Preventing Colds and Flu with Naturopathic Medicine

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Woman Playing in Leaves


Written by: Dr. Seth Enos ND, EMT-P

As August winds down autumn begins to creep in. The leaves shift their hues to a more prismed palette and the wind grows a bite in the sun’s shade that formerly was a welcome, cool reprieve to the heat. The artisanal fall beers begin to find their way to grocery shelves and the Seahawks gear returns in force. The new-old vogue couture is always green and blue. Children begin the oft perceived onerous school year and parents find a fresh release in the silence school hours, so long as after school activities do not overwhelm their schedule.

Having grown up in New England autumn always has been the best season of the year. The oppressive muggy heat of summer has passed and September promises the best of the lobster diving season as the north Atlantic retains her warmth despite the cooling, crisp blue-sky days. October brings in her best colors, fresh apples, and warm jackets. Halloween reminds us that there is still sacred influence in the dark of the night that is both awesome and awful in its power. The admonishment that not all mysteries are meant to be understood is a frequent lesson from this, my most favored holiday. November brings us together in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the holiday of my home town, as we look upon the first tendrils of winter licking at fallen leaves.

Autumn is a season of change. So too there is a shift in our bodies. We feel autumn as much as we mark it on our calendars and smart phones. It is sensed in the shortening days and longer nights. We are reminded of this in the cooling weather and the crisp, clear skies. Despite electric lights having prolonged the work day through the fall and winter months, still we cannot help but be affected by the tilt of our hemisphere away from the sun. Subtly we redouble our efforts in organization and efficiency, a holdover from our own school days, in an effort to stave off the effect of fewer daylight hours. Seemingly more energy is required to do less and we can feel run down, left vulnerable to colds and flu.

Ensuring good sleep and a healthy diet helps to ease this transition of season with all its changes. A restful night allows the body a chance to reset and recharge for the new day. It also allows our immune system to remain strong and vigilant against a cold or flu. Diet too affects our immune system and increasing antioxidant, vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, pomegranates, and blueberries can go a long way to improving our body’s response to biological invaders. Adding mushrooms and fresh garlic to meals also stimulates the immune system in other ways that can be beneficial for fighting off fall colds. Zinc is a mineral often noted for being beneficial against viruses. Fall foods with respectable levels of zinc include pumpkin seeds, oysters, salmon, and garlic among others.

Herbal immune stimulators may be a consideration as well however you should check with a naturopathic physician or other health care provider trained in herbal medicine before starting any kind of herbal support. Some herbs, known as adaptogens may be beneficial to ease the seasonal transition as well. Astragalus, tulsi (holy basil), and ginseng land in this category. All are safe and have been used by many cultures for generations, but to be effective need to be taken at the proper dose or for a certain duration to gain benefit. Again it is best to consult a naturopathic physician or other medical practitioner who is well versed in this form of medicine before beginning any kind of new regimen.

Autumn is a great season to take a step back to assess the demands on your time. Parsing out which demands are important and which can be set aside makes moving into the oncoming holiday season easier by freeing up time. Especially as holiday projects and shopping for seasonal gifts become a priority. This is a season that is often accompanied by extra stress as we rush to find that special something for a loved one and are always pressed for time to do so. Family functions, dinners, and other gatherings eat up time, even if it is time well spent, and shorter days make it seem as though we run into the late evening far sooner than we did a month or two prior.

Soon sweatshirts will get aired out again and a hot tea with a good book becomes the most appealing activity for a grey, wet afternoon. The Seahawks will take up Sundays and BBQs will reluctantly hold out until the last possible session. Stress levels can rise with the holidays just as the hours of the day grow shorter. During this season of transition make sure that you take time to care for yourself and be well for the coming days of beauty and change.

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