Coughs and sneezes spread diseases (Part 1)

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Ward of colds and 'flu

We may be well into the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” to quote a line from the poem To Autumn by John Keats, but this time of year also heralds the season of sniffles, sneezes, coughs and wheezes for many folk. The article title alerts us to the need for good hygiene, but there’s more to winter woes than simple hygiene.

 The question is “Can anything be done to minimise or prevent common winter ailments in a natural, healthy way?” The short answer is Yes, plenty!

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In fact there’s so much that can be done with natural medicine that the entire website would not be sufficient space to cover even a fraction of the bounty of Mother Nature’s healing arsenal. On the other hand, and there always is another hand – you could take the cynical approach that claims “If you take medicine for a cold, you will be cured within 7 days, and if you don’t, you will be cured within a week.”

How bad is it really?

As with much of life, one’s attitude relative to developing an occasional seasonal cold or ‘flu, or any other ailment for that matter, is vitally important. If the malady can be embraced as an event that helps to keep the immune system on its toes, the symptoms become a lot more tolerable. I like to consider the occasional cold as a sort of internal “spring-cleaning” process that clears out debris and leaves my immune system well-revved and raring to go.

Maybe you concur with herbalist David Hoffman, who writes “We ‘catch’ a cold when the conditions in our body are right for a virus to thrive”? I’m a lifetime member of the club that believes the body has inherent wisdom, so one needs to be mindful of these functions, when it comes to symptoms. For example, a rise in temperature does not mean reaching for something to suppress this symptom, as it is one of the ways which the body uses to “burn up” toxins. Another way the body eliminates toxins, apropos winter ailments, is via mucous [catarrhal] secretions, sweating, etc. These natural detoxification functions often therefore manifest as a sore throat, snotty nose, thick head or other congestive symptoms of cold and ‘flu – which are usually looked on as something awful, rather than welcoming them as a sign that the immune system is performing exactly as it should.

Having made these statements, it must be acknowledged that it is difficult to totally avoid exposure to winter bugs or to develop total immunity to viral pathogens, since there are so many of them, and they mutate from year to year. The best way to cope with the winter ailments and sniffles is therefore to be prepared. Firstly, ensure that the immune system is as strong and functional as possible. This is a good start, since the development of many illnesses can be described as a “cause and effect” phenomenon. Secondly, have your stash of natural remedies on hand to treat symptoms that fuss you unduly.

Natural remedies

A host of natural treatments are at your disposal

Disclaimer: Before the wrath of the orthodox medical fraternity descends on my head, let me clarify the obvious. Repeated colds, coughs, etc. may require a different approach, as these could be indicative of more than simple impaired immunity. It goes without saying that various underlying pathologies or secondary infections, such as pneumonia or severe bronchitis, may require more than the standard winter-complaints support offered in an article of this nature.

Support the body’s ability to be well

Nothwithstanding that cold weather can affect the body’s natural strength and resistance, a trend that seems to be emerging, in my observation, is that many more people are becoming ill when the seasons change, and they are taking much longer to get over their illnesses. Is this because there are more “lurgies” in the air, or is it the result of other factors, such as unwise lifestyles and the fundamental consequences thereof? Are our immune systems becoming so unbalanced and overburdened that we lack the resources to launch a counter-attack on the micro-organisms that cause disease? So, before you reach for the antibiotics in desperation, please be aware they are ineffectual against cold and ‘flu viruses. Besides that, they tend to destroy both friendly and harmful gut bacteria, which leaves the body vulnerable to thrush and bowel disturbances as a side-effect, adding insult to injury. The overuse of these valuable medicines [yes, there is a most definitely a place for them], has led to the ever-growing problem of bacteria that are antibiotic resistance, which has resulted in the development of “super bugs” that are immune to antimicrobial drugs. We need to keep these drugs for when they are really needed, if they are to be of any significant value to society.

There are other options, so take a moment to step back and consider what else can help you through the winter months, bearing in mind that the focus of most natural remedies is to treat the underlying cause, along with the symptoms, as opposed to merely masking or suppressing the symptoms, which tends to be the activity of prescription drugs. This approach underpins the fundamental philosophy of naturopaths, and most other practitioners of natural medicine, and many others who believe that Nature provides the cure for most ailments. In a perfect world, our food and water source would provide most of our daily nutritional and health needs, but alas, that is not the reality considering the constraints of our current toxic environment.

In summary therefore, a holistic approach to health, along with a balanced diet, good hygiene, appropriate exercise, fresh air, good sleep and meaningful relaxation will go a long way to strengthening the body, helping it rapidly recover from illness, or at least shortening the duration of an illness if and when it does occur.

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