Cold and Flu



It’s the dreaded flu season again.  Our travelling community sets up the perfect transport system for new and exotic flu viruses. The flu travels most conveniently by droplets.  It hitches a ride with every
person or object available. Coughing, sneezing, runny noses; just the thought is enough to send professional public transport drivers packing for the winter!

No one enjoys getting the flu. Not only can it cost you financially with down time from work, you are subjected to sleepless nights with sinus congestion, aching limbs, fatigue, dizziness, green/yellow mucous and/or headaches. It can be dangerous to the very young or people over sixty years of age.  Unfortunately it can leave all of us with nasty residual symptoms for days or weeks afterward.

Get out of its path!

Well here is the bad news.  It really isn’t possible.  The flu travels by person to person contact, it can live on surfaces for short periods of time, it mutates and it is invisible.  Buses, public transport waiting
areas and public toilets are covered in these viruses.  Flu vaccinations have not really been successful due to the rate at which these nasty viruses mutate. (oh yes, there are more than one…..hundreds of
different kinds) The good news is the more balanced your immune system is, the more resistant to
the flu your body will be.

Measures you can take now to protect yourself.

Firstly, don’t wait until you notice everyone around getting the flu before you do a self tune up.  Start now, and maintain a few simple steps to get you through the winter.

1. Your body has a barrier system to stop microbes from entering its system. These barriers are the skin, stomach acid, good bacteria in the gut, mucous in the nose, and enzymes in tears and skin oils.

Step one: Wash your hands.
Wash for thirty seconds with strong friction (plain soap and water will do) to remove microbes before every meal, after being in public places ie: the toilet, and when you arrive home from work.  Leave the germs in the sink, not on you.

Step two: look at your lifestyle.
Eat a balanced diet high in fibre and complex carbohydrates, low in fat, with moderate amounts of protein. Eat fresh wholesome unprocessed foods.  For those of you who are now wondering what is a balanced diet and where do I find it, you obviously spend a lot of time on the road. A balanced diet includes a few pieces of fruit each day, preferably fresh and ideally not heavily sprayed.  The more vegetables you can consume with each meal, the better.
Look for a variety of bright colours with your vegetable as the bright coloured vegetable contain lots of vitamins.  You can add them to omelettes, as side dishes to your pasta, etc. Take them with you all chopped up and ready to use with a great tasting dip like hummus (made from chick peas and very nutritious.) Salads are easily packed into lunch boxes and do not require heating for people who are mobile. Try and eat lean meat, preferably fish, no not the heavily battered dripping in grease kind….ask for uncoated and grilled if you are travelling. Avoid foods high in saturated fats such as meat pies, sausage rolls and chips.  I realise this eliminates most peoples fast food choices, however,
some fast food restaurants are offering health smart meals.  Preparing your own food and taking a small esky with you while travelling takes only a few minutes and provides you with healthy options without the bad temptations as you can plan ahead.

Drink plenty of filtered water.  Use a filter or be a filter.  Bottled water is usually free of microbes.

Avoid sugary drinks.  Sugar significantly lowers your immune system. Try and eliminate it from your
diet during flu season. Choose drinks that are made with Stevia or Splenda rather than artificial
sweeteners such as aspartame. Try and consume foods high in zinc, or take a multivitamin as recommend ed by your natural practitioner daily.  Zinc is one of the most critical micro-nutrients for
immunity.  Your naturopath can test your levels of zinc with a simple zinc taste test.

Look at your stress levels. If you are having difficulties sleeping due to anxieties or are finding you are feeling overwhelmed with stress during the day chances are your immune system will not be at its
optimum. Take time out for you.  Try and find time to exercise, go for a walk, and take a long bath. Do something everyday to calm the mind and distress your body. If you are still having trouble coping with your stress please see your naturopath for herbal remedies to help your body cope and sleep well at night.  There are options available for professional drivers that will not affect or impair your ability to drive.

Exercise is a great way to distress, keep fit and get that lymph system flowing through your body.  Your lymph system helps take away all the unfriendly microbes.  Daily exercise is the key.  Don’t have time?  All it takes is a 20-40 minute walk

In response to invasion by microbes such as the flu your body increases it T-helper one cells. These
white blood cells are like little pac-men or hungry soldiers that travel in the blood searching and destroying invaders.  This increase in helper cells should only occur in response to infection.
Should the immune system be unbalanced it may not respond as it should.

Step three: Ask  yourself…have you been taking antibiotics, the birth control pill or other medications that may have affected your good bowel flora? Increase your good gut bacteria !

There are several ways to keep your immune system healthy. One of them is to ensure you have a healthy gut flora. What many people don’t know is that 70% of your immunity is gut based.
(1) Our intestines are protected by a mucosal layer much like our skin.  However, if there are any areas of permeability it leaves an opening for microbes to enter our blood stream.  Food and water is
a free ride for microbes to enter your body. Normally, our own gut-friendly bacteria helps fight off
invaders.  However, antibiotics, the birth control pill, medications and poor intestinal health from poor diet can compromise this. Talk with your natural health practitioner about using a ‘gut friendly’ bacteria supplement ie: North Carolina Food microbiology strain Lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus plantarum is proven to be effective.  These probiotic supplements must be kept in the fridge to remain active.  Do not purchase if it has been kept on the shelf. Your healthfood store may have some brands available and taking two capsules per day is usually enough. Read the label. If you have been plagued with bloating, embarrassing backfiring, constipation or diarrhoea chances are your gut flora is not balanced. Consuming a diet that is right for you, including good bacteria or food that will feed the good bacteria will help alleviate these symptoms. The ideal is to have a good gut flora and a healthy gut mucosa.  Bloating after meals, excessive wind and irregular bowel habits is NOT normal.

Step four: Increase your resistance now with natural supplements:
If you are normally prone to the seasonal flu and colds always find you, then here are some options to try. Please note: some may need to be prescribed by a registered herbalist or naturopath.

The good old multivitamin: Not all vitamins are created equally.  The ones typically sold in pharmacies do not contain enough vitamin B, vitamin E, manganese and zinc,nutrients to help you through the flu season.  Some therapeutic strength vitamins will make all the difference if you are prone to winter illness.  These must be obtained from a health food store with a naturopath working there (requires TGA certificate) or from a naturopath clinic and they are not any more expensive than the less effective brands.  Some brands to look out for are by the companies: Phytomedicine,
Bioceuticals, Metagenics, and Eagle.

Garlic: Garlic has been proven in many studies to be an antiviral, antifungal and anti-parasitic which
has antibacterial activity.  To avoid the unwanted side effect of bad breath, there are supplements that contain kyolic, an odourless form of garlic.  Ask your health-food store.  Include more in your diet.  Garlic acts as a natural blood thinner so people with blood clotting disorders or taking warfin need to be cautious with their garlic consumption.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C increases the activity of infection fighting white blood cells.  Some scientific data suggests that vitamin c inhibits virus growth and reduces incidence of the common cold.  Vitamin c rich foods are your fruit (citrus) and vegetables. However, most people do not consume enough of these. There are vitamin c powders available that are easy for both adults and kids alike to take and
some also contain helpful bioflavonoids to stimulate the immune system.

Andrographis: Originates from the plains of India and is cultivated for traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. Studies have shown it to be an immune enhancing herb with a stimulating effect on Phagocytosis.  This means it boosts your white blood cells ability to surround and chew up invaders.

Astragalus: Has been used in China for centuries and has been proven to support a healthy immune system. It can reduce the severity of colds, and is especially good for upper respiratory infections.  It
helps with stress adaptation; taking it during times of increased stress may ward off that waiting flu virus.

Cat’s claw: Is a herb from Peru.  It boosts your natural kill cell activity and reduces the severity and symptoms of a cold.

Japanese mushrooms: Enhance natural killer cells and can be used daily as a remedy for chronic weakness and as maintenance to good health.

Echinacea: Is one of the world’s most popular cold and flu remedies, particularly in Europe.  The verdict is still out on this herb. Some studies prove its effectiveness and others findings are inconclusive. Take Echinacea at the first sign you are coming down with a cold/flu.  Echinacea wards off the common cold, lessens its severity and shortens the length of symptoms.
Echinacea activates the number of infection-fighting white blood cells, which help to kill the cold and flu virus.  Echinacea is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and lymphatic herb, making it specific for
tonsillitis and infective sore throat.

Cross M.L. 2002. Microbes versus microbes: Immune signals generated by probiotic lactobacilli and their role in protection against microbial pathogens.
FEMS immunology and Medical microbiology. Vol 34: 245-253

Bone, K 1996 Clinical applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs.

Phytotherapy Press.