November 24, 2008

Cold & Flu Busters!

It's about that time of year. Anyone living in a town big enough to be colonized by Walmart has a 99% chance of catching a cold. If you're a parent, multiply your risk factor by the number of children you have times the number of classmates they have at school. Just the other day on the news, they mapped the spread of this season's flu virus in the southwestern United States. It's safe to say cold and flu season is officially here.

Is it hopeless? Maybe not. We have the traditional options that may or may not ease our suffering. Here's why I'm not happy about these choices. Yes, flu shots are available. But it seems like half the people who get 1 fall sick to the vaccine. Their immunity isn't strong enough to handle even the weakened (or supposedly killed) flu virus in the vaccination. Antibiotics have never been the answer. From a technical perspective, the overwhelming majority of antibiotics are equipped to fight off bacteria – not viral illnesses like the flu.

Then we have over-the-counter cold remedies. Do not be mistaken. These products don't actually cure you. They only mask the symptoms by blocking your body’s natural response. For example, your body develops a fever to create an inhospitable environment for the virus. You should also note there have been some recent health warnings regarding any cold medicines that contain Acetaminophen. While this ingredient is marginally more effective at relieving symptoms when compared to other over-the-counter drugs, it is very toxic to the body and can even cause organ failure. It’s just not worth it. As the saying goes, there is no cure for the common cold.

However, there are some natural remedies that can fight off the cold and flu (or at least lessen the symptoms) more effectively than drugs and without the side effects. Honey is already known for its antioxidants, soothing an itchy throat, and antimicrobial activity. But there is a special kind called Manuka honey that is revered for having the highest level of immunity-boosting properties and is perfect for colds. There are whole scientific research units dedicated to the study of its health properties (the most referenced being Waikato University in New Zealand). This can be taken preventatively or at the time symptoms occur. Look for 1 with a minimum UMF rating of 10+. UMF 16+ to 18+ is ideal. Averaging $20 for a small bottle, it’s not exactly cheap. So far for me, it has lived up to its hype making it well worth the price. Its far more effective than zinc lozenges, vitamin C, or Echinacea as well. Note: do NOT feed honey to a baby less than 1 year of age. It can cause botulism.

For the flu, Elderberry extract is the best thing to take. This should be taken while symptoms are occurring. The flu will still run its course. Although you should notice a significant improvement in the way you feel. Learn to recognize the difference between cold and flu symptoms. Otherwise you may not see the recovery time you were hoping for. Common flu symptoms include:
• Severe fever
• Headache
• Muscle aches
• Chills
• Fatigue
• Coughing
• Congestion
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea

Alternatively, you can take a short quiz on the Mayo Clinic website to assess your symptoms ...

Hopefully I got this post out to you just in time to beat the cold and flu.

UPDATE: I'm usually 1 of the first to get sick when cold season comes around. I no longer use cold medications because of the bad ingredients and how they work. And I've had no noticeable improvement with zinc lozenges, Airborne, or echinacea. This is my personal experiment to see if my new combination of cold fighters does the trick. From what I can tell, the manuka honey has helped me fight off 3 colds before they could go full-blown. The last 1 had stronger symptoms, so I took some additional steps to make sure I didn't fall ill. First, I began supplementing with Host Defense (made by New Chapter) which is a formula of medicinal mushrooms. There are quite a few recent studies that report the immune-enhancing abilities of mushrooms like Maitake, Lion's Mane, Cordyceps, and others. They are excellent for boosting your body's natural defenses (increased production of interleukins, NK cells, etc). This complements the manuka honey well, which prevents colds with its natural antimicrobial compounds. Second, I took a long, hot shower. Hot showers increase the core temperature of your body, simulating a fever in a way. Most bugs can only handle a small temperature range. The result? The cold didn't stand a chance. I think I figured out the magic formula to beating the cold! ;)

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