As the weather cools down in Vancouver, most people are spending more of their time indoors. Coupled with people gathering to celebrate the holidays, it’s no surprise that this is the time of year that the number of cold and flu cases rise. This rise translates into more patients in Vancouver seeking naturopathic care for their symptoms. Whether it’s an annoying cold, the aches and fever of the flu or that you seem to catch every bug that’s going around, there are a number of great remedies in my naturopathic toolbox that can boost your immunity, reduce inflammation and speed the healing process.
Based on research and their clinical track record, here are the top supplements that I use during the cold and flu season:
- Vitamin D. Well-known for its beneficial effect on calcium and bone modeling to treat osteoporosis, Vitamin D is also one of my go to supplements this time of year. That’s because Vitamin D is an important nutrient for immune system function and fighting infections.
- Vitamin C. This essential micronutrient helps to increase your immunity through a number of functions at the cellular level, from protecting the cellular barrier from pathogens in your gut to promoting the accumulation of infection-fighting white blood cells.
- ACES and Zinc. This is shorthand for a combination of the vitamins A, C, and E plus the minerals selenium and zinc. Research indicates that Vitamins A, C and E are more effective and protective when taken together. They protect your body from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Decreased oxidative stress helps your body by reducing inflammation and increasing the effectiveness of your immune system. Selenium is a mineral that also has powerful antioxidant properties. And zinc, also a mineral, helps your body fight off invading pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, and it promotes healing. In fact, researchers have found that taking zinc may actually reduce the duration of your cold or flu and can decrease the incidence of upper respiratory infections in kids.
- Medicinal Herbs. You may be familiar with the herb Echinacea, which grows wild and in gardens throughout the Americas. It’s also known as the Eastern Purple Coneflower. As an herb, Echinacea can help increase the number of circulating white blood cells to help fight infections, and it can also be beneficial in preventing colds. Another herb that I use with my patients is called Andrographis. It’s been used throughout India, China and Southeast Asia for centuries. -Known for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, plus its ability to stimulate immune function, Andrographis is a good choice during cold and flu season.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine. Commonly used to thin and break down mucous, N-Acetyl Cysteine is an antioxidant that can be used to reduce inflammation, reduce congestion and treat bronchitis.
- Mushrooms. There are a number of mushroom-based supplements that I used for immune support, to decrease inflammation and for their antioxidant effects.
It’s important to note that before I prescribe any supplements, medications or treatments, I assess your current symptoms and health history. I do so for a couple of reasons. First, no two patients are the same; and even if your cold seems like “whatever is going around”, your treatment is based on your specific needs. Second, often seemingly unrelated signs and symptoms give me clues into what’s really going on with your health. For example, your diet or digestion may be the culprit causing the chest congestion you’ve been having, and stress or lack of fitful sleep may be why you seem to get a lot of colds each winter. My goal is to understand how I can best help you, work to strengthen your immune response, reduce inflammation and deal with any symptoms that you may be having. If you’d like to know more about naturopathic medicine and how I can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me at BodaHealth.
Dr. Brit Watters is a Naturopathic Doctor at BodaHealth in Vancouver, and is a graduate of the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in New Westminster.