There are a lot of colds around at the moment, aren’t there? Virtually everyone I know has had the sniffles in recent weeks, including me.
I’ve always been very prone to colds: in my teens and twenties I considered it a good month if I didn’t get one. Since I started eating more healthily (thank you, Kale and Cocoa!) the number of colds I succumb to each year has definitely decreased, but I still get them.
After a particularly bad cold/flu bug a couple of years ago, I read Super Immunity by Dr Joel Furhmann. His basic proposition is that our immune systems are wrecked by a typical Western diet of refined carbs, too much meat, dairy and sugar and that healthy eating can boost our immunity immeasurably. Diet-wise, it’s pretty hardcore (veg, fruit, pulses, nuts, seeds, er, that’s pretty much it) but the research behind it is interesting. Two things really struck me:
1) The same immune function that works to fight colds also fights the biggies – cancer, diabetes, dementia. So, supporting the immune system and helping it to function the best it can is another way in which a healthy diet reduces the risk of degenerative disease.
2) 70% of the immune system is located in the gastro-intestinal tract. It needs healthy bacteria to perform its work – so that means plenty of pro- and pre-biotics and very limited anti-biotics. Colds are viral, not bacterial, and anti-biotics won’t help them. (There’s lots more on pre- and pro-biotics in Annabel’s post here)
But even Dr Fuhrmann accepts we all get colds at some point. He recommends: zinc supplements and Vitamin D (but not Echinacea and Vitamin C, interestingly), berries and elderberry extract (I buy the Sambucol brand from our local health food shop, they do a version fortified with zinc) and reducing food intake, consuming juices and vegetables, especially greens, either raw or in a soup.
To that list, I would add my own – honed by many a cold:
1) Get some rest. What’s more important than your health? I accept some things are – the big work presentation, attendance at the school nativity – but clear the diary as much as you can and hunker down under the duvet. Soldiering on, and being ill for weeks, helps no one.
2) Drink lots of fluid. Your body is fighting an invader, it needs to flush out that lurgy. My cold-busting smoothie and flu-fighting turmeric tea (recipes below) really help. Or just a couple of slices of fresh ginger in a mug of hot water.
3) Eat lightly and cleanly. Apparently ‘feed a cold’ is an old wives tale. Your body doesn’t want to be overloaded – it needs maximum nutrition, not empty calories. The cold-busting smoothie is a meal in a glass, and I also make myself an ‘immunity soup’ – see below.
4) Hot steam inhalation – a towel over your head and a basin of hot water – is soothing. If I have any Karval’s capsules, I’ll add one of those too.
5) Keep warm – an extra blanket on the bed will help you sweat out that cold. (As will a hot toddy with plenty of whisky, but you didn’t hear that from me…)
RECIPE: COLD-BUSTING SMOOTHIE
1 -2 oranges (depending on size) juiced
½ – 1 banana (again, depending on size)
120g frozen berries – pick a brand that includes blackcurrants
1 tsp Sambucol (optional)
1 tbs almond butter
1 handful of greens like spinach or kale, washed and roughly chopped.
In a blender blitz the orange juice and greens first to break down the fibres, then add the rest of the ingredients. Add more orange to make it more liquid, or more banana to make it thicker.
RECIPE: FLU-FIGHTING TURMERIC TEA
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbs runny honey
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ginger pulp (I buy it ready made)
Stir together the first four ingredients and keep in a jar by the kettle. When you want a hot drink, stir one tsp into a mug of hot (not boiling) water. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice
RECIPE: IMMUNITY SOUP
50g rice noodles or brown rice
Handful of fresh greens – kale or spinach – washed and chopped
Handful of frozen edamame beans
2 tsp miso paste
1 tsp ginger pulp
Cook the rice or rice noodles according to packet instructions. Bring two mugs of water to the boil in a small saucepan. Cook the greens and beans, add the rice or noodles to warm through. Take off the heat and stir in miso and ginger.