Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Colds, Flu, and Allergies

The allergy season is upon us and going full-force. At least it is in my area. It's been particularly horrible this year too, probably due to the very mild winter we had and things started blooming early and all that. Ugh! I wish I could just hibernate through it and wake up when it's easier to breathe and my eyes won't itch.... I guess that would be Winter!

Allergies attack at all times of the year here. Pollens in the Spring and Summer then Mold and Mildew in the Fall and Winter. I'm sure there are others, but those are the main ones and as I get older I get more and more sensitive to them and I got to say that it is really annoying!

So, here we go, some tips I read about to ease the suffering of the allergy-prone:

Apples - The quercetin in apples, a flavonoid in the peel, makes cells resistant to allergens and protects lungs from irritants and allergens. When Grandma said "an apple a day keeps the doctor away", she was right. Apples, especially the peels, are also high in antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering fiber that helps reduce inflammation and blood pressure. It also lowers your risk of the clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke. Additionally, apples contain about 5 grams of pectin, a soluble fiber that blocks the absorption of 90 calories of dietary fat and suppresses appetite for up to 4 hours. Before I retired a couple years ago, I would have an apple everyday as a snack between lunch and leaving for the day. I have to admit that I did feel generally better in those days. I've started back on that program.

Honey - Honey contains small flecks of allergens in it. Eating it helps desensitize your immune system so it doesn't go crazy when an allergen comes in. Now, I now one woman, who I used to work with, who said that she had read that eating the honeycomb itself was the best way to avert allergies, so she did that. She ate too much of the stuff and ended up hospitalized for a couple weeks near death. On the good side, she never had another pollen allergy issue once she left the hospital. I don't recommend this! If you are going to eat the comb, eat small amounts!! I have also read, and this makes sense, to buy honey that is made in your own area. The pollens in Vermont are not necessarily the same as the pollens in California, for example. You want the stuff particular to the pollens in your own area. Mix a tablespoon in your morning tea every day or top your oatmeal with it.

Pineapple - Another of my favorites! It is the best natural food source for bromelain, an enzyme that relieves sinus problems like irritation and congestion. It is a natural anti-inflammatory. Plus it's packed with Vitamin C which helps out in cold and flu season. Fresh pineapple is the best to use, processing of canned fruits and vegetables can, and usually does, destroy much of the good stuff in our foods.

Green Tea - A major compound in green tea, EGCG, blocks the body's allergic response to common triggers such as ragweed, dust and dander - relieving sneezing, itchy eyes and congestion. They recommend two cups a day of fresh brewed tea. The bottled tea, they say, is not as good as the processing destroys/limits the EGCG properties.

Perilla - Perilla leaf extract, found in health food stores, has been used by the Chinese for centuries to stop allergies. The leaves contain rosmarinic acid and luteolin which are powerful natural antihistamines. (NOTE: I'm going to try this out!)

Beeswax Candles - When beeswax candles burn, they clean the air, neutralize pollen, mold spores, dust, bacteria and other particles that can trigger allergies and even asthma. The candles release negative ions that sweep up pollutants and pull them out of the air. As with any candles, don't leave them burning within reach of children, pets, or anything that might catch fire, like curtains. Be responsible.

Garlic - Taking a daily garlic supplement during the cold season can lessen your chances of catching a cold, up to 50%. The sulfur compounds in garlic help your heart also by making blood flow more freely and lowering your systolic blood pressure. For a supplement, it's best to take 600 mg to 1200mg in divided doses. I prefer the natural stuff instead of pills, so I go with the crushed clove in an ounce of wine... let it sit for a couple minutes, then swallow it down in one shot! The wine actually boosts the immunity powers of the garlic. Because garlic can thin your blood, so you should talk to your doctor before taking them.

Water - Gargle with it. Just plain old water. Gargle and spit it out morning and night. It will help clear your throat of viruses before they make you sick.

Mushrooms - Very low in calories and zero fat! White button mushrooms are packed with immunity-boosting compounds that deliver protection against colds and other viral infections.

Remember when you were a kid and without batting an eyelash, you'd run out into the cold weather to play with your friends without buttoning your coat or wearing a scarf? Then Mom, or Grandma, would holler out the door at you to come in, button up, or zip up "before you catch your death"? Well, they were sort of right about that. Being in cold weather, alone, will not cause you to have a cold. When you are feeling chilly, your white blood cells and other antibodies become less aggressive toward invading viruses. If you stay warm, those cells and antibodies are better fighters giving your immune system a boost. So, absent an existing virus running through the neighborhood, being in cold weather, by itself, will not cause a cold according to reports in the journal Family Practice.

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