Health

Warding off winter

Warding off winter

Oh dear, we all know the signs, the tell-tale fatigue, scratchy throat, sniffy nose and sporadic, irritating cough… yep, winter is on its merry way. We talk to Hester van Zyl, owner of our favourite health store, Earthwise about her recommendations for the impending season.

If you’re dreading winter, don’t despair. There are many natural deterrents and ways of beating the winter cold and flu blues before they hit: as they say, prevention is better than cure.
Even though the Lowveld is not known for its nippy winters, it is still better to be safe than sorry, especially in the case of cold-weather induced – avoidable – ailments. Building up the immune system and creating a barrier against germs is as easy as taking a few vitamins and ensuring your body is ready for those colder days.

Vitamin C: This all-important immune booster is the first go-to for when colds and flu strike. It has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties which help to dry up runny noses, and it also helps the immune cells find and destroy viruses. In addition, it helps the body cope with physical stress. Excellent when used in conjunction with bioflavonoids – compounds found in the pulp and rind of citrus fruits and vitamin C-bearing foods.

Garlic: This wonder drug has a long history of having healing properties. It also effectively clears sinuses due to the sulphur compound allicin, which contains antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Heat kills allicin though, so try to make use of it either raw or added to food as close to the end of cooking as possible. Garlic is useful throughout the stages of illness, and not only as a deterrent.

Ginseng: Numerous studies have shown that it is a safe and natural preventative for acute respiratory illness. One example is a Canadian study which took two groups of people and gave one of them a placebo and the other ginseng. After four months the group which was given the ginseng was proven to have contracted half as many colds as the group which took the placebo, and the severity of its flu symptoms was drastically reduced by at least half.

Zinc: The jury is still out on this one, but studies show that zinc prevents rhinovirus from multiplying in the upper respiratory system (throat and nasal passages) by stopping it from lodging in the mucous membranes. For this reason, taking it in lozenge or even syrup form is best because it stays in direct contact with the virus for a longer time.

A few other options are elderberry, which is a strong natural antibiotic, thyme, our indigenous African ginger and warburgia, and apricot kernels. Sutherlandia, which is also indigenous, is first-rate as both a preventative and also to shorten the duration of the illness once you are sick.

Glutathione (or taken as the precursor NAC) with the specific antioxidant pycnogenol, which is for cold and flu protection, as well as grape seed extract, is an excellent remedy for keeping the winter chills at bay. This also works well with vitamin C in the early stages.

Try to avoid sugar and sweet things as far as possible when you first feel the stirrings of illness, as sugar destroys a large percentage of the fighter T cells, which are like the body’s special forces and are essential to our adaptive immunity.

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