars are huge. They fuel their case with scaremongering about certain strains of flu, needing new shots. The swine flu was going to kill us all, but very little came of it. The vaccine side effects of fevers, vomiting and convulsions are conveniently swept aside. Vaccines have also been shown to suppress immune function for weeks and months, impair brain function, trigger allergies, and some components are neurotoxic and contain heavy metal preservatives. In the US, flu vaccines have been classed as a Category C drug. Category C is for drugs that do not have enough animal or human studies to establish safety. The largest study to date carried out to show the effects of the flu vaccine concluded “We looked for proof that pneumonia is reduced. Didn’t find it”.

Health and wellness is an investment and does take time and effort. There is no quick fix. In our household, we do follow the above regime heading into winter. We also keep a natural first aid kit and in there is a product that combines the above three herbs. We take it at the first sign of a sniffle and it works wonders.

A common complaint I get is “Why do I have to take supplements, can’t I just get the nutrients from my food?” The answer is “No”. Unfortunately, in our modern world we do need to take supplements, as our soils are deficient in key nutrients, which mean that they are no longer in the food.   These nutrients are not negotiable for a body to function the way it was meant to. But, be wary of cheap supplements. They often do not contain what they say they do and many contain other toxic material. Also, some forms of minerals and vitamins get absorbed by the body much better than others.

I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating.   Nothing convinces more than great results. In my own case I would average between 4 and 5 incidences of colds and flu a year. I also had shocking asthma. Now if I get one cold a year, I am cross, more because I didn’t follow the recipe, than the recipe didn’t work. My asthma has totally vanished, but that is another story.

Your body is innately intelligent. It has only one wish and that is to serve you, by keeping you healthy and happy. It is a self-healing mechanism. The problem is that it needs certain things to do what it does and without them, it struggles to protect and heal.

Good luck for your cold and flu free winter.