It always seems to sneak up on us. One day we’re sipping margaritas and floating in the pool, and the next we’re carrying around pocketfuls of tissues, desperately trying to keep up with our runny nose. Contrary to popular belief, the common cold isn’t caused by the cold weather, which seems confusing as we usually catch one in the fall or winter season. As it happens, viruses thrive in colder weather, where the humidity is low.
The tell-tale signs that you’ve been hit with this infamous virus are head and nasal congestion, headaches, sore throat, sneezing and coughing. It only takes 24 after this virus hitting your system for it to work it’s dirty magic, and it can take over a week for our bodies to properly eliminate it. The trick is to have our immune system riding high, ready to take on whatever life throws our way. In the words of the late Louis Pasteur (a french biologist, microbiologist and chemist who invented pasteurization),“The microbe is nothing. The terrain is everything.” In other words, it’s not the bug we should worry about, it’s the host. With an immune system made of steel, little will be able to take us down.
The best offence is defence, so I thought I’d share my 5 favourite supplements that can help kick a cold before it kicks you! 🙂
5 Immune-Boosting Supplements
1. Vitamin C
Ascorbic acid has long been preached for it’s immune-boosting properties. You’ve probably heard, at one time or another, that vitamin C was good for you and you heard right! Vitamin C is a super antioxidant, a powerful anti-histamine, and is both anti-bacterial and (highly) anti-viral. Viruses don’t stand a chance in a vitamin C-rich system. When we are infected with an virus, it dominates the cell and forces it to make other virus cells, thus the host falling more ill. Despite that, viruses are unable to spread in a host who’s cells are saturated with vitamin C. I recommend supplementing 2-3 grams of vitamin C per day as precautionary measure. If you’re already sick, however, I suggest tripling that number to anywhere between 6-12 grams broken up throughout the day. This vitamin is water soluble and we can absorb only a limited amount at a given time, the rest we will excrete through urine. So, by taking 3-4 grams every four hours, we ensure a steady stream of vitamin C flowing through our system. Vitamin C is non-toxic but can sometimes cause gastrointestinal upset – a.k.a loose stools. Start with 2 grams and work your way up. If you don’t experience loose stools – you’re ready to roll! You can find ascorbic acid in your local health store in capsule or crystal form. I personally use the crystal; mix it in my water bottle and take it on the go!
2. Vitamin A
This fat-soluble vitamin is a vital nutrient for a healthy immune system. Another powerful antioxidant, vitamin A is best known for beautiful skin, hair and nails, as well as strong teeth and bones. What you may not have known is that vitamin A is also required for healthy epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissue line our respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive and urinary tract. Healthy cell walls keep viruses out. Vitamin A is stored in the liver and can become toxic if taken in high doses for an extended period of time. There are two types of Vitamin A; animal-derived sources -eggs, cod liver oil, butter (retinol or active form) and food derived – sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots (betacarotene or inactive form). A diet rich in yellow, orange and red fruits & veggies ensure a healthy intake of betacarotene. Betacarotene is converted to it’s active form in the body. Supplement 15,000IU / day of vitamin A for 7-10 days. Pregnant women should not take more than 10,000IU/day.
Zinc one of the strongest immune-boosting nutrients. A deficiency can result in an increased susceptibility to infections. Zinc is required for the aforementioned betacarotene-vitamin A conversion. Foods high in zinc include oysters, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, nuts (pecans, brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts) and whole grains. Zinc lozenges are available for purchase. These should be taken at the first sign of a cold. Take 1 15mg lozenge every 3 waking house for three days. It’s important not to exceed a total of 100mg per day.
4. Elderberry (Sambucol)
One of the most antiviral herbs, Elderberry, has been used in natural remedies for centuries. It is an excellent immune-booster and is recommended for upper respiratory infections as well as headaches associated with colds. Elderberry flowers have a diaphoretic action on the body; meaning they promote involuntary perspiration. This self-induced sweating can help break a fever, is useful for colds and for detoxification purposes. Elderberry also posses anti-catarrhal properties; they help remove mucous from the body, making it great for a head and chest congestion. You can find elderberry ticture in your local health food store. Take 2-4 mL three times a day.
Garlic is another ancient remedy. It’s antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties make it beneficial for internal and external uses. It is excellent for digestive health as it supports the development of ‘friendly’ gut bacteria while killing pathogens. Garlic is known to be a natural antibiotic and immune system enhancer. Take 2 capsules 3 times per day at the first signs of an infection, and 2 capsules once daily as a prophylactic measure. Include garlic in salad dressings, stir fry, soups & curries for increased exposure. And, hey, if you can handle the burn, pop a whole clove in your mouth and eat it as is. Consume 2-6 garlic cloves per day through diet and you’re golden. As always, organic garlic is highly encouraged.
As the Dutch humanist, scholar and theologian Desirderius Erasmus once said, “prevention is better than cure”. Eat well. Aim for a healthy sleep routine. Move your body. Strive for a colourful diet rich in fruits and vegetables. If you are sick, avoid dairy as it is a mucous promoting food. Take a daily 10-25 billion CFU probiotic for good measure.