8 Tips to Combat Flu Cold this Winter

man with a cold blowing his nose
After an extended warm and sunny summer we’re now slowly edging into Winter. As the temperatures drop so the cold and flu viruses peak as we cluster indoors in poorly ventilated, centrally heated homes. So how best to combat this threat to our health? Listed below are 8 tips to stay healthy and cold free this winter.

1. Drink Honeysuckle Tea

Recent research by Nanjing University has shown that honeysuckle tea, used for centuries in China to combat colds and flus contains a molecule which combats flu. The molecule, MIR2911, can effectively protect against flu, swine flu and even targets the ebola virus apparently. So far the research has only be carried out on mice, but given that its been used effectively in China for centuries at the first sign of a sniffle I’ll be reaching for the Honeysuckle tea.

2. Fast

You may have noticed that when animals are sick they generally don’t eat. Research by the University of California has shown that fasting regenerates the immune system. More specifically the act of not eating for two to three days destroys damaged immune cells. When you then eat again healthy white blood cells are regenerated.

The added bonus of fasting is that it also reduces a growth factor hormone linked to ageing, tumour progression & cancer. Read more here

3. Over the counter Medicine

On the whole most over the counter medicines – decongestants, anti-histamines, pain relief subdue the symptoms of a cold but do not help to cure. There is one interesting exception; Vicks First Defence or Boots Cold & Flu Defence nasal spray. The gel in the spray traps the cold virus and prevents it from spreading, giving your immune system more of a chance to fight the virus. The gel also reduces the pH inside the nose, making it harder for the cold virus to multiply.

You must take this as soon as you think you’re getting a cold. If your nose is already streaming the gel will be alot less effective as it’ll be flushed out of your nose in no time.

4. Get more sleep

A study by Carnegie Mellon University in the US shows that people who get less than seven hours of sleep a night are more likely to get ill. The deep state of non REM sleep is critical for effective functioning of the immune system.

High stress lifestyles can lead to over stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. Acupuncture is particularly effective at disengaging this fight or flight mechanism and therefore helping with sleep.

You may be browsing through this list and noticing that smoking and over consuming alcohol isn’t on it. They’re not here because they are very basic things you shouldn’t be doing if you want to look after your health.

5. Eat Well

Are you eating at least 7 fruit and veg a day? Is the majority of your 7 a day vegetable based? If not you need to look at your diet and try to ensure you consume more so you get the optimum level of vitamins and minerals your body needs. Balance is the name of the game in diet. Cramming your body full of oranges or blueberries when you feel ill isn’t going to cure you. Your body needs a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals to function optimally not just foods high in anti-oxidants and vitamin C.

Be careful not to overeat. Your body has limited resources. When you are ill you don’t want those resources going into digesting excess fuel.

6. Slow Down

In the last 200 years since the industrial revolution and the introduction of electricity we have lost the ability to live with nature and the seasons. As animals in nature slow down and hibernate so we should slow down our work and activity levels. Obviously we can’t hibernate but often we push our bodies hard, particularly in the run up to Christmas where a work hard play hard ethic leads to a proliferation of colds and flu. Try to balance this out with spells spent outdoors walking in nature or take a yoga or qi gong class.

7. Keep It Clean

While I think its unhealthy to be too obsessed with cleanliness, it can pay to wash your hands thoroughly particularly if you’ve been in close contact with people who have the cold or flu. Also take care not to touch your face or rub your eyes if you think you may have been near someone with with flu. Whilst this is useful advice, don’t get to obsessed with it. On balance, it’s healthier to walk around in blissful ignorance than a state of nervous paranoia.

8. Exercise

Regular moderate exercise boosts the immune system and helps fight off cold and flu virus. Be careful not to overdo it though. Your body has limited resources. If all those resources are being put into peak physical performance you won’t have enough to maintain a healthy immune system.

Before taking any of this advice on board please consult a healthcare professional. In particular fasting can need close supervision and honeysuckle tea may have side effects that may be contra-indicated.