Cold season is upon us.  With the arrival of fall comes the predictable increase in coughs and sneezes.  It is impossible avoid all colds, but by following these four steps many can be prevented.

hand washing prevents the spread of colds says Dara Thompson, a naturopathic doctor in Hilo Hawaii

1)   Wash your hands.  Many different viruses cause the symptoms of the common cold, but they are all transmitted the same way.  These viruses pass from person to person by two major routes.  They can travel on respiratory droplets when one person coughs or sneezes close to another person.  Respiratory secretions can also contaminate hands or objects.  We then collect “germs” on our hands, and infect ourselves by touching our eyes, nose or mouth.  This is why frequent hand washing is so effective at preventing the spread of colds.

2)   Nasal lavage.  In this process a salt-water solution is used to wash out the nasal passages.  This removes allergens, bacteria and viral particles.  It also keeps the nasal passages moist.  Many viruses can only attach to mucous membranes when they are dry.  There are many types of neti pots for nasal lavage/irrigation, and most come with detailed instructions for use.  Saline nasal spray is also helpful, especially in a dry environment like an airplane or an air-conditioned room.

3)   Boost your immune system.  When viruses get past our outer defenses, a strong immune system is our best protection.  To provide the building blocks for our immune cells we need to eat a diet rich in omega 3 oils, high quality protein and darkly colored vegetables and fruits.  Certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, selenium and vitamin A can also be used to boost immunity.  However, these should be used under the guidance of a health care professional, because many of them can be toxic at high levels.  Above all, we need to reduce stress.  Cortisol, the hormone that is produced in response to mental or physical stress is a potent immunosuppressant.

Excess sugar suppresses immunity says Dara Thompson, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Hilo Hawaii

4)   Skip the sugar.  Sugar inhibits the absorption of vitamin C.  This decreases the activity of white blood cells and suppresses immunity.  Around the holidays sweets can be hard to avoid, but practicing moderation is your best defense.

Don’t miss next week’s immune boosting recipes!