Among the most widespread and well-known ailments worldwide, the cold is a disease of viral origin that affects millions of people every year: extremely contagious, it is almost always completely reversible but still very annoying. Let's find out together what are the symptoms, the causes and above all the treatment to speed up its recovery and help our body prevent its onset.
A disease of the upper airways
The cold is an upper respiratory tract infection that can be caused by more than two hundred viruses (usually belonging to the Rhinovirus and the better known Coronavirus families), capable of spreading by air, through sneezing, coughing, or by contact with infected objects.
The mucous membranes lining the nose and throat react to the virus invasion by swelling and secreting more mucus. This results in congestion, sneezing, coughing, sore throat and a feeling of general malaise, which represent the mechanism by which the body "expels" the virus and forces it to slow down and rest. Although this disorder can occur at any time of the year, it is more frequent during autumn and winter due to sudden changes in temperature and low temperatures that weaken our defenses, and especially affects people whose immune system is depressed due to overwork, persistent ailments or poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyle.
The best cure consists in stimulating the body's natural defenses as soon as the well-known symptoms appear. When the virus settles in the body, it is possible to resort to natural therapies which perform a direct antiviral action, as well as induce the immune system to eliminate and fight the virus. Most colds last anywhere from three to ten days. It is recommended not to take over-the-counter medicines as the symptoms of the disease represent an attempt by the immune system to remove the virus. As a result, medicines that suppress symptoms prolong the duration of the disorder or can cause it to come back.
Distinguishing a cold from the flu isn't always easy: in adults, the flu manifests itself with general aches and fever, although even a cold is sometimes associated with a slight increase in temperature. In children, however, fever is one of the normal symptoms of the disorder. If cold symptoms persist or are accompanied by yellow or greenish mucus secretion, it is recommended to consult a doctor as it could be allergy or a different infection, such as sinusitis.
The onset of more than two colds a year in adulthood may indicate an underlying intoxication of the body. According to some researchers, the body uses the cold virus to detoxify itself through the elimination of mucus and loss of appetite, which is certainly true in some cases. Furthermore, among the root causes of recurring colds there could be a weakening of the immune system caused by an incorrect lifestyle.
SYMPTOMS of a cold
- rhinorrhea (runny nose);
- Sore throat;
- swollen lymph nodes;
- Loss of appetite;
- Moderate fever (sometimes high in children).
- Intoxication of the organism;
- Compromised immune system due to lifestyle, nutritional deficiencies and high levels of stress.
TREATMENT: what to do if we have a cold
At the food level, some precautions can help us prevent the onset of colds and instead support our immune system. In fact, if we supply the right nutrients to the body, our natural defenses and therefore the "barriers" that the body uses to defend itself from external attacks will be extremely efficient. Let's see how.
Recommended foods: what to do
Eat light meals. Steamed vegetables, soups, broths and herbal teas allow the body to focus on the healing process instead of digestion. In case of loss of appetite, do not force yourself to eat.
Since it is essential to keep the body hydrated, drink plenty of pure water and other liquids (see the considerations on sugar and juices in the following paragraph) to expel toxins and prevent the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract from drying out.
It is also suggested that you increase your consumption of ginger, onions and garlic and try adding one or more of these foods to chicken soup or miso.
Hot water with lemon, honey and cinnamon is a traditional cold remedy. Well a cup every two hours to soothe the discomfort in the throat and chest, prevent the accumulation of mucus and stimulate healthy sweating.
Foods to avoid: what not to do
Sugar reduces the number of white blood cells the body makes and can compromise the immune system. It is therefore advisable to eliminate refined sugars from the diet during the period of illness or in any case to reduce their consumption. It is also important to consume juices with caution. In fact, although they are a traditional cure for colds, fruit juices - in particular orange juice - usually contain more sugars than vitamin C (especially if they are not centrifuges or freshly squeezed but of industrial origin). Before drinking them, it is suggested to dilute them.
During the cold, avoid the consumption of milk and dairy products as they stimulate the secretion of mucus and can aggravate the annoying symptoms.
Useful supplement to support the immune system
Even nutraceuticals can come to our aid to support the immune system and speed up the healing process from a cold. In fact, there are so many scientific evidences that allow us to affirm that phytotherapy and natural extracts represent a concrete and valid support for our defences. These are:
- Echinacea ( Echinacea purpurea ) : one of the most used and sought-after medicinal plants in the phytotherapeutic panorama, it is known for its immunostimulating properties. Its action increases resistance to infections and has also proved to be very useful in treating flu states and preventing colds. The active ingredients contained in Echinacea extracts are flavonoids, caffeic acid derivatives, polysaccharides with stimulating activity, polyphenols, glycoproteins, essential oils and polyenes.
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) – also from Rosa Canina extracts : water-soluble vitamin well known for its antioxidant action and contrast to the formation of free radicals, it actually has important effects also on the immune system. Ascorbic acid participates in many metabolic reactions, raises the immune barriers and prevents the risk of contracting diseases. Rosa canina is known for its very high concentration of vitamin C and flavonoids, a synergy that allows to enhance the absorption of vitamin C itself. The extract of this plant therefore has an immunomodulatory, antioxidant, vitaminizing and adjuvant action in flu syndromes.
- Zinc : microelement component of hundreds of metabolic reactions necessary for the functioning of different hormones (cofactor). It is essential for wound healing, tissue repair and immune response. Some studies have also shown that taking zinc helps to increase the level of T lymphocytes, thus reducing the duration and severity of infections.
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale) : spice widely used in cooking, it is able to support the immune system. It is in fact used for the prevention of seasonal ailments typical of the winter months.
- Astragalus ( Astragalus membranaceus ) : it is a plant that belongs to the legume family, and its extract has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine as an adaptogen and to increase resistance to disease. Contains triterpene saponins, flavonoids, biogenic amines and polysaccharides, as well as amino acids, iron, zinc, copper, chromium, coumarins, choline, betaine, sitosterol, triterpene glycosides and numerous acids (folic, nicotinic, chlorogenic, caffeic, linolenic), which undoubtedly make it a "multifunctional" remedy.
- Pomegranate ( Punica granatum ) : the extract of this fruit is rich in tannins, substances with an antioxidant action which act as allies in fighting flu and colds. Furthermore, numerous recent researches have established that pomegranate extract is also useful in the treatment and cure of "long-Covid" and the resulting symptoms.
- Probiotics : The gut is our second brain. Per this reason, taking care of it is very important. In fact, the health of the entire immune system also depends on the intestine, and when there are alterations the whole body is affected. Probiotics also increase the cells that secrete immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the respiratory mucosa, which allows our defenses to be more reactive against colds and flu.
- Medicinal mushrooms - Cordyceps, Reishi and Shiitake : both Cordyceps (https://blog.yamamotonutrition.com/it/cordyceps-sinensis-i-benefici-del-fungo-del-bruco-per-gli-sportivi-a871) and Reishi (https://blog.yamamotonutrition.com/it/reishi-benefici-e-proprieta-del-reishi-fungo-dell-immortalita-a861) and Shiitake (https://blog.yamamotonutrition.com/it /mushroom-shiitake-beneficial-properties-and-history-a902) are mushrooms used for thousands of years in oriental and Ayurvedic medicine. These mushrooms have a positive influence on the immune system, strengthen it and support the body's natural defences.
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