06 December 2010

No need to wave the white flag when you feel a cold coming on

Even here in sunny San Diego, we are not absolved from the common winter cold that seems to be making its way from office to office these days. Working in the healthcare field, I am unfortunately exposed to a LOT of germs. I do my best to treat my body lovingly, so that it will be well-equipped to ward off a cold. But this weekend, I awoke on Saturday morning to all the tell-tale signs of an imminent cold; fatigue, headache, congestion, loss of appetite, and a sore throat accompanied with what seemed to be the start of swollen glands. Usually once these symptoms set in, I resign to the fact that my next few days will probably be spent laying on my couch feeling miserable. But this time I decided to try to stop things before they progressed any further. I fought my cold, and I won! By Sunday evening, I knew I had beat it. Here's what I did:

1. Rest. This isn't necessarily about resting your body (although physical rest does help), it's more about resting your mind. Stress can wreck havoc on your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to viruses. Take a break from work if possible. Read a book, meditate, take a leisurely walk. Do something that you enjoy, while at the same time allowing your normally frantic mind a much needed reprieve. I spent Saturday morning strolling through my local farmer's market, nibbling on fresh fruit, and listening to some amazing jazz by a local musician.... decadent.

2. Alkalize. Our body, much like a swimming pool, must maintain a pH balance of about 7.3. When we challenge our body by providing it acidic foods (i.e. meat, dairy, alcohol, sugar) our body has to work extra hard to buffer the acidity in an attempt to maintain a basic pH. This is very taxing on our immune system, and makes us much more susceptible to catching a cold. Most fruits and vegetables are alkalizing, but the most alkalizing foods by far are dark, leafy greens and sea vegetables. I made myself a big green smoothie for lunch on Saturday, and packed it full of spinach, bluberries and bananas.

3. Detox. Our bodies excrete toxins through our pores, so working up a little sweat can help you to detoxify. If you are feeling a cold coming on, you may not be up to an intense work out, but you can still break a sweat without overdoing it. Yoga is a wonderful way to detox, and if you practice heated yoga, you will be sure to sweat even if you aren't working out at a high intensity level. When done right, a session of yoga will also take care of tip #1, as it should be a time of rest and presence for your wandering mind. I taught a yoga class Saturday night, and it was the perfect intensity for me. I was able to do what felt good, and then back off from demonstrating when it felt like too much.

4. Hydrate. The body is made up of about 70% water; so if you're dehydrated you're body has to work harder to function. The body lives within a very narrow range of normal parameters, and when you throw it off balance, you cause extra exertion. And extra work for day to day functioning means less energy can be diverted to fight off the oncoming cold.

5. Use Nature. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Food can heal, so use it to your advantage. Some heavy hitters for fighting a cold are ginger, garlic, lemon and cayenne.

Ginger: anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune supporting. Ginger can also help promote healthy sweating, which assists with detoxification
Garlic: anti-viral, anti-fungal, ant-bacterial, cardio-protective, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory
Lemon: anti-oxidant, excellent source of vitamin C which supports the immune system, highly alkalizing, digestive aid, buffers and flushes out toxins
Cayenne: anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, cardio-supportive, anti-inflammatory, aids in detoxification, improves digestion, reduces allergies

You can easily make a nice little cup of tea with the above ingredients. Just boil two cups of water, along with a few minced cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of minced ginger, half a lemon, and a dash of cayenne. Once it reaches a boil, let it all simmer for about 30 minutes, and then pour it through a strainer to get your cup of tea. I drank about 5 cups of this magical concoction this weekend. It tastes surprisingly delicious.

And there you have it; simple, natural and effective methods for staying sniffle-free this winter. Yet I would be remiss if I didn't add one more thing: Above all, exist in a state of gratitude, joy and peace, because as Hippocrates also said, “Natural forces within us are the TRUE healers of disease.”

Lori Zito | @LoriZito
Lori is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She works as a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website Live In The Balance and follow her on Facebook.

Photo credit: cc:flickr.com/photos/vanherdehaage