Coughs & Colds: Your Natural Guide

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It’s cough and flu season again. Missing school and days of work can be difficult during this time of year. Scavenging the pharmacy aisles for the perfect remedy to get you through the night can be frustrating and confusing especially when you are sick. So, here a few quick tips on how to stay healthy in the winter and what to stock up on.

Prevention is Key!

Studies show that our immune systems flourish at higher body temperatures and our immunity is reduced at cooler body temperatures. Unfortunately, cold and flu viruses thrive in cooler environments where our immune systems are not optimal. Some suggest it may be one of the reasons we are more likely to get sick in the winter.

To make yourself more resilient, increase your core temperature. Consume foods that are nourishing and warming during the winter months. Enjoy soups, stews, hot drinks and teas with immune boosting herbs and foods.  Use warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, fennel, black pepper, cayenne and cardamom. Minimize your time with large crowds to limit your exposure to potential viruses during the cooler months like cruise ships and shopping malls.

Manage your stress level, slow down, balance your commitments and breathe. Wash your hands frequently. Consider hot yoga, steam, warm baths, and saunas during these months. As it gets darker earlier in the winter months, plan to go to bed earlier. Resting, celebrating, and being merry in the winter months may have some added health benefits for mood and boosting your immunity.

Nature knows Best!

Eat seasonally. Nature provides us with the right foods to help us stay healthy. In the fall and winter, eat seasonal yellow, orange and red vegetables which are loaded with Vitamin C and A. These vitamins are essential for a strong immune system. Winter fruits and vegetables like clementines, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, tangerines, pomegranate, pumpkin, squash, yams, sweet potatoes, bell peppers (yellow, orange, red), onions, garlic, beets, turnips and carrots provide essential vitamins to boost your immunity. It is amazing how Food Is Medicine!

Plant Based Remedies!

Here are some simple, safe plant-based remedies for cough and cold symptoms.

  1. Menthol, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Cinnamon, Cloves, Oil of oregano and Camphor – essential oils help as decongestants for cold symptoms. Add nasal massage for added benefit.  Use as nasal ointments or drops, chest rubs, or added to bath water, a cup of hot water as an inhalant, or even an aromatherapy infuser.
  2. Infusions with Thyme, Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Horehound- loosen secretions as an expectorant.  Other expectorants are garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and ginger. Hot and spicy foods will do the trick!
  3. Teas for ant-viral properties, sore throats and cough: Ginger-Honey-Lemon Tea, Sage Tea, Echinacea Tea, Elderberry Tea. Sip on these for prevention and to shorten the duration of the common cold.
  4. Warm salt water gargles, nasal saline rinses and warm sinus compresses
  5. Fermented Foods- yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kambucha, miso
  6. Supplements like Zinc, Vit D3 , astralagus, panax ginseng, andrographis can be added to boost your immune system during the cold & flu season.(always consult with your doctor first!)

With all natural remedies, it is important to partner with your healthcare provider to make sure they are safe with your prescription medications and medical conditions. Any condition that progresses to respiratory distress, dehydration, high fever or symptoms in high risk patients should lead to immediate medical attention. Medical advice should be taken particularly with infants under the age of one, pregnant women, elderly or sick with any over-the-counter remedies.

As with everything, my first recommendation is balance. Proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress reduction and self-care are the corner stones to good health. Nourish your body with healthy habits and reap the benefits of a healthy mind, body and soul!

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The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine. 
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

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