As winter is drawing to a close in the Southern Hemisphere, many people are still struggling with coughs and colds, tiredness and general malaise. There are many things we can do to help ourselves avoid getting unwell and if we do become unwell, to recover quickly and fully.
Most of our immune system is contained in the cells immediately outside our gut. This is one of the reasons why gut health is so important to your everyday health. If you gut is unwell, your immune system is working extra hard to protect you from any virus that may be in your community. There are many things you can do to improve your gut health and my blog post on gut health talks about these small habits that you can change for better gut health.
Even with great gut health however, you may still come into contact with a virus that manages to take hold and leave you unwell. Many people find that they become unwell as soon as they take some leave from work or they go on holiday. This is most likely because they have been operating at a high level of stress and therefore have high levels of cortisol in their bodies. The cortisol is a suppressant and is anti-inflammatory. As soon as we stop operating at that high level of stress, our Cortisol levels drop and anything that has been lying in the background takes over and we get sick.
If you are unwell you should stop and rest, it’s a natural way to assist your body to fight illness. You can absolutely push through illness, activate your Cortisol and solider on, however you are not giving your body the opportunity to heal from the illness. When you allow yourself to heal, you will reap the benefits of toxins being removed from your body leaving you revitalized. When we stop and convalesce, the body can focus on healing so that the immune system can deal with it properly and fully.
Water + Honey
It is very important to drink more water than usual when we are unwell. Lemon and honey in hot water is great to soothe the throat and rehydrate the body. Manuka honey is extremely good for you. When choosing Manuka honey, chose one that has a UMF reading of 10+. This is the level of antimicrobial elements in the honey. If it is measured in MGO, look for one that is 200-300. Another benefit of honey is that it sticks around in your mouth so it continues to help for a longer time. This is of course one of the reasons why we need to brush our teeth well at night because the sugar in honey causes cavities in our teeth quickly!
Water + Temperatures
Drinking more water is important because we are more likely to get dehydrated from expelling mucous (nose blowing and coughing) and sweating through a fever. Water helps our liver and kidneys to operate and flush toxins out of our body. Headaches are often a sign of dehydration. A fever is the body’s natural way of fighting off a bug. The body intrinsically knows that the bugs can only survive at a certain temperature. So it’s not the illness causing the temperature but the body trying to remove the bug from the system. A temperature under 39° should just be watched, keeping fluids up and staying rested and warm. It can be particularly stressful for parents of young children when a fever sets in but rest assured it is the body’s way of healing. When we interfere and use paracetamol to bring down a temperature, the bug is allowed to thrive and the body needs to try again to kill the bug so it will raise the temperature again. We use extreme caution however with a temperature over 40° and this is the time to use paracetamol to bring down a temperature. You can also use cold water to help the body to lower the temperature naturally either through cold compresses on the forehead and back of the neck or through drinking cold water as this gets coolness into the body quickly and easily.
Sometimes when we are unwell we don’t feel like eating and we should respect this. Our immune system benefits from periods of fasting. Not eating when we are not hungry is also allowing the body to spend our energy fighting the illness rather than digesting our food. It is important to eat foods that support our immune system such as protein and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates such as white bread, doughnuts etc are the easiest forms of energy for the bugs to eat. We can help our body by consuming foods such as soup, particularly when it is made from bone broth and vegetables (read my blog post here on how to make bone broth).
Our immune system can also benefit from vitamins A, C, E, Zinc and Selenium. Garlic is antimicrobial as are essential oils such as Oregano and Thyme. You can use essential oils by putting a few drops on a tissue and inhaling 5-6 times per day. We can stimulate the immune system to help it function better with products such as Echinacea. People often complain that they can take a pharmaceutical product and feel better but they take something such as Echinacea they don’t feel any different. It’s really important to remember that a pharmaceutical product is going to hide your symptoms and deny your body the opportunity to heal. Herbs such as Echinacea stimulate the immune system to function better allowing the body the opportunity to heal. There are also wonderful products such as Olive Leaf Extract which is an awesome antioxidant and helps the body recover from illness.
As always if you have any questions or comments about this topic, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you.