For most of us winter is the most common time we will succumb to infections and in most cases these will be relatively mild. However, some strains of influenza can be life threatening and in susceptible individuals even the most mild strains can cause serious infection.
Some types of infections can cause debilitating after-effects such as prolonged fatigue, muscle and joint pain and weakened immunity. These include cytomegalovirus, Ross River virus and Eptein Barr virus, which causes glandular fever. These infections should be treated promptly, initially with immune enhancing herbs and later with herbs to aid recovery thus reducing the incidence of recurrent infections and fatigue.
Immune system support
The most effective to avoid infections is to ensure maximum functioning of your immune system. By maximising the effectiveness of the immune system your body will be more able to fight off any infectious organisms it comes into contact with, whether they be bacterial, viral, fungal or some other type of infection. Given the right circumstances your body has an immense ability to protect itself from infections and enable you to maintain good health throughout the year. A strong immune system is definitely the best defence against infection.
What depletes immunity?
Some of the factors that reduce the effectiveness of the immune system include:
Insufficient sleep, rest, relaxation
Decreased sense of well-being, depression
Too little or too much exercise (moderate exercise improves immunity)
Insufficient intake of nutrients particularly zinc, vitamin C and some of the B group vitamins
How to improve immunity
Obviously the starting point is to correct, as much as possible, any dietary and lifestyle factors that deplete immunity. If you have a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds which are high in zinc, and protein from lean meat, organic chicken or fish you will go a long way towards improving immunity.
If you are particularly prone to winter infections it may be a good idea to start taking appropriate nutritional supplements just prior to winter. Day to day circumstances can increase our demand for nutrients. For example, stress increases the body’s demand for vitamin C, so if you are very stressed you should be taking a vitamin C supplement; rigorous or prolonged exercise also depletes the body of a number of important nutrients and can adversely affect immunity.
Go to the article on Overtraining and Immune Suppression for more information.
Apart from ensuring adequate nutrition one of the best ways to improve immunity is with the use of herbal medicines. There are a number of herbs that improve immunity. Some are very good in the acute phase, whilst others should be avoided during this time and taken later to aid recovery. It is important to take the correct immune herb for each circumstance. For example, the type of infection, the stage of the infection and the symptoms are factors that influence the herbs used
Echinacea is perhaps the best-known immune boosting herb. You have probably tried it at one time or another and hopefully it worked very well for you but this is not always the case. There are a several factors that affect the quality, and therefore the healing capacity, of Echinacea. This has been reflected in clinical trials using Echinacea. When reviewing the results of these trials one quickly realises that in the trials where poor results were achieved it was because poor quality Echinacea was used. In contrast, the trials that have given positive results in the prevention or management of respiratory tract infections have used high quality Echinacea products at appropriate doses.
Many Echinacea products in the market place are of poor quality and/or recommend inadequate dosing. If you are to achieve the desired results from Echinacea (or any other herb) the product has to be of very high quality and the correct dosage must be taken. The dosage regime will change during the course of the illness. For example, during the acute phase of an infection a high dose is needed so that you get very quick, effective stimulation of the immune system.
It is best to start this high dose at the very first signs of infection or if you think you have been exposed to an infection such as being in a crowded or confined area where people were coughing or sneezing. Once the acute phase is over then the dose is reduced a little and as the condition continues to improve the herb dosage is gradually reduced to a maintenance dose.
Apart from enhancing immunity there are other factors that need to be taken into account. Excessive mucous should be cleared as quickly as possible because it is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. It is also important to manage fever appropriately. Fever is one of the body’s defence mechanisms against infection and, in most circumstances, should not be discouraged too soon. There are herbs that support the fever, allowing it to do its job quickly and then resolve. The use of these herbs to manage a fever can make a big difference in how quickly the infection is resolved.
Next time you have a fever try the following hot lemon drink –
Into a mug put the juice of half a lemon, add a crushed or chopped clove of garlic, about a teaspoon of chopped ginger and a small amount of chopped fresh chilli (or you can use a small amount of powdered ginger and chilli). Fill the mug with boiling water and cover with a plate or saucer and allow to infuse for approximately 10 minutes. You can add a little honey if you wish.
This drink will induce sweating so you need to stay rugged up and warm and rest as much as possible. You will have heard the old saying, “sweat it out”. This is basically what you are doing and it is a vital part of infection management.
Once you are symptom free it is important to continue with immune support for a time. You will get rid of the symptoms before the infection is completely out of your system. If you stop the immune herbs and vitamin C etc too soon the infection may flare up again, particularly if you are stressed or run down.
The final part of treatment for is given when the infection has resolved. Here we use tonic herbs to build you up and help with convalescence. In times gone by illness was always followed by a time of convalescence to enable the body to totally recover and to restore vitality. Nowadays we rarely make time to rest and recover fully after an illness, however we can enlist the aid of certain herbs to help with this process. Have you ever had, or do you know people, who seem to get one infection after another, or who do not seem to fully recover after an illness? When this occurs it is because vitality has not been restored following the illness, leaving the body vulnerable to further attack.
So you can see that it is very important to improve immunity if you are to avoid or at the very least minimise the severity and/or frequency of infections. This is particularly important for those who are at most risk of coming into contact with infections or those who have difficulty fighting an infection. Optimal immune functioning is also important for individuals with chronic illnesses such as autoimmune diseases. In these conditions there is a malfunction in the immune system and recurrent or prolonged infections often exacerbate the malfunction causing a flare-up or worsening of the chronic condition.
Give me a call – catch an infection early
If at any stage you feel you may be coming down with a cold or flu or any other type of infection give me a call immediately. If you do not have time for an appointment you can pop in and pick up the appropriate medicines so that you can stop the infection in its tracks. It is far easier to treat an infection early than to wait for it to become entrenched, at which point it will have to run its course, although the correct immune herbs will speed up the process and usually reduce the severity.
Phone - 07 3349 3122
Article by Berris Burgoyne ©
I am passionate about helping people improve their health and well-being.
I believe that the human spirit has the potent ability to bring about healing when it is given the necessary support to do so.
This support can be achieved in a number of ways including dietary and lifestyle adjustments and natural medicines.
These address any imbalances, and by adopting healthy habits and attitudes that nourish your spiritual, emotional and physical well-being you can achieve optimal health.