Staying well this flu season

Date: 16-06-2022

Author: Professor Avni Sali AM   MBBS PhD FRACS FACS FACNEM

A Natural Way to Fight Colds and Flu in Melbourne

A record of low temperatures in June has signaled the arrival of winter, and the colder months ahead will have significant sunlight depletion. Inevitably we will see a rise in colds and flus including the ongoing spread of Covid and a range of respiratory viruses.

An Integrative Medicine approach strongly advocates the role that essential life-style factors, healthy diet and nutrients play in strengthening our immune system, preventing and curtailing viral infections, including influenza. 

Your immune system incorporates a range of proteins, cells, organs and tissues that impact on virtually every aspect of your health.  This complex network in your body helps to fight infections and other diseases. 

7 ways to naturally boost your immunity this winter

We all need to ensure we boost our immunity in order to prevent illness.  Some of the most effective ways you can do this include:

  • Positive mind-frame
  • Lowering stress
  • Adequate sleep
  • Daily exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining good gut health
  • Taking immune boosting supplements

The food you eat should provide your immune system with the best possible protection. This means selecting anti-inflammatory foods in your diet.Many foods are immune-modulating based on whether they have an anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory effect. You can boost your anti-inflammatory food intake with: omega 3 EFA, as found in seafood; low-GI foods; antioxidant rich foods (especially those high in vitamins A, C and E); high-fibre foods; increased monounsaturated fats (nuts and avocados); more fruit and vegetables; lean meats; herbs such as garlic, ginger and turmeric; and tea.

Pro-inflammatory foods are to be avoided and these are foods with: high calories, high-GI, high trans fats, saturated fats, excessive salt and refined carbohydrates, as found in most processed and fast foods. Also excessive alcohol consumption, some dairy foods and food additives such as artificial colours, flavours and preservatives can be pro-inflammatory.

Pre and Pro biotic foods are essential for maintaining good gut health.  These include – onion family, garlic, honey, beans, lentils, chick peas, soybeans, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, raw oats, unrefined wheat and barley. Bone broths. Fermented foods such as cultured milk and yoghurts, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kombucha, Miso etc.

Vitamin D and Viruses

Vitamin D plays a very important function in all aspects of our health, including preventing and treating respiratory illnesses.  A growing body of research studies into Vitamin D supplementation and impact on respiratory viruses, supports this. 

We know that a high number of Melbournians, living in what is the cloudiest big city in Australia, are deficient in Vitamin D during winter. This is likely to account for the higher levels of viral infections.  Vitamin D supplementation is safe, easily available and cost-effective. 

In addition to Vitamin D there are many highly beneficial herbs and minerals useful in the prevention and treatment of colds and flus.

Herbs that help fight colds and flu

  • Vitamin C (orally or intravenously)
  • Zinc
  • Licorice Root
  • Ginger
  • Astragalus
  • Mushroom Complex
  • Echinacea
  • Olive Leaf Extract
  • Garlic
  • Probiotic for healthy microbiome
  • Essential Oils such as eucalyptus oil for steam inhalation, may assist with congestion.

It is also important to not forget the basics of infection control,  such as regularly washing hands, avoiding contact with people who have respiratory illnesses. Airborne droplets from sneezes and coughs contribute to the spread. And of course if you are sick, stay home to rest and keep hydrated.

Preventative measures in the cold and flu season will support optimal health and wellbeing.

If you have persistent symptoms and high fever it is always advisable to seek medical help.