A daily nasal rinse may help prevent proliferation of H1N1 virus.
Fresh ginger root can be used to make tea. Drink lots of fluids.
Herbs that can help boost your immune system.
"Oven fried" oysters contain high quantities of zinc without the fat.
Your Body is Designed to Heal Itself
The CDC has already told you to wash your hands, cough in your sleeve, not to touch your nose, eyes or mouth and to get vaccinated. In addition to these, there are many other things you can do to strengthen your body’s natural defenses. Your body is designed to heal itself but it can only do so with your help. Below I will discuss stress, rest, salt water rinsing, the importance of taking in adequate liquids, vitamins, minerals, herbs and probiotics. I'll share a simple recipe for chicken soup, lemon ginger tea with honey and echinacea and a recipe that boosts your zinc levels.
Have you ever come down with a cold a few days after a big fight with your spouse or right before a final exam or a make-or-break meeting with a key customer? Stress can lead to a weakened immune system and make you more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu. It may also intensify your cold and flu symptoms. It’s pretty difficult to avoid the stresses in life but how you react to them is under your control and can make all the difference in the world. A lot of stress is self induced so cut yourself some slack this flu season. Try meditating, exercising, thinking positive thoughts, stretching or visualizing yourself on a beach in Hawaii (that’s my favorite).
Getting enough rest is key to both preventing and fighting the flu. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002 showed that healthy young adults who had only 4 to 6 hours sleep per night got less than half the benefit of a flu vaccine than those who were well rested. This is very important in our current situation where H1N1 is targeting healthy young adults who may think they are protected once they are vaccinated. Bottom line is, get more sleep. If you already have the flu, stay in bed and get as much rest as possible. Going to work or shopping only worsens your symptoms, delays recovery and exposes others to the flu.
Rinse Away the Germs
One of the simplest and most effective things you can do is gargle and rinse your sinuses with warm salt water. This can effectively prevent the proliferation of the flu virus. Gargling a few times a day is simple enough but many of you may be put off by sinus irrigation. Neti pots have been used for centuries and originated in Ayurvedic medical traditions. They look like little tea pots and I must admit I’ve never been excited about using these to pour warm salt water in my nose. But last year I found a very simple device, a well designed plastic bottle that does the same thing. It even comes with pre-measured salt packets. It’s called the NeilMed Sinus Rinse kit, invented by Dr. Mehta. It’s easy to use and it's great for allergies too.
Drink Lots of Fluids
It's important to stay hydrated when you have the flu, especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhea. Juice, herbal tea and broth are best. I avoid caffeinated beverages since they are dehydrating and will stimulate you when you should be at rest. One exception is green tea which contains the immune boosting chemical EGCG. Avoid drinking milk or giving it to your child since dairy is very mucus forming. Avoid alcohol as it is dehydrating and can weaken the immune system.
My favorite tea, especially when I’m congested or have an upset stomach, is fresh ginger tea.
Fresh Lemon Ginger Tea with Honey and Echinacea* [makes 4 cups]
2 to 3 inches of fresh ginger, unpeeled, cut in slices
1 heaping tablespoon of dried Echinacea (optional)
4 cups filtered water
2 to 4 tablespoons raw honey
Juice of one lemon
Steep ginger and Echinacea in boiling water for 15 minutes. Add raw honey and the lemon juice. Strain and serve. For an easier version of this, prepare a cup of organic ginger tea (My favorite is from Traditional Medicinals). Add a tablespoon of honey, a wedge of fresh lemon and Echinacea tincture (according to manufacturers directions).
* Ginger is a “warming” herb, controls nausea, and reduces phlegm in the upper respiratory tract. Echinacea is an herb used to build the immune system and reduce the duration of colds and flus. Honey is known to have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties and can help relieve a sore throat. (Children under 1 year of age should avoid honey as it may contain bacterial spores that can cause infant botulism). Lemon juice provides vitamin C, an important antioxidant.
Chicken Soup May Have Medicinal Benefits
Chicken soup, also known as Jewish penicillin, has long been known to treat the common cold. This may be more than folklore. A study conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center showed that Chicken soup actually mitigates upper respiratory tract infections by stopping the migration of white cells into the bronchial tubes. See “Chicken Soup Research” . Here’s a very easy chicken soup recipe.
If you eat chicken, please make sure it is truly free range from a local farmer. Industrial farming has led to unthinkable mistreatment of chickens.
Easy Chicken Soup [makes 6 servings]
4 free range chicken thighs with bone in, skinned
10 cups filtered water or broth
2 inches fresh un-peeled ginger, sliced (or 2 ginger tea bags)
2 large onions, chopped
4 large celery stalks with tops, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 heaping tablespoon)
6 large carrots, sliced
8 oz pre-washed, organic baby spinach
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 package home made noodles
Place chicken in water and bring to a boil. Chop garlic and set aside for at least 15 minutes before using to get maximum benefits. Add ginger, onion, celery, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer 45 minutes partially covered. Add the garlic and carrots and simmer an additional 45 minutes, partially covered. Remove bay leaf, pieces of ginger or ginger tea bags. Remove the chicken, take the chicken off the bone, cut in small pieces and return to pot. Add fresh spinach and cook several minutes until it wilts. Turn off the heat and add fresh parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve as is or over cooked noodles. If you can find home made noodles, they can cook right in the same pot with the soup in only a few minutes making this a one-pot meal. Throw them in at the same time as the spinach. If you are going to freeze the soup, do not add the pasta as it will get soggy. If you use dry noodles, cook them separately according to manufacturers directions.
Herbs, Mushrooms and Garlic **
My favorite herbs for building up my immune system before or during the flu are Echinacea and Astragalus. You will often see them together in one capsule. I also use Elderberry syrup to boost my immune system, help with coughs and to fight the flu and colds.
Mushrooms are also known to have many therapeutic effects (See the therapeutic effect mushroom chart). Cortyceps, Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake boost the immune system and have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Cortyceps, Reishi and Maitake also provide lung and respiratory support. Some of my recipes that feature this longevity food are: Barley and Mushrooms and Raw Marinated Mushrooms.
Garlic is also a power food, rich in allicin, a sulfur-containing compound that gives garlic much of its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Allicin is not produced until the garlic is crushed or chopped so wait 15 minutes before eating or cooking to get maximum benefits. Get some raw garlic in your diet by grating it in your salad dressing (see Home Made Balsamic Vinaigrette and Bread Dipping Sauce) or in one of my Pesto Recipes.**Please note, any herbs noted here to boost the immune system are not recommended if your are taking immunosuppressants used to treat cancer or suppress the immune system following an organ transplant).
Important Vitamins/Minerals for Fighting the Flu – Vitamin A, C, D, E, Selenium and Zinc
Vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene or retinol, is important for a proper functioning immune system. It helps protect tissues during infections and accelerates recovery time. You can get your daily requirement from one full teaspoon of cod liver oil, about ¼ cup of raw carrots, cooked sweet potatoes or butternut squash or ½ cup of chopped raw kale. Other good sources are liver, pumpkin, turnip and mustard greens, sweet red pepper, dried apricots and cantaloupe. Here are a few recipes that are high in vitamin A: Healthy Mac and Cheese, Carrot, Celery, Apple, Beet, Ginger Cocktail, Spicy Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Soup, and Vegan Pumpkin Soup with Curried Gravenstein Apples.
An important antioxidant, vitamin C supports a healthy immune system. It’s lost in cooking so it’s important to obtain this vitamin from raw food. You can get your daily requirement from one half a cup of raw red pepper slices, ¾ cup of chopped raw kale, one half of a guava fruit, one medium kiwi, one small papaya, six large strawberries or 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice. So enjoy raw fruit and fruit juices or make a Raw Kale, Corn and Red Bell Pepper Salad.
Known for its importance in calcium metabolism and bone health, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of other conditions. Recent studies are suggesting that vitamin D is important to the immune system and a deficiency of this vitamin may lead to being more susceptible to colds and flu. The current RDA of 400 to 600 IU but many health care professionals are now recommending 1,000 IU per day or more.
Other than mushrooms, there are no plant sources of this vitamin. (Exciting news on that front shows that mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet B light for 5 minutes may have as much as 3,500 IU of vitamin D! Keep an eye out for mushroom products with high vitamin D content).
You can get 1,000 IU of vitamin D from 2 heaping teaspoons of cod liver oil, a cup of pickled herring, 6 ounces of canned pink salmon, 2 dozen raw Eastern wild oysters. It is also found in fortified orange juice and dairy and non-dairy milk products.
Although vitamin D is manufactured by the body when exposed to direct sunlight, nearly three quarters of U.S. teens and adults are deficient according to findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Deficiency is much higher among people of color. This is one of those vitamins where eating food may not be enough and supplements should be considered. When shopping for supplements, remember that D2 is the vegan form of vitamin D and D3 is derived from sheep’s wool.Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant known to protect cell membranes. Studies have suggested it can help fight the flu by boosting the immune system. You can get your daily requirement with 1 cup of Kellogg’s All-Bran Complete wheat flakes or other fortified cereals, 3 tablespoons of vitamin and mineral fortified peanut butter, 5 tablespoons almond butter, 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil, 1 1/3 cups dried sunflower seeds or 1 tablespoon of wheat germ oil. A recipe high in vitamin E is Faux Tuna Fish Salad Stuffed Heirloom Tomato (a raw vegan recipe made with vitamin E rich sunflower seeds and almonds).
A major antioxidant, this vitamin protects cell membranes and its bioavailability is enhanced by vitamin E. One study showed that viruses in bodies deficient in selenium could mutate into more damaging forms. But look no further than the Brazil nut to get what you need. One single kernel provides more than 100% of your daily requirements! Get both vitamin E and selenium (and more) in this Blueberry Smoothie recipe. Substitute 1 cup of strawberries for any of the fruits to provide additional vitamin C.
This important vitamin supports growth, immunity, detoxification, wound healing and other key body functions. Zinc has long been associated with colds and flus as it helps the body fight viruses and bacteria. It is commonly found in throat lozenges and cold medications. The best source of this vitamin is oysters. A half dozen medium cooked oysters provides 76 mg of zinc or 5 times your daily requirement. If oyster shooters aren’t the first thing you crave when you are sick with the flu, adequate zinc is readily found in a serving of fortified cereals like Kellogg’s All-bran complete wheat flakes or General Mills Multi-grain Cheerios. Or, get some zinc throat lozenges. Here’s a simple oyster recipe just in case you want to get your zinc fix the natural way.
Oven Fried Oyster [serves 1 or 2]
1 jar fresh oysters (cut in half if they are too big)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs (more or less)
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean oysters well. Dip in egg and then in seasoned bread crumbs. Place on a cookie sheet lightly greased with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper and garlic powder, to taste, and spray with olive oil Pam. Cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a wedge of lemon or a cocktail sauce made of organic ketchup and horseradish.
Probiotics are the friendly bacteria found in your body’s digestive system. Studies have shown that a healthy gut can help you fight colds, recover quicker and require less antibiotic use. Probiotics are found in yogurt, kiefer, raw saukraut, kombucha (a fermented tea), Rejuvelac (a fermented beverage popular in the raw food community), and in supplements. Try Cantaloupe soup with Goat Kefir for a chilled soup rich in probiotics, vitamin A and vitamin C.One Last Thing
This may be the hardest thing for some of you to do, but if you have a cold or flu, avoid smoking as this may delay recovery and cause additional respiratory issues. In fact, this might be a good opportunity to quit permanently. CONGRATULATIONS to my cousins Lorraine and Paula who decided to kick the habit this month!