Treating and Preventing Colds with Naturopathic MedicineDec 15, 2010 11:34PM ● By Eugene R. Zampieron
Treating and Preventing Colds with Naturopathic Medicine
Treating and Preventing Colds with Naturopathic Medicine
“It is the foolish man who waits to dig a well when he is already dying of thirst.”
This ancient Asian proverb reminds us that the best medicine is prevention of disease and strengthening of the immune response before illness takes hold. In the case of the common cold, this advice is especially relevant. To prevent colds, conventional medicine suggests using symptom-relieving over-the-counter remedies, or taking actions (such as washing hands frequently) to control exposure to a variety of viruses that are, in part, the culprits.
Additionally, a commonly held belief is that “there is no cure for the common cold.” We may not have figured out how to cure colds, but our BODIES have been doing it for thousands of years. In naturopathic philosophy, cold viruses are omnipresent and only cause a problem when the host’s immunity is weakened. The many variables involved in susceptibility and infection make it highly unlikely that a single agent, method, or drug will ever be found to cure these infections.
Naturopathic medicine marshals and supports the mechanisms of disease control and deterrence, which our bodies, in their evolutionary wisdom, have already figured out. It supports health promotion (identifying and mitigating lifestyle stressors), teaches prevention, and uses non-toxic approaches to modulate the innate healing response or the restorative power of nature.
For the common cold, adequate attention to rest and stress reduction is essential. Stress hormones such as cortisol in high amounts, or for a prolonged period, can cause the immune system to malfunction, leading to susceptibility. Sugar in all forms (even natural fruit juices) can cause lazy leukocyte syndrome where the white blood cells become temporarily sluggish in warding off microbes. The Standard American Diet (SAD) also contributes to this syndrome. Dairy products have been shown to be among the most common food allergies. They can lead to swelling of mucus membranes and chronic obstruction, which can trap, rather than eliminate, bacteria and viral particles in the sinus cavity.
Indoor air quality and humidity can play a huge role in upper respiratory infections. Dry winter air negatively influences the body’s capability to flush out the viral particles with mucus production. Mucus is not bad…it is our bodies “protective slime” and acts as a physical trap for microbes. It also contains antibodies used to thwart infection. In the naturopathic way of thinking, mucus can never be allowed to stagnate. Overly dry air can make mucus too thick. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated and the mucus thin and flowing properly. Naturopaths may advise patients to refrain from some cold remedies and antihistamines, which dry up copious coryza. They may, instead, advocate steam and vaporizer treatments with essential oils of peppermint, eucalyptus, thyme, and bitter orange to allow mucus to run, carrying and killing viral particles with it. Nasal irrigation with a Neti pot using normal saline and anti-viral herbs can also be a potent remedy to ward off colds and flu.
Studies in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have indicated that both vitamin C and Zinc increase immune activity and can shorten the duration of a cold by 50%. Other research supports increasing vitamin A use during upper respiratory infections. Recently, vitamin D has been heralded as a potent immune tonic. Vitamin D, produced when the skin is exposed to summer sunlight, and which, conversely, declines in winter, plays a critical role in our vulnerability to influenza and cold infection. Perhaps this is one reason why these illnesses seem so prevalent this time of year. Cod liver oil that has been purified to be mercury and PCB free may still be one of the best old-fashioned remedies!
We May not have figured out how to cure colds, but our BODIES have been doing it for thousands of years.
Although herbs are only beginning to be recognized by conventional medicine, they have been used by naturopaths and natural healers for eons. Some herbs have been proven, even in strict medical trials, to be efficacious for preventing, or hastening recovery from, the common cold. Naturopathic doctors are board certified in Botanical Medicine, and have been trained in the safe clinical use of these remedies.
Echinacea is one of the most widely used herbs, but it is also one of the most misunderstood. Most people (even some conducting recent clinical trials written about in mainstream medical journals) use echinacea products that are too weak and/or in the wrong manner, thus potentially compromising results.
Echinacea products should be high in alkylamides (check labels) and used at the first sign of cold symptoms in high doses on an hourly basis. Waiting three or four days into the cold to begin your echinacea treatment is not efficacious! Echinacea can enhance immune system function and support healthy population of white blood cells critical to wellness. It can also be used as a preventive medicine, an idea which, although controversial, has been supported in the literature. Echinacea is a safe, effective remedy with little to no side effects or drug interactions.
Another superstar cold-fighting remedy, called Andrographis, has emerged from India and the Orient. A study published in Thailand showed the active chemicals in this herb, andrographolides, help with the fever and sore throat of upper respiratory infections. In another placebo controlled trial, it lessened the cold’s intensity and duration. Trials in the journal Research also reported that adults and even children who take Andrographis were less likely to catch colds with long term use of about 6 grams daily.
In short, there’s a lot we can do to prevent, or hasten recovery from, the common cold if we use these time-honored remedies which should be part of your…Natural Medicine Chest.
Dr. Eugene R. Zampieron is a naturopathic physician, medical herbalist, and co-author of The Natural Medicine Chest. He is a faculty member of the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine and has a radio show on WPKN, 89.5 FM in Bridgeport. Learn more by visiting DrZnaturally.com. UB Clinics are located on the campus of the University of Bridgeport and offer affordable services in Naturopathic Medicine, Dental Hygiene, Acupuncture, and Chiropractic. Call 203.576.4349 or visit UBClinics.org for more information.