The common cold: drippy nose, nagging cough, sore throat, clogged sinuses, and congestion. It’s miserable, spreads quickly (person-to-person or through the air), affects people of all ages, and hits nearly any time of the year, but especially in the spring and fall. It’s the most prevalent type of upper respiratory infection (URI) and is caused by a virus (rhinovirus).
So, what’s a person to do?
If you get a cold, give your body the rest and support it needs and the infection will generally resolve within ten days. We all know there are myriad products that promise to reduce symptoms, from decongestants, cough suppressants, and pain relieving medicines. But we also know that such symptomatic relief is temporary, often comes with side effects, and sometimes even makes things worse.
We suggest instead that you follow a natural path to preventing and treating those pesky colds. You’ll be happy you did.
The Natural Medicine Approach to Preventing Colds
Start with an evaluation of your vitality, looking at factors that sustain a strong immune system. In doing this, your holistic clinician will assess: diet and food allergies; nutrient deficiencies; hygiene and hand-washing habits; and physical activity. Lifestyle and environmental factors will also be considered, including personal relationships, ongoing stress, and exposure to allergens, mold, and toxins. Your doctor may also test breathing function, which can play a role in susceptibility to URI.
In general, the best way to keep colds at bay is to live an active, low-stress lifestyle, eating plenty of veggies and other healthy nutrient-dense foods. However some people may develop intolerances to certain foods and this can wreak havoc on their immune system. And for many people to achieve optimal immune health their diet needs to be supplemented with vitamins, herbs and other supplements.
The Natural Medicine Approach to Faster Healing Through Colds
When you do come down with a cold, natural approaches can support the healing process:
Rest and Replenish: Rest as much as possible as the body needs its resources for healing. Drink plenty of water or diluted vegetable/whole fruit juice, and herbal tea. Eat fresh fruit, vegetables, broth-based soups and protein. Avoid processed sugars, which can depress immunity.
Essential Oils: Use oils in a chest rub or aromatherapy diffuser to reduce the intensity of coughs and congestions. Try peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, clove and tea tree. Ask your physician for guidance, as some oils are not recommended for children; others should not be combined, and concentrated oils need to be diluted properly before use.
Acupuncture & East Asian Medicine: Acupuncture helps reduce pain and inflammation, promotes relaxation, and can significantly speed up your healing from a cold. Chinese herbs are one of the most powerful means of supporting the body through a variety of cold symptoms and can be customized to your specific symptom presentation.
Dietary Supplements: Research indicates vitamin C reduces the severity and duration of colds. Other vitamins can also be helpful. Similarly, properly prescribed Zinc supplements can reduce the frequency and intensity of colds. However, there is little evidence for the effectiveness of over-the-counter zinc lozenges. Herbal medicines can be highly effective. Examples include ginger, elderberry, echinacea, and Chinese herbal formulas
Sweat it Out: The traditional medicines of many cultures agree that sweating can be a very effective means of speeding passage through cold symptoms. If you don’t have a sauna or sweat lodge readily available just take a hot bath and then cover yourself with towels and extra blankets for a half-hour afterwards. Remember to drink lots of water with electrolytes before and afterwards.
Natural medicine offers a multitude of ways to personalize care, especially to support the prevention and treatment of URI. Speak with your holistic clinician about what approaches are best for you.
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