Teary eyes, a red nose, swollen cheeks, dry and patchy skin… a cold and the flu definitely do not make for a good beauty ‘do. And as anyone who’s ever been laid up with a box of tissues knows, conventional cold and flu treatments leave much to be desired. So, try these tips to avoid going under the weather!
Whether tossed raw into a salad or lightly sautéd in olive oil and served as a standalone snack, white button mushrooms have powerful immunity-boosting effects, according to the Human Nutrition Research Center on Ageing at Tufts University, USA. These fabulous fungi increase the production of antiviral proteins, which can destroy the foreign invaders that make you sick. I will have mine spread over a pizza, please!
The Ayurvedic arsenal
The Indian equivalent of ginseng – ashwagandha – has long been considered a valuable tonic that benefits the entire body. It is often used in traditional medicine to reduce fevers and inflammation as well as provide a good night’s sleep. More recently, medical studies have identified chemicals in ashwagandha known as withanolides, which are lethal to viruses and bacteria.
The Sanskrit word ‘Om’, which is usually chanted at the beginning and end of yoga or meditation sessions, can do more than calm your nerves. According to Timothy McCall, MD and author of Yoga As Medicine, it can also help you breathe easier as the physical vibration loosens phlegm and can help open up the pathways from which sinuses drain. When chanting, extend the mmmmm sound longer than usual to increase resonance. Continue for a couple of minutes and repeat as often as needed for it to feel good.
The chicken soup theory
Chicken soup has been used to ward off soothe colds and flu as far back as the 12th century and now its healing reputation is firmly backed by science. This potent broth inhibits the production of inflammatory compounds that are released in a viral infection. Vegetable-based soups such as minestrone also seem to reduce inflammation but their effects are not quite as strong as chicken soup’s. And homemade is best but canned ones will work in a pinch.
The Egyptians used copper to sterilise drinking water, Hippocrates used it to treat skin irritations and the Aztecs used it on sore throats. Now, studies being conducted at the University of Southampton, UK, are proving that copper and its alloys (brass and bronze) effectively eliminate bacteria and viruses. Once contaminated, a stainless steel doorknob, faucet or handrail can harbour germs until it is disinfected with chemicals. However, uncoated copper is antimicrobial and begins destroying bacteria and virus on contact. Switch to copper, brass or bronze doorknobs, handles, push plates, countertops, sinks and other frequently touched hardware to help cut down on the spread of infection.
Get steamy in the shower
According to Neil Schachter, MD and author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds and Flu, steam acts as a natural decongestant to open up nasal passages. So, turn up the faucet on full heat for a few minutes before you get into the shower – that way, the room will be full of steam while you wash up. For added effect, pour a few drops of eucalyptus oil, which has antimicrobial effects when inhaled, on the shower floor. But skip the gym’s steam room: damp public places are loaded with germs like mold spores and bacteria.
Getting a good 8 hours of sleep can do more than just keep you awake at work. Studies have that sleep-deprived adults have less than half the normal immune response to the flu virus.
Studies show that you can cut flu and other upper-respiratory illnesses by more than a third with regular moderate exercise.
Wash your hands
Every single doctor would agree that simply washing your hands provides the best defence against colds and flu, reducing chances of illness by 30-40%. Soap and water lifts the germs off the hands and washes them away. But you do need to wash for 20 seconds to be really effective.