So you’re coughing and sniffling, you have a high temperature and your body aches. You’ve got the flu – now what? Modern medicine has told us to take whatever you can to suppress your symptoms and get on with it, but Naturopaths have quite the opposite view of the best way to speed up your recovery and feel better.
Now this may sound counterintuitive… but as terrible as you may feel when you get sick, there is actually some benefit to you coming down with a cold or the flu. Ancient Naturopathic wisdom actually states that challenging your immune system from time to time can actually be good for your overall health. Being sick all the time is obviously not healthy, but neither is never being sick – it’s a sign that something is going wrong in your immune system.
But what should you do to feel better when you come down with the flu?
Why do I feel so terrible?
Most people don’t realise that when you catch the flu, it’s not actually the virus that makes you feel so unwell. Most of the symptoms that you experience – runny nose, increased mucus, cough, temperature, clogged head, feeling depressed, aches and pains – are a result of your immune system fighting the virus.
Now, prevention is always better than cure, but if prevention hasn’t worked for you, Naturopaths recommend that you support your body’s natural immune response through a cold or flu, not try and suppress it.
For the most part, an increase in temperature is the body’s way of fighting the virus. For adults, the best thing for a fever is actually to do nothing at all. Get comfy in bed, pull up the covers and let it do its thing – this is your body in full flu-fighting mode and bringing your temperature down can prolong the duration of a cold or flu. During a fever, it’s important to eat lightly and rest to allow your body to focus on the task at hand.
Caution: Obviously with children, medication may be necessary in certain cases to bring their temperature down if there is a risk of febrile convulsions.
Mucus & cough
Whether you have a sinus infection, a cold or a chest infection – mucus production is a vital part of your immune system response. It carries your white blood cells to your mucus membrane surfaces to fight both viral and bacterial infections. If the mucus you are bringing up is mostly clear or white, you’re most likely fighting a viral infection. If it is yellow or green, this suggests that you are actively fighting a bacterial infection.
As the mucus changes colour, it’s actually a good sign that your body is effectively fighting the bacterial infection, and not always a sign that antibiotics are necessary. I often encourage patients at this stage – particularly with a chest infection – to not take things that dry up their mucus.
In order to recover quickly, you actually want to promote mucus production by staying hydrated and taking an expectorant herbal medicine that will help you shift the mucus. Herbal teas (fenugreek), echinacea, honey, vitamin C and NAC (mucolytics) can all help you shift the mucus. Other great tips include:
- Drinking lots of liquids, especially warm ones
- Peppermint oil in a diffuser is a natural decongestant
- Avoid antihistomines and decongestants designed to dry up mucus.
What to take for colds and flu
For bacterial infection, I recommend andrographis, which is my version of a natural antibiotic. It’s an Ayurvedic herb which can reduce both the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms, without knocking out all of your good bacteria.
In addition, picorrhiza has been used traditionally in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to help maintain a healthy immune system, and it is now understood that this herb has both anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating actions.
Elderberry is a mainstay of traditional Western herbalism for its anti-catarrhal and fever-reducing activity, helping to relieve acute cold symptoms as well as recurrent coughs. If you are unwell with a respiratory virus, your Practitioner can recommend a herbal formula that contains these immune-supporting heroes.
If you are struggling with a cold or flu and would like some advice, book a free 15 minute phone chat with a qualified Naturopath. Click here to book now.