The last festivals end and it seems with that the summer does too. September came and with it the colder nights, foggy mornings and rain. A lot of it. And with that usually the first signs of the annual cold come along too. When you keep a healthy diet and lifestyle, colds have less grip on you. But that does not mean they do not affect you at all. It is common to feel a bit run down in the winter time, experience tiredness, a sore throat and aching muscles especially in your neck and shoulders. Although your body does not directly send you to bed to sleep it off, these are all signs that you are battling something beneath the surface.
Colds are difficult to treat and so the general advice is usually to just sit them out. There are however a few things you can do to suit your immune system up for winter or help your body recover once you have caught a cold.
All vitamins are important to keep your body healthy but vitamin C is definitely the one with the biggest immune boosting properties. These properties not only help you to not get a cold, it has also been tested that getting in more vitamin C when you are sick, can shorten your cold symptoms by 24 to 36 hours. A diet rich in vitamin C therefore is important, especially in the colder winter months. Vitamin C is commonly associated with citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, probably because many vitamin C supplements have a citrus taste. And citrus fruits do indeed contain vitamin C, as do many other fruits. But did you know that many other foods actually contain a lot more? A few examples that contain more vitamin C per serving are kiwis, kale, spinach and bell peppers.
One of the spices normally found in the traditional Indian kitchen and the base ingredient of a good curry paste can actually help you prevent and treat a cold too. Turmeric is loaded with antioxidants and has an immune boosting and anti-inflammatory effect which helps your body fight infections, fever and joint pain. There is a little to know before you can brew the perfect turmeric latte for your sick days though: turmeric is best absorbed by the body in combination with some black pepper. Does not sound appealing to put that combination into your hot milk? Think about how black pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin, the important compound in turmeric, by more than 2000%!
Cut up an onion
Never underestimate your grandmother's’ home remedies. This one is almost as old as time but it still works wonders. If a cold is leaving you with trouble breathing at night, cut up an onion and put it on a plate on your nightstand, close to your head. The chemicals in onion that normally make you cry when you cut it, clear your airways and help you breathe at night. Your room is a bit smelly the next morning, but that is nothing a scented candle can not fix.
Ahh ginger, the painkiller of all plants. When you have caught a cold, ginger tea may even be a better treatment than popping pills. It is natural, easy, cheap, warm and has almost no side effects. We say ‘almost’ because you should not consume more than 4 cups of it a day with some hours time distance in between. Too much ginger can give you nausea, something you do not want to add to your list when you feel unwell already. The right amount however will soothe pain, help you sweat out toxins and give you a much needed boost of energy.
Honey can not actually cure or prevent a cold but it works great against its symptoms. Eaten by the spoon or stirred into tea it relieves a sore throat and cough. Research has shown that honey was just as effective as a nighttime cough suppressant compared to typical throat medicine. As honey is also natural, without side effects, widely available and tastes good it is a great addition to your medicine cabinet. Not all honeys are created equal though. Make sure you catch the 100% natural ones without added sugar or flavoring in them.
Written by, Maritza Kolenbrander, Food Psychologist at Plantifulplan