Winter is the time when our immune system is more vulnerable to catching the common cold and influenza. Both the common cold and influenza start out as a virus, which makes them very contagious. These viruses change year to year, with many different strains around each flu season.

The common cold is relatively harmless if your immune system is working correctly, and is usually short lived. Influenza virus however is much more dangerous, especially in the young and the elderly, and if not treated promptly can lead to severe illness and even death.

The common cold and antibiotics

Antibiotics are not effective against viruses – only bacteria, so they do not actually target the cause of the cold or flu – just the bacterial infection left behind, often presenting as mucous build up or a runny nose.

Antibiotics are harmful to your digestive and immune systems as they wipe out your beneficial digestive bacteria strains, such as lactobaccilus and bifidus. This leads to an imbalance in the digestive system which can cause bloating, indigestion and candida overgrowth.

In your digestive system there are 2-3kg of these bacteria, hanging in a delicate balance to perform many functions. Studies have shown that these bacteria have critical roles in modulating our immune system, reducing inflammation and allowing nutrient absorption in the intestine.

A good way to avoid antibiotic use is to visit your naturopath at the first signs of a cold or flu. Naturopathy helps by using herbs which support your immune system in fighting off the virus, as well as using specific antiviral herbs and nutrients that work quickly to resolve the illness. Symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sinusitis and post nasal drip also respond well to naturopathic treatment, getting you feeling back to 100% quicker.

Antiviral foods

The following foods have antiviral properties:

  • Raw garlic
  • Spirulina

Antibacterial foods

These foods have antibacterial properties – great to use on a sore throat or for gastroenteritis

  • Raw unfiltered honey
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Coconut oil

Foods that boost the immune system

These foods are rich in immune boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc and omega 3.

  • Lemons
  • Kiwifruit
  • Berries
  • Pineapple
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Flaxseeds
  • Onions
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Oysters
  • Shellfish

For great flu fighting recipes, click here.

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