The calendar may say it's Spring, but I know many of you are still suffering from Winter coughs and colds.
If you are still feeling the lingering effects of coughs, colds and flus, here are some tips to get you over the hump and ready to bounce into Spring!
Upper respiratory tract infections can be difficult to get at, but one of the best ways to have a direct anti-microbial effect on the lungs and respiratory passage is with a steam inhalation.
Most herbal essential oils have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, but some great options include Eucalyptus, Thyme, Tea Tree, and Lemon Balm.
How To Do A Steam Inhalation
Hopefully the sunshine will return soon, and at an angle sufficient for us to produce Vitamin D. But until then, it is still a good idea to be supplementing with Vitamin D to ensure optimal levels for immune health. A recent meta-analysis concluded that Vitamin D supplementation is helpful for preventing upper respiratory tract infections.
For most people, taking 1000-2000 IU per day of Vitamin D3 is sufficient, and best taken with meals as Vit D is fat soluble. Higher doses than this may be helpful for a short duration when fighting a cold or flu.
Vitamin D is generally safe, but is it possible to take too much. If you are taking more than 5000IU/day for an extended period of time, it may be a good idea to have your Vitamin D levels checked.
When we think about supplements for coughs and colds, what comes to mind? Vitamin C, zinc, Vitamin D..? While those are all helpful, probiotics are often overlooked as an immune supporting remedy.
Probiotics have been shown to prevent the occurrence of upper respiratory infections, reduce the duration of colds, and decrease the need for antibiotics.
When choosing a probiotic it is important to focus on quality. Many retail brands have been found to not meet their label claims for number of live organisms, or the proper strains. Our physicians can help you choose from the variety of different professional line probiotic formulas that we carry in our dispensary.
One of the best ways to support your immune system and get over the hump is a direct infusion of nutrients into the blood stream. IV therapy bypasses the digestive tract, so you get 100% absorption of the nutrients.
Vitamin C at a high doses has been shown to be anti-viral, and can be combined with other immune-supportive nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, and B-vitamins.
Herbal medicine utilizes the power of nature to help heal our bodies. One of the benefits of herbal medicine is that it can be individualized based on your symptoms and constitution. They can also be taken in various forms, such as teas, tinctures, or capsules.
For dry coughs, soothing demulcent herbs such as marshmallow root and licorice root are great options.
For irritating, non-productive coughs, consider mullein, tussilago, and plantain.
Lastly, for coughs that need help clearing out mucous, stimulating expectorants such as inula and licorice are indicated.
While herbal remedies are often safe, it is best to consult with a knowledgable physician to determine what is the best combination for your specific needs.
Chronic inflammation is a growing problem and is associated with myriad diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name but a few. In fact, back in 2004 Time Magazine had a cover story on inflammation, calling it "The Secret Killer."
Inflammation is an adaptive process in our bodies, an evolutionary mechanism for survival. It is beneficial and necessary for our bodies to respond to stress, toxins, injuries, etc, but it needs to be in balance. If it continues without resolving, it can lead to chronic disease.
The conventional approach is to block or suppress inflammation through the use of medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), commonly known as Advil or Ibuprofen. However, we now know that in order to heal we do not want to simply block inflammation, but rather modulate it to achieve balance and resolution.
The field of psychoneuroimmunology studies how the brain interacts with the nervous system and immune function. It is a fascinating field, as this connection reveals how the mind and the way we think can actually influence and alter physiological processes, such as our immune response. This research also gives us potential non-drug treatments for inflammation and the conditions associated with it.
A study published in January 2013 assessed the effects of mindful meditation on the inflammatory response. 49 participants were randomly assigned to either an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) or an 8-week active control health enhancement program (HEP) that included walking, balance, agility, core strength, nutritional education, and music therapy.
They then exposed both groups to psychological stress (public speaking) and physical stress (cayenne pepper rubbed on the arm), and found that the group trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction had significantly reduced post-stress inflammatory responses.
This study showed that mindfulness-based meditation is able to alter the inflammatory response, but the mechanism was still largely unknown.
One mechanism of meditation influencing inflammation is through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is large and far-reaching, with branches connecting to everything from the heart to the lungs and digestive tract. It's role in the immune response is referred to as the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway, and it explains how our thoughts and mind can directly influence the immune response and inflammation. It was first discovered in animal models that if you stimulated the vagus nerve it would reduce the release of inflammatory mediators. This has also been found in humans, and along with meditation, the vagus nerve can also be stimulated by aerobic exercise, acupuncture, and dietary supplements such as fish oils.
A recent study from the University of Wisconsin showed that mindfulness-based meditation can actually affect the genes that control inflammation. The researchers measured the effects of a day of mindfulness-based meditation, and found altered levels of gene-regulating compounds and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes. These genetic and biochemical changes also correlated with faster recovery from a stressful situation.
If you suffer from an inflammatory condition such as arthritis or would like to prevent chronic inflammatory disease, there is good reason to consider non-drug treatments such as meditation and acupuncture to modulate the inflammatory response.
Rosenkranz, Melissa A., et al. "A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation."Brain, behavior, and immunity 27 (2013): 174-184.
Kaliman, Perla, et al. "Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators."Psychoneuroendocrinology 40 (2014): 96-107.
Check out this recent article I wrote for BC Parent Magazine:
Good Bugs For Newborns:
I discuss the importance of gut bacteria for childrens health and immune function, and things to consider especially if your child is born via C-section.
Dr. Tomah Phillips, ND