08 Jun Colds and Flu
Winter is upon us.
Colds and flu ? We’ve got you covered with our seven top tips. While you’re rugging up against the cold, sipping your vegan red wine and devouring your vegan stews in front of a roaring open fire, don’t forget to strengthen your immunity against colds and flu.
Arm yourself with our top tips to tackle the dreaded lurgy, and if you do fall victim to a virus, practice what we at Gently Vegan like to call “Extreme Self Care”, as you nurture yourself back to the best of health.
1. CONSIDER THE FLU JAB
Every year, there’s controversy about the flu vaccine, but every year, according to the official stats, it grows increasingly important to get it.
At Gently Vegan, we believe that the benefits of this potentially life-saving vaccine have to be put on the table, thereby empowering our readers to make an informed decision as to what they will do.
In in 2017, close to 250, 000 laboratory-confirmed cases of Influenza were diagnosed – and they’re just the ones that were reported (1). Furthermore, according to the NSW Health, Communicable Diseases, Influenza Monthly Epidemiology Report December 2017 and 2016, there were 654 influenza-related deaths in NSW alone 2017 – a 204 per cent increase on the 215 reported deaths in 2016. Nationally, 1100 flu deaths were reported for 2017.
Susanne Sperger, the Immunisation Coalition’s Head of Communications adds, “last year, influenza in Australia resulted in more than 29,000 hospitalisations, with nine per cent admitted directly to ICU.”
According to Sperger, getting vaccinated not only improves your chances of staying healthy; it reduces the risk of you passing on the virus to vulnerable members of the community. “This includes the elderly, children, pregnant women or people with underlying medical conditions, for whom the catching the flu can mean the difference between being at home with a chronic disease, or being in hospital with life-risking complications like bacterial pneumonia.”
In Australia, the vaccine is free to everyone aged six months to five years of age, pregnant women and anyone over the age of 65. But here’s the deal – the flu vaccine is not vegan. It’s cultivated in eggs. While there are murmurs of a vegan-friendly flu vaccine becoming available in the United States, at the time of writing, the Immunisation Coalition was unable to confirm if it was in the pipeline for release in Australia.
If you don’t wish to vaccinate, we get it – that’s your choice, but please do follow the advice we’ve outlined below to help keep yourself and those around you in the best of health.
2. EAT YOUR VITAMINS
Before you reach for supplements, try to incorporate fresh foods into your diet that ramp up your immune-building vitamins quota. These include:
Vitamin A Rich Foods
Vitamin A supports immune system function and is also thought to strengthen the cells in the lungs and nasal passages. You’ll find it in green leafy veggies, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and apricots. The RDI for men and women respectively is approximately 700 micrograms and 600 micrograms. Pregnant women should only source vitamin A from natural sources and not exceed the RDI.
Vitamin C Rich Foods
The importance of vitamin C in immune-strength is well documented and it is linked to the prevention of the common cold and other respiratory infections. As a water-soluble vitamin, it leaves the body faster than fat-soluble vitamins, so it’s important that we get adequate amounts daily. RDI ranges from 40 micrograms in babies to between 75 and 90 micrograms for adults. You’ll find it in citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, mango, capsicum, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and spinach.
Vitamin D Rich Foods
This vitamin, thought to play an important role in building immune defences, is readily sourced from sunlight, so you can easily fall below quota in the winter months (RDI is approximately 10-20micrograms for adults). Be sure to add plenty of mushrooms to your diet, in particular Shitake, which are a plentiful source. Leave them in a sunlit spot for a few hours prior to cooking to boost their vitamin D levels.
Zinc Rich Foods
Zinc helps heal wounds, but it also wards off winter woes by supporting lymphocytes, which are the infection-fighting cells in the body. RDI of zinc is typically up to 15 micrograms a day. Up your intake by snacking on cashews, cacao, miso soup and pumpkin seeds, all of which taste great, but won’t add empty calories.
3. CONSIDER VEGAN SUPPLEMENTS
If your diet is lacking, you may wish to consider taking supplements while you work at getting it back on track. We believe it’s best to seek advice from your health care professional before taking any supplement, but there are some over the counter vegan preparations available at most pharmacies, that seem to work really well.
Bioglan’s Armaforce, $62 for 120 tablets, Bioglan.com.au This immune-building supplement has garnered an urban reputation for blitzing colds and flu, if you take it at the first signs of illness. Gently Vegan publisher, Catherine Carr swears by it. It’s designed with the aim of helping to support your immune system against respiratory sickness and reducing the severity and duration of colds. It contains herbal ingredients including andrographis (a plant native to India and Sri Lanka), echinacea, olive leaf and vitamin C.
Swisse Ultiboost Immune, $19.95 for 60 tablets, Swisse.com This combines active ingredients of olive leaf, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, copper and citrus bioflavonoids extract to support immunity and help relieve symptoms of winter lurgies.
4. SWAP CAFFEINE FOR HERBAL TEA
One coffee a day won’t do much damage, in fact studies hint at it being really good for you, but excess caffeine can lead to adrenal fatigue, which can weaken your immunity. Caffeine triggers the adrenal glands to release the hormone cortisol, which plays an important role in immunity. Too much can cause an imbalance in cortisol levels and negatively impact immune strength. Instead, sip on immune-strengthening herbal tea like Pukka Three Ginger, or Elderberry and Echinacea, $7.95 each, pukkaherbs.com.au.
5. STAY ALKALISED
An alkalised body is better able to ward off illness and disease. With this in mind, eat plenty of alkalising foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and wholegrains and avoid acid-forming foods such as sugary, junk foods, processed foods and too much alcohol. An ideal pH for alkalinity and improved immunity is around seven. You can check yours with a simple pH testing kit purchased from your local pharmacy. If your alkalinity is a little out of whack, consider a cleanse to get you back on track. Cut out sugar, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine and other acid-forming foods and drinks and support this with a holistic supplement. Try Arbonne Body Cleanse, $79 for seven sachets, Arbonne.com. It’s a botanical, vegan supplement that supports the body’s detoxification processes and helps balance gut health.
6. GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
Eight hours of quality sleep is as important as breathing clean air. While we sleep, our bodies go into ‘rest and repair mode’ releasing antibodies that fight infection and inflammation. When we become sleep deprived, we rob our body of this vital function and the immune system quickly becomes impaired.
7. EXERCISE REGULARLY
Aside from the endorphin rush, studies point to regular exercise being a potent immune-booster and it’s even thought that it may flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. Mild exercise is all you need – take a brisk early morning walk or use your lunch hour to walk through the local park, at least three times a week.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET SICK
Firstly, stay home and rest. Fronting up to work isn’t going to make you feel better and nobody loves the martyr who brings in bugs and spreads disease. If you must work, do so remotely – most businesses are set up for remote work nowadays and any missed meetings will surely be understood.
Avoid spreading illness to friends and family members by using good hand hygiene and covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing. Try not to be in close contact with the young or old if you are sick, even if you’re not that unwell.
Take the time to cocoon yourself, get plenty of sleep and enjoy hearty soups and stews, filled with healing herbs like ginger and garlic, and chilli if you’ve got a taste for spice. Use an atomiser to diffuse decongesting and uplifting essential oils such as peppermint, tea tree and eucalyptus throughout your home.
Next, consider your medical options. “If it’s a cold you’ve caught, your initial symptoms will be throat irritation, sneezing and a runny nose,” says Professor Ron Eccles, Former Director Common Cold Centre (1988-2017) Cardiff University UK. “Try using a natural nasal spray containing Carrageenan [a red seaweed], which has been shown in clinical trials to reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of colds.” Try Mundicare Cold Defence Nasal Spray, $14.95, mundicare.com.au. “If symptoms become worse the first line of treatment is to take a pain killer such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen (always read the label on the pack for restrictions),” advises Professor Eccles.
“This will control symptoms of sore throat, headache, fever, sinus pain and muscle aches and pains. The next good treatment is a hot tasty sweet or spicy drink as this will soothe symptoms of sore throat and cough.”
If it’s the flu, treatment can be a little trickier. “The treatment of the flu can be very difficult because the initial presentations can appear to be similar to the common cold,” says Dr. Liz Swinburn, an emergency specialist at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. “If we get to the treatment early, a conservative approach of rest, staying away from work or school, keeping up your fluids, and simple pain relief medication may suffice.”
“However, if symptoms become worse, secondary infections may occur. If you are not getting better within two to three days of simple treatment, you should return to your GP to discuss the next steps.” References: (1) http://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/news-media/2017-influenza-statistics/
Beauty and Lifestyle Director Shonagh Walker