The winter season is in full force and the flu and other upper respiratory infections (URIs) are particularly aggressive and virulent this year, with many deaths of otherwise previously healthy people of all ages due to organ failure secondary to the flu. The cold, dry air of the winter months mingles with seasonal infections and molds to create a perfect storm that inflicts many with annoying lung conditions. These range from chronic, dry coughs to thick mucus-filled chest congestion, colds, and even the flu. Being proactive about maintaining good lung health and function is very important to make yourself a much less susceptible target for these more virulent infections, such as the flu.
The winter weather has a way of attacking the lungs and keeping people gravitating towards cough suppressants, warm tea, and plenty of blankets. It is not pure coincidence that winter can be unfriendly to our lungs. Cold air is dry air and the lungs are the first organs to feel like a parched land during this dry season. Not only is the outside air hostile, but many homes also have gas-forced furnaces and wood-burning stoves circulating dry air throughout our living spaces. This indoor air quality can often be compromised as furnaces spread mold and dust, and wood-burning stoves spew dirt and soot. To make matters worse, bacterial and viral invaders seem to thrive in colder air, explaining the seasonal increase in colds and flus. No wonder the lungs feel imprisoned during the winter months, longing for their own oasis.
Ginger has a long history of use as a culinary herb and as a beneficial agent for many organs, including the lungs and respiratory tract. Ginger has been shown to help strengthen the lung’s natural defenses against organisms such as bacteria and viruses. These potential invaders thrive in the cold weather, making our chances for exposure much greater and demanding a strong defense system. Ginger also helps maintain a natural inflammatory response, which is imperative when winter’s foreign invaders such as mold, dust and microorganisms come into contact with our respiratory tract. These invaders can trigger an inflammatory response as the lungs attempt to eliminate them. Cold, dry air can also irritate the lining of the lungs and trigger an inflammatory response, leading to chronic coughing and sore chests. Inflammation is not the only response to this winter battle against dust, dirt, mold and infections. Damaging free radicals come into play; thus, antioxidants are necessary to overcome them. Ginger happens to be a potent antioxidant that can help combat the free radicals generated in the lungs. All in all, ginger is a multi-tasking herb that can support the lungs on various fronts as the colder weather brings multiple challenges to our respiratory tract.
Astragalus is another herb that is well known for supporting the immune system during times when it is stressed. Similar to ginger, astragalus has the unique ability to support a healthy inflammatory response within the lungs as well as provide antioxidant support. Therefore, astragalus can work in conjunction with ginger to support respiratory tissues from the damaging effects of dry air and air contaminants.
A strong immune system and proper hydration will go a long way in complementing the actions of these herbs. Immune-supporting nutrients such as vitamins C, D and E as well as zinc are beneficial adjuncts. Drinking plenty of water and running a home humidifier can help keep the lungs moist and working optimally. Warm beverages such as tea can serve a dual purpose in hydrating the body and providing a warm vapor which, when breathed in, will help moisten the nasal passage. It is also advantageous to keep air contaminants at a minimum by dusting more frequently and cleaning out furnace vents. Air purifiers may be helpful in older homes that are predisposed to mold contamination. During the remainder of this cold season, you may not have to suffer through annoying coughs and tight lungs. Keeping a few helpful herbs on hand, some supportive nutrients, a clean home, and hydrating your body will be the ticket to breathing easier as you wait for the arrival of warmer days.
If you should come down with a URI, cold, or even the flu it should be addressed immediately and you should consult with your physician and be tested for the flu immediately. If caught very early there are some antiviral medication options to consider. However, research suggests that certain herbs, mushrooms and other natural compounds have potential antiviral and antibacterial ability, as well as the ability to stimulate natural killer (NK) cell activity, cytokine synthesis and the T-cell and B-cell mediated responses necessary for a strong immune defense and helpful in cases of cold and flu. For instance, research on compounds found in nature, and in ImmunoBerry Liquid, show significant improvement in an array of conditions such as influenza, respiratory tract infections, sinusitis, cancer prevention, viral hepatitis, and various bacterial infections.
ImmunoBerry Liquid contains: Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus serotina), Shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes), Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa), and Beta 1-3 Glucan all in a pleasant-tasting liquid immune support for children and adults.
Take 35 drops (1 ml) one to three times daily for immune health and prevention, and up to six times daily during illness, or as directed by your health care practitioner.
Dr. David Brady is an integrative naturopathic practitioner, board certified clinical nutritionist, Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Bridgeport, and Chief Medical Officer for the supplement company, Designs for Health, Inc. He is an internationally sought-after speaker on nutritional, functional and integrative medicine. His recent publication, The FibroFix: Get to the Root of Your Fibromyalgia and Start Reversing Your Chronic Pain and Fatigue in 21 Days, has been featured on the Dr. Oz Blog and elsewhere. Dr. Brady maintains a private a private practice at Whole-Body Medicine in Fairfield, CT. You can contact Whole-Body Medicine at 203-371-8258 ext. 2 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Brady.