By Dr. Scott E. Rosenthal
You’ve heard it before… chicken soup, vitamin C, and many other common remedies will help combat colds and flu. This article is not about reciting your grandma’s advice (though it is likely spot on), but reveals little-known, yet effective, remedies that prevent or lesson the punch of those annoying upper respiratory tract infections.
According to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition, daily consumption of the equivalent of four gold kiwifruits was associated with a significant reduction in the duration of sore throat, and the duration and severity of head congestions in adults. The strength of this small powerhouse fruit is in its ability to reduce the severity and duration of illness.
Kiwi benefits children as well. The Journal of Food and Drug Analysis contains research that found “regular consumption of gold kiwifruit by pre-school children (2-5 years) resulted in an overall reduction in the incidence of cold and influenza-like illnesses as well as a reduction in their symptoms.”
Green and gold kiwis are similar, but the gold variety has a bit more sugar. I personally grab whichever I can get my hands on and preferably buy organic. Both are higher in nutrients per ounce than most household staples, including bananas, apples and oranges. If you are not ready to start your morning with a bowl of kiwi, consider chowing down on some at the first signs of being sick or when you feel run-down. Best of all, this natural “medicine” is free of side-effects (unless you have an allergy) and tastes great!
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found a 36 percent decrease in the incidence of common colds from gargling a pinch of salt dissolved in warm tap water. It only takes about a minute-and-a-half daily and costs next to nothing. Not only is gargling preventative, but it can sooth throat soreness.
Another study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology regarding green tea, revealed that “gargling might prevent viral upper respiratory tract infections” and “gargling once or more a day was associated with lower onset of both febrile [having or showing the symptoms of a fever] diseases during the daytime in children aged 2 to 6 years and sickness absences in children aged 4 to 6.” It is thought that the ingredient in the tea called catechin (a type of flavonoid in green tea that has antiviral and bactericidal effects) was responsible for the health promoting results.
Green tea is shown to be more effective and edged out a solution of salt water. Your choice may be made based on taste, convenience and cost. I personally like to swallow the green tea in order to reach deeper in the throat. I do not recommend this for children due to the caffeine content.
Besides the many benefits of stretching found in hatha yoga, this ancient science recommends nasal irrigation with a small device called a neti pot. It looks like a tiny genie bottle with a spout which is sized to fit comfortably into one nostril. Warm water is added with a small amount of salt. The solution flows into one nostril while it passes through and comes out the other side. This practice flushes away impurities, mucous and germs from the nasal cavities. It can play a preventative role and can be particularly helpful with opening up a stuffy nose once sick. Nasal irrigation can also be performed using various squeeze bottle contraptions available in most drug stores. It is important to clean the device properly in order to prevent reinfection. By the way, barring a defect of the septum, the water does actually come out the other side!
If your grandmother mentioned this one, heed her advice! If not, read on and send her a copy of this article.
Being sleep deprived and run-down does not only make you feel groggy, it also gives you a greater chance of becoming ill. Sleeping less than six hours each night can quadruple your chances of coming down with a cold. It is optimum to sleep between six to eight hours depending on your personal make-up. If you are starting to feel run-down, consider going to bed 30 minutes earlier for a few nights in order to pay back the energy bank.
Keep Your Hands Off
Hand washing gets much press when it comes to cold and flu prevention, but your hands play another role that can make you sick. Research shows that the average person touches his or her face around 18 times per hour (that little scratch of the nose, rub of the mouth or wipe of the eye). This would be fine if your hands were sterile, but they may have just touched a restaurant table, performed a handshake or gripped a door handle at the mall. Have an itch? Next time you need to scratch, try using your forearm or putting a finger up your shirt sleeve in order to prevent its surface from touching you face.
Many other factors greatly influence your immune function and ability to ward off bacterial and viral infections. For example, it is important to have your vitamin D levels checked regularly and supplemented when needed. Too much sugar and/or processed junk food and not enough fresh vegetables and fruits can play a significant role. Inadequate exercise hinders your abilities, as does stress. Many of my patients comment that they see improved sinus health, feel stronger, and get sick less often when receiving periodic chiropractic adjustments. This is likely due to the relationship of the spinal column, the nervous system it houses, and the neurological interaction with the immune system.
Suffering from colds or the flu from time to time may simply be part of being human, but with the right strategies, the duration and severity can be lessened. The illness may even be prevented in the first place. Remember, if you start to notice a little sniffle, pop a few kiwis and call me in the morning.
British Journal of Nutrition (2012), 108, 1235-1245
Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Vol. 20, Suppl. 1, 2012,pages 261-264
American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005;29(4)
J Epidemiliol 2012;22(1):45-49
Sleep Medicine Reviews, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp97-111, 2002
New York Times September 2, 2015
Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2011;20 (2):169-174)
ABC News January 7, 2013