Using Herbal Medicine to Prevent and Treat Winter Infections

So it’s that time of year again: Winter. Your nose gets a little runny, then congested, then the sneezing begins, along with a scratchy throat, and if you’re lucky, body aches and pains. “Why does this continue to happen?” we ask ourselves every season.

Prevention is better than any cure when it comes to health and wellbeing.

Quite often, many factors can hinder the functioning of our immune system and its’ ability to fight off an infection. Factors that can impact the function of your immune system and its ability to fight infection include:

  • A high amount of stress, whether it be physical, mental or emotional
  • Inadequate sleep
  • A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • Poor gut function and integrity
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin C, vitamin A, protein and zinc
  • Previous antibiotic use, whether it be long term or short term
  • A sedentary lifestyle

In naturopathy and nutritional medicine, we address the body more holistically, interlinking different body systems. Our aim is to acknowledge presenting symptoms and focus on how diet and lifestyle can impact the health of the individual.

The immune system is a complex and fascinating system, which predominantly lies within our entire gastrointestinal tract. If you think about it, our digestive system comes into contact with the outside world daily, from drinking water, eating food, and even breathing; we can be ingesting pathogens and toxins without even knowing it! So it makes sense that our immune system needs to be thriving to help fight off these daily exposures.

Thankfully, there are several different ways we can support out immune system to both prevent and treat an infection:

  1. Address any underlying gut health issues, and ensure the integrity of our gastrointestinal cells are up to scratch – this prevents any pathogens and toxins (as well as food particles) flowing freely throughout our bloodstream wreaking havoc on the body and the brain.
  2. Reinoculate our gut’s with beneficial bacteria, reducing inflammation and prevent adhesion of pathogenic bacteria to our gut lining.
  3. Provide essential nutrients for our white blood cells and immune function (cells of our immune system that will fight off the bad guys), such as vitamin C, zinc, protein and vitamin A.
  4. Implementing herbal medicine such as the following:
  • Immune stimulants: Promote immune cell function to directly fight off and prevent any infections present. Examples include andrographis and astragalus.
  • Anti-bacterials & anti-microbials: To directly kill and inhibit the adhesion of pathogenic bacteria to the body’s cells, such as golden seal, barberry, baical skullcap, myyrh, thyme and licorice.
  • Anti-virals: To directly kill viral pathogens, including thuja, garlic and St John’s wort.
  • Anti-catarrhals: To calm down any spasm and reduce phlegm and congestion in the upper respiratory tract. Some of my favourites are eyebright, elderflower and golden seal.
  • Adaptogens: Help reduce the hyper-activity of the body’s stress response and subsequent cortisol levels, which can lower immune function; some of my go-tos include withania and siberian ginseng.
  • Diaphoretics: To help promote sweating and the removal of toxins and pathogens from the body, including ginger, elecampagne and yarrow.

If you find you’re constantly getting sick throughout the year, and even find it hard to overcome infections or illnesses, a Naturopathy appointment with herbal and nutritional medicine could benefit you greatly.

Get in contact with The Natural Nutritionist today to book an appointment with resident Naturopath and Herbal Medicine practitioner, Erin Jolley, to see how it could help you from getting run down and stressed, and boost your vitality and immune function today!

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