Stay well this winter
There are a lot of winter bugs around at the moment. I know this full well, as I was in quarantine here at Inside Out HQ for over a week. I know full well the misery of these flu germs! I also know how important it is to take time out, rest and keep away from others if you do come down with lurgy. I have posted about this before but thought it might be a useful subject to revisit …
When we initially come in contact with a pathogen, such as a cold or flu virus, our first line of defence is our INNATE immune system. This is our first response team, fast but with no finesse. It’s job is to keep the pathogen under control and to stop it multiplying until the ACQUIRED immune system can make the specific antibodies needed to destroy this particular pathogen. This takes 5 – 10 days, which is quite a long time, and is exactly the reason we feel so rough in the first week of a cold.
Some of the things our innate system does to stop the virus multiplying and make it generally an inhospitable environment for germs include:
1. Produces a lot of phlegm to smoother the virus.
2. Causes fever to burn the virus up.
3. Makes us tired, so that we are forced to rest. The body wants us warm and safe, not going out and risking getting other infections when your immune system is already compromised, and busy dealing with the infection you’ve already got.
It might surprise you to read that the initial symptoms we associate with colds and flu are actually our body’s way of keeping the virus under control, and not the virus itself. Best to let yourself rest, giving your body it’s best chance to recover. This is also the reason that I am a bit suspicious about products and practices that claim to boost the immune system – if it is possible to boost the immune system you’re more than likely just going to get more mucus and fever, as that is your immune response in action!
There is another great reason of course to stay in bed too, and that’s to stop you spreading your germs around. I’m not sure anyone is going to thank you for coming to work and sharing your virus around. You may be able to mask your symptoms with medication but the germs are still there, they can survive for about 24 hours on surfaces such as phones, tables and desks and door handles, and according to NHS guidelines you are still contagious for up to 2 weeks after the first symptoms present (depending on the virus). As someone with a compromised immune system due to my lung problems, I am really grateful when people stay away from me when they’ve got colds and flu, because I pretty much know I’ll be the next one down with it and it takes me longer than most to get over respiratory problems too.
One of my pet frustrations is cold remedy adverts telling us that we should carry on with life when we get winter bugs. NO, please don’t! For all the reasons I’ve stated above the body needs you to rest. The more I research the immune system, the more I strongly believe that it is our continued lack of listening to the wisdom of our body, ignoring our needs, that is leading us further down the path of ill health and particularly towards auto-immune disorders, where our immune system gets so confused it starts to attack itself.
Yogic and Ayurvedic advice is very clear on colds – rest, keep warm and stay hydrated. Focus on foods that reduce inflammation such as ginger, turmeric and plenty of green vegetable, avoid foods that inflame or are mucus forming – sugar, wheat and dairy in particular. Physical yoga probably isn’t going to be very helpful when you’re in the midst of a cold, better to stick with relaxation and plenty of it! Here are some more yoga recommendations if you feel up to them :
Practice breathing techniques such as humming bee breath and alternate nostril breathing (visualise if you can’t breath through your nose).
Strong breaths like Kappalbhati and Bhastrika will help to reduce the damp kapha element, whilst the deep yogic breath will soothe vata. Vata and Kapha are the doshas usually involved with colds.
Try the Surya mudra, to warm your body up. Curl the ring finger in towards the root of the thumb, as per the photo.
Lion pose and Fig Tree are both helpful postures
Clear the sinus’ with Lion pose
if there is a lot of sinus congestion.
I always do Jala neti (salt water nasal washing) to clear out my sinus passages, and steam inhalations are very useful (the cold virus finds hot, steamy conditions very inhospitable).
Stay well! Do share your favourite cold and flu remedies – I’m sure many of them will include hot toddies!! Ix