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What To Do When You Get Sick?

by Mitch Kennedy, Naturopathic Doctor

While it may be accepted that everyone gets a “cold” or “flu”, it doesn't have to be this way.  Some doctors will tell you that genetics is a major factor of whether or not are susceptible to colds and flus and there is nothing you can do about it.  I believe differently.  While genetics does play a small part, there's a tremendous amount you and I can do with our lifestyle, diet and nutritional supplements to enhance our immunity, and keep from getting sick. 

Preventing a cold or flu involves strengthening your immune system and avoiding stressors that depress one's natural defenses.  When you first feel yourself becoming sick, there are things you can do to avoid becoming ill or to shorten the duration of the illness.  These suggestions are especially helpful if you do them as early as possible.

[Please note: Ninety percent of common colds are due to viral infections.  Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.  They are usually only prescribed when a secondary bacterial infection is likely.]

Eat Very Lightly Or Not At All -  With most illnesses, the appetite is diminished.  This is a natural response of the body.  Energy is needed to fight off the "bug" and the body doesn't have the energy to process food.  Give your digestive tract a rest!

Avoid eating sweets, baked goods and beverages containing refined sugars - Look at the labels for “fructose”, “sucrose”, “corn syrup” and other forms of sugars.  All types of sugars are known to suppress the phagocytic (bacteria eating) activity of white blood cells, our primary line of defense against infection.  If you can’t stop sweets altogether then eat things that are naturally sweet like fruits and vegetables (carrots), and drink fruit juices mixed with seltzer water or tap water instead of opening a can of soda.

Avoid Dairy products at the first sign of a cold or flu - Dairy products (milk, cream, butter, ice cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt) stimulate the production of mucous in the body.  The excess mucous can cause pressure in the sinuses, headaches, and further decrease the effectiveness of your immune system.  If the only reason you drink milk is for the “calcium”, you would be better served taking a quality calcium supplement.   Aside from its mucogenic properties and the inability of most adults to digest the lactose, non-organic milk contains antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticides that have dubious effects upon our genes and biochemistry.  There are many great dairy substitutes out there.  Check you local health food store.

Eat Raw Garlic - If you can stand to chew a whole clove, that’s great, otherwise, chop the garlic up and put it on top of any food you like (not sweets or dairy.)  Put the garlic on after you cook the food, as heat destroys most of the beneficial properties.  Try these: steamed greens (collards, kale, Swiss chard) with olive oil and garlic on top, dip bread into olive oil with chopped garlic and black pepper in it, or cook some pasta and sprinkle chopped garlic on top.

Drink Plenty Of Fluids -  This is standard good advice.  You can clear the toxins from a "bug" out of your system with large amounts of filtered water and herbal teas.  Fruit juices are not good choices as they have a high concentration of sugars in them.  If you do choose to drink fruit juices, dilute them with more than half filtered water.

Hot Lemon Tea - While oranges and tomatoes have vitamin C in them, they can also cause mucus.  Lemon on the other hand is a great mucus cutter.  Buy fresh lemons, wash them in soap and water and cut them in half.  Put a pot of hot water on to boil, then fill a mug one third of the way full of cool water and squeeze the lemon juice, about a table spoon (or less to taste,) into the cool water.  (You may want to use a strainer to catch the seeds.)  Then fill the mug to the top with the boiling water.  Making hot lemon tea this way keeps the lemon juice from getting too hot to damage the vitamin C.

Get Rest As Soon As Possible -  Many people ignore the early warning signs of illness and keep working until they "drop."  You will take longer to heal if you allow the illness to get a foothold.  If you feel a sore throat, headache, congestion, etc., coming on, take it easy.  If possible, take a day off from work.  This may prevent you from having to take three days off later on.

Dramatically increase your antioxidant intake

Recent studies have shown that antioxidants (Anthrocyanindins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Selenium and others) have a profound effect on preventing damage to lung and intestinal tissues, and white blood cells.  The best way is through fruit!! The highest source of fruit-based antioxidants is the Acia berry from the Amazon jungle (more than 15 times the amounts found in the next highest (wild blueberries)- BUT only if its been freeze-dried - as the Acai berry degrades quickly once picked. 

Take a high quality vitamin supplement daily - Our bodies use the vitamins we get from foods to handle the stresses of everyday life.  Unfortunately, most of us eat too few vitamin-rich vegetables, and expose ourselves to too much stress.  This leaves us short on the essential nutrients needed to maintain our energy levels, and our immune system.  Supplementing our diet with a daily vitamin helps to restore the levels of nutrients needed to protect our bodies and its cells from bacteria and viruses.  Spend a little extra to get a high quality vitamin – one with the most biochemically active forms of the vitamins and without fillers, preservatives, and dyes. Your naturopathic physician may sell such a supplement or you can find something almost as good at the health food store.

Prevent Contamination - Studies have demonstrated that infections are spread much more readily by direct contact than through the air.  Cleanliness tips to help avoid contamination of viruses include not sharing utensils or toothbrushes, etc., frequent hand washing and frequent laundering of clothing or bedding (especially for children sharing rooms).

Home Hydrotherapy Treatment - The Hot Foot Bath:  Soak feet in hot  water and  wrap yourself in a warm wool blanket.  Put a cold cloth on your head and relax while you sit in a comfortable position for 10-15 minutes. Take care to avoid getting chilled after this treatment.

Throat or Chest Compress -  Warm the throat or chest with a warm washcloth or hot shower.  Dry the skin thoroughly and apply a thin cotton wrap (to throat) or thin cotton T-shirt (to chest) that has been soaked in cold water and wrung out so that it is not dripping wet.  Cover this with a wool scarf (throat) or wool sweater (chest).   Go to bed this way.  By morning, the scarf or T-shirt will be dry.  This treatment increases circulation and increases white-blood cell activity.


In addition to these suggestions, a naturopathic physician can offer homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and prescription-only nutritional supplements which can further accelerate your healing.

Dr. Mitch Kennedy, a nationally board certified & licensed naturopathic physician, treats people of all ages.  Dr. Kennedy is trained in three separate types of medicine: natural medicine, conventional medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. This insures that health problems are identified before they become chronic diseases and the every treatment opportunity is explored.  He offers programs for: Pain, Allergies, Detoxification, Weight Loss, Memory Enhancement, and Longevity.

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