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With winter on our doorstep it’s time to prepare for the onslaught of those cold and flu viruses that carry enough punch to lay you low for a good while. The best way to avoid getting ill this winter is to strengthen and support your immune system naturally through a herbal or homeopathic approach.
There is an enormous, and sometimes daunting, choice of natural remedies to choose from when preparing to protect your body against cold and flu viruses. Here is some insight into some of the more popular options.
HERBAL REMEDIESSo often a physical illness is a manifestation of what we are feeling spiritually, mentally and emotionally. When we are compromised on any one, or all, of these levels our immune system may flounder and we become particularly vulnerable to the viruses and bacteria that surround us daily, and in winter even more so. Herbs are plants with intrinsic medicinal properties and not only nurture us through an illness, but support and strengthen the immune system so that we do not fall ill in the first place.
According to integrative doctor Arien van der Merwe, standardised herbal extracts should be your first choice when it comes to investing in a herbal remedy. These extracts contain sufficient quantities of the herb for the desired effect. They can be in a liquid or solid form. A herbal tincture comprises extracts of fresh or dried herbs dissolved in alcohol. The quality of a tincture is as good, or bad, as the herb/s it contains. Freeze-drying involves the use of chemical solvents to make plant extracts. The chemical solvents are removed when the extract is exposed to a very low temperature. The fixed residue is then packed into capsules.
EchinaceaEchinacea, also known as the purple coneflower, is one of the more popular herbal remedies in the fight against cold and flu viruses. It is native to the USA where it was widely used as a medicine for many centuries by the Native Americans. It is very effective in the treatment of colds, flu, sinusitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis and middle ear infection. The preferred species of Echinacea are E. angustifolia and E. purpurea.
Tincture or tablets made from extracts (not the powdered herb) is best for optimal therapeutic effect. A tea made from 1 to 2 g of dried Echinacea can be taken three to six times a day during infection. Gargle with 5 ml Echinacea tincture mixed into some warm water three times a day if you have a sore throat.
Research conducted by the ETH Zurich Laboratory on Dr A Vogel’s Echinaforce product has shown that Echinacea, as an immune modulator, supports, rather than stimulates, specific immune system functions.¹ Prior to this research Echinacea was not considered safe for long-term use as it was contraindicated for auto-immune diseases, but now further applications for this herb appear to be positive.
Elderberry‘Tip your hat to the elder’ is an old Austrian saying depicting the respect Europeans had for the elderberry tree and its fruit; and when one examines its health benefits, it’s easy to see why.
Elderberry extract can be particularly effective against influenza viruses, fever, aches and pains, and sore throats and coughs are more short-lived in those who use elderberry. Recovery also appears to be faster. Elderberry reduces sinus mucus secretion which means better drainage, recovery from a sore throat and a milder headache. The wise man Hippocrates himself claimed the elderberry to be ‘an excellent remedy’.
Plant an elderberry tree in your garden: the blossoms make great fritters, cordials and wine! Elderberry is available in tincture and capsule form.
EucalyptusEucalyptus radiata is the safest choice but it is not as cheap as E. globulus which is more commonly sold.
Eucalyptus is very popular as an essential oil and can be inhaled, used as a massage oil or added to bath water. It is excellent for acute and chronic bronchitis, and respiratory problems. Six drops of eucalyptus oil (diluted first in a bit of full-cream milk) added to your bath water will relieve mucus congestion, bronchitis, sinusitis, and aches and pains. The safest way, however, to use eucalyptus is via inhalation – place a few drops on a tissue or put a few drops in an electric diffuser, candle vapouriser or burner, or in a humidifier. Eucalyptus oil taken internally can be fatal.
GarlicGarlic, also known as the ‘stinking rose’, contains allicin – an extremely effective natural antibiotic that fights infection. In addition to its natural infection-fighting properties, garlic also relieves clogged sinuses and is an immune-stimulant.
Garlic is largely available in tablet form, and smelly garlic breath can be avoided by choosing capsules with a garlic/parsley combination. Garlic, smelly or not, has excellent health benefits when eaten raw: introduce it into soups and salads.
PelargoniumPelargonium sidoides (geranium) fights bacteria and viruses as well as boosting the immune system. It is particularly beneficial for bronchitis.²
This herb is available in tablet and tincture form as well as in some cough mixtures. It has been used for hundreds of years by the Zulu, Basuto and Xhosa cultures to fight colds and flu infections.
Olive leafThe active ingredient in olive leaf extract, oleuropein, has proved beneficial in the treatment of a range of viral and bacterial problems including influenza and the common cold. Olive leaf may also be used long-term as a preventive agent in people with recurrent infections. It is also a proven immune system booster.³
Olive leaf is largely available in capsule and tincture form. A tea made from olive leaves can be used to gargle with if you have a sore throat.
Caution: consult your health practitioner before using olive leaf extract if you are taking blood pressure or diabetic medication and other drugs such as warfarin and antibiotics.
Ivy leafIvy is an evergreen climber endemic to Europe. Ivy leaf is used medicinally to bring respiratory relief. It has been shown to increase oxygen in the lungs of children suffering from asthma and is beneficial as an anti-inflammatory and decongestant in the management of chronic bronchitis. It is also helpful in relieving coughs.
WHAT’S AVAILABLE IN STORE?HERBALSThe herbal products listed below are amongst the more popular choices and offer a guideline if you are not quite sure where to start. All dosages are included on product packaging or inserts, or consult your health practitioner for individualised dosages.
A.Vogel’s Echinaforce® is viewed as one of the best herbal remedies for winter. It comes in tablet and tincture form and modulates the immune system, thereby enabling it to work at its optimum. It can be taken over a period of time to improve immune function or as a preventive against colds and flu.
The Nativa range is probably one of the best choices when it comes to choosing a product to keep the winter chills at bay. Their Linctagon Viral Defence capsules contain Echinacea extract, elderberry and garlic and offer overall immune support for colds and flu. The Linctagon Cough Syrup and Linctagon Syrup both contain pelargonium which helps with upper respiratory tract infections.
The Tibb range includes Septoguard, in tablet form, which is a natural antibiotic and contains extracts of asparagus and cinnamon; Tibb Flu-Relief Syrup (contains Piper nigrum, a natural pain killer which helps control fevers) for colds, flu and fever; Tibb Immunocare which is an immune booster; Tibb throat and cough lozenges which contain menthol, eucalyptus and caramel.
The Flordis range offers Ginsana capsules, which contain an extract of Panax ginseng to enhance the immune system.
The Flora Force range includes tinctures and capsules containing Olea europaea, Echinacea, elderberry and propolis, amongst other ingredients, to support the immune system and fight flu, colds, sinusitis and sore throats.
The Flugon range combines herbs, vitamins and minerals to strengthen and support the immune system. Their range includes capsules, fizzy adult and children’s sachets, fizzy tablets, a syrup and a throat spray. The Flugon range targets bronchitis, sinusitis, tonsillitis, colds, flu, ear and throat infections.
The Phyto-Force Herbal range offers elderberry, Echinacea and olive leaf herbal tinctures as immune boosters, with anti-virals indicated for colds and flu.
Herbal Wellness has an olive leaf extract in tincture form to support the immune system.
Viridian has olive leaf capsules with olive leaf extract in a base of alfalfa, spirulina and bilberry.
Solgar has an elderberry extract in capsule form; its Cat’s Claw tablet is a top quality herbal formula as is its Goldenseal Root Complex Vegetable Capsule. All three are reliable immune-support natural remedies.
The Himalaya range is based on ancient Ayurvedic principles: an ancient, holistic system for diagnosis and treatment. Koflet (in both syrup and lozenge form) contains honey, holy basil (possesses antihistamine properties and is effective in reducing catarrh and easing bronchitis), and liquorice (an expectorant with immune-boosting properties). The range also includes an immunity enhancer, Septilin, containing Tinospora gulancha (a potent antimicrobial that stimulates the immune system), liquorice, and Indian bdellium (reduces inflammation and relieves sore throats).
SambucolSambucol is made from black elderberries, which have a high antioxidant capacity. This product therefore strengthens the immune system by neutralising the harmful effects of free radicals.
Good HealthGood Health has a range of immune-supporting products including: Congest X, Echimax, Opti-C 1 000 mg and Opti-C 500 mg, Revitalise C, Viralex and Pro-Olive which balance the immune system, strengthen immune function, and offer respiratory support and antioxidant protection.
NB: Be patient when taking herbal remedies as it can take time for beneficial effects to be felt.
HomeopathicsIn order for the correct homeopathic remedy to be administered an accurate diagnosis of the patient must be made. Once this is done, patient and remedy can be confidently paired.
Single remediesAconiteAconite is for the start of colds and sore throats from exposure to cold dry air. Aconite would be the first remedy option for a dry, violent croupy cough. Hepar sulph should be used if aconite does not help the early sore throat and silicea may be needed for a severe case of tonsillitis.
BryoniaThis remedy is for a dry, hard and painful cough, which needs medical attention if improvement is not made.
GelsemiumGelsemium is useful for a variety of health issues but is particularly beneficial as a cold and flu remedy as it eases muscle aches, headaches, a runny nose, inflamed tonsils, sore throat and the hoarseness associated with bronchitis.
Ferrum phosphoricumThis mineral should be used at the onset of inflammatory conditions and is effective against dry, red, sore throats. It is also beneficial for dry, hacking coughs that may worsen after meals.
PhosphorusThis remedy is useful for the kind of flu that starts with a classic cold which then goes straight to the chest. It is a good choice for a loose cough accompanied by yellow/green mucus from the chest and the nose.
PulsatillaPulsatilla is great for patients who have changeable coughs with a looser form during the day and a dry one at night accompanied by thick white, yellow or green mucus at night.
BelladonnaBelladonna is useful for the early stages of inflammation and for fever.
Complex remediesWhen choosing a homeopathic remedy, remember to be particularly careful in choosing one that suits your symptoms. If you are in doubt, seek the advice of a qualified homeopath.
The Boiron range: Based in Lyon, France, the Boiron Group is a world leader in homeopathy. Two of their top products are tried and tested cold and flu remedies: Stodal® Cough and Cold Syrup and Oscillococcinum® for flu and flu-like symptoms. Both these products are available in South Africa. The cough syrup contains byronia and pulsatilla amongst other medicinal ingredients that help relieve a stubborn, hard cough.
Oscillococcinum® is in particular demand as if it is taken once a week throughout the winter months it can have a preventive effect against colds and flu. It lessens the severity of flu symptoms if you have already contracted a virus.
Boiron offers Homeovox lozenges for loss of voice, hoarseness and laryngitis.
The Natura range has several products available to support the immune system through the winter and relieve cold and flu symptoms. Gripless C contains vitamin C and eucalyptus, which supports the immune and respiratory systems while treating acute colds and flu. Gripless 1 contains Aconitum napellus and acts to prevent acute conditions from progressing; it has an anti-inflammatory action that assists in the relief of fever and body pain associated with influenza. Natura Nasenol helps with nasal congestion thanks to the mode of action of Agraphis nutans, Euphrasia officinalis and other plants with similar effects.
Pegasus Homeopathics There are 28 different remedies in the Pegasus range, several of which are most helpful in managing colds and flu and in offering support to the immune system. Of particular benefit is the anti-virabac 200c, cold and flu 30c, bronchial relief 30c, immune defence 6c, muco drainol 30c and throat 200c.
Each remedy can be purchased individually and contains a minimum of 150 doses.
Similasan Sinus Relief Nasal Spray is a Swiss homeopathic formula for nasal and sinus congestion. It is also ideal for a runny nose due to a cold or flu.
SUPPLEMENTSIt is important to supplement with certain vitamins and minerals to support your immune system in winter. Vitamin C in the form of camu camu powder has the highest amount of vitamin C of all known plants. Try making a juice with pink grapefruit, kiwi fruit and camu camu. The pink powder has more vitamin C (5%) than the darker tan-coloured powder (3%). Vitamin A and natural vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) are antioxidants and are central to healthy cell functions while vitamin D3 boosts the immune system. The mineral zinc helps keep the immune system strong and can reduce the duration of cold symptoms. Ask your local health shop for a reliable multivitamin that includes these supplements mentioned here.
EFFERVESCENTSThese are the kind of fizzies that are good for you! People who gag on tablets can use effervescents dropped into a glass of water with ease. They also taste nice and are gentler on the digestive tract, as in liquid form they are ready to be absorbed by the body.
In addition to the Flugon fizzies mentioned earlier you can find the following in health shops all over: ■ Pharma Dynamics Efferflu C■ Fizz C 1 000 mg ■ Prospan effervescent cough tablets ■ ViralChoice® Effervescent (may boost the body’s immune system, increasing resistance to colds and flu) ■ Linctagon-C (contains pelargonium that can boost the body’s immune response) ■ Airmune Immune System Supporter (contains 17 vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts)■ Immunova Effervescent Tablets.
CONCLUSIONBoosting immunity and using natural antiviral agents will go a long way towards protecting you from winter ills. Don’t forget though, that enough sleep, a healthy diet, and a good fluid intake (water, and chicken or vegetable soups with raw garlic) are also key to your recovery. And you have every right to demand a little bit of extra TLC to get you brimming with health once more.
No to antibioticsRemember that antibiotics have no effect on viruses. First choose herbal and/or homeopathic remedies and in doing so, protect your immune system. If, however, your condition persists or you cough up thick, yellow or green mucus or blood, do not hesitate to seek the advice of a qualified health practitioner.
Still stuck on the same old recovery drinks? Ian Craig suggests that you try adding some colour and vibrancy to these all-so-important shakes.
Protein is synonymous with recovery and is the primary ingredient in every recovery formula on the market. It is important for the re-building of connective tissues and the muscular apparatus after hard training sessions.
It's also been noted that carbohydrates (commonly in the form of refined sugars) assist the uptake of protein to the correct places in the body by creating an insulin spike. Coincidentally, the sugars will also lead to carbohydrate replenishment in the muscles.
The opposite scenario also applies: Sports nutritionist Dr John Ivy observed that by adding protein to a carbohydrate solution, there was a 38% greater glycogen (stored form of glucose) synthesis.
WHAT AND WHENDr Ivy and his colleague Robert Portman, in their landmark book Nutrient Timing, brought to our attention the importance of taking these fuels on board soon after the completion of exercise. They called the one to two hour period after exercise the ‘window of opportunity’ and backed up their thoughts with some pretty compelling evidence of increased accrual of whole-body protein levels.
That was in 2004 and, 12 years later, current thinking is now slowly changing back to the direction of simply making sure you get enough good-quality protein and carbohydrates into the period of a day.
Whatever the scientists think, however, the fact of the matter is that you have now expended a lot more energy (and vital nutrients) compared to if you were a sedentary Joe. So, at some point after your session, it is actually a good idea to get some extra nutrients on board.
RECOVERY FORMULAS – THE EXTRASIt's a well-established fact that protein and carbs are fundamentals for recovery, but what is also quite clear is that they are only the basic components of a recovery shake. Only considering carbs and protein in post-exercise nutrition, is like viewing a TV programme in black and white. So, in the process of adding a bit of colour, what else do we therefore need or want? For me, there are a few physiological components vital to a speedy recovery from hard exercise: these include antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, adaptogens and collagen/connective tissue support.
Antioxidants Antioxidants are represented by vitamins A, C and E (remember ACE), the minerals zinc, selenium, copper, manganese and iron (which support antioxidant enzyme systems) and several plant sources, such as lycopene in tomatoes, resveratrol in grapes and catechins in green tea. Antioxidants are mostly found in fruits and vegetables, hence the reference to colour. Unfortunately the huge pots of pink recovery powders that you get from your health shop generally don't contain any strawberries – sorry to spoil that illusion!
Anti-inflammatoriesExercise is an inflammatory endeavour, which is normal and should be embraced. But, excessive inflammation can greatly slow our recoveries and should be modulated. The primary anti-inflammatories are omega-3 and -6 oils (primarily omega-3), but anti-inflammatories also come in botanical form. For example, turmeric and ginger are potent anti-inflammatories – taste-wise, they are difficult to put in a recovery shake, but ginger is a common ingredient in fresh juices and turmeric is found in certain supplements, and of course Indian food.
Collagen Collagen is the basic building block of connective tissue, which is part of all muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. The best source is from a concentrated bone stock, but an alternative is one of the hydrolysed collagen powders on the market. Additionally, vitamin C is required for the cross bridges of collagen, so again – antioxidants are important.
DIY RECOVERY FORMULASI used to make my own recovery shakes out of maltodextrin (glucose polymers) and chocolate protein powder, plus a bit of glutamine powder. But, that was very much focussed on the macronutrients and not on the all-important micronutrients.
As discussed, these come in the form of colour in foods and from many plant sources. With regard to antioxidants, there is some controversy in the literature about antioxidant supplementation in high doses having a potentially negative effect on recovery. There may be some truth to that, but I am quite comfortable with powdered food forms of antioxidants. As humans, we were designed to obtain antioxidants from the diet, so making up for the lack of antioxidant resource in our diets (due to depleted soils) by adding a small amount of powdered fruit extracts, is, I think, okay.
SmoothiesTake a look at the smoothie suggestions on the next page: The protein is supplied by a 20 g scoop of plain whey powder (which can be substituted with other dairy or vegan protein options) and natural yoghurt or kefir. The sugar is supplied by the fruit juice, whole fruit and raw honey. The amino acids, such as glutamine or branched chain amino acids (leucine being the main one) are provided in a powdered format, if desired. The antioxidants, rather than coming in a capsule, come from the heavy fruit presence in the smoothie and the fruit (red) or vegetable (green) concentrate product, which can be added to the smoothie.
You will of course need to play around with ingredients to get the flavour to your liking. If you would like to fortify the smoothie with other ingredients, I’ve made some suggestions below the recipes. For those of you who don’t end your session in the comfort of your own kitchen, you can either pre-make it and take it with you in a cooler bag or simply increase the fruit juice and take out the whole fruits.
Try the 'red' and 'green' smoothie recipes. Overall, the red powders are more focussed on antioxidant levels and the green powders are focussed on detoxification support. Of course, there are my components in both smoothies that do both these jobs, but you might like to favour a red smoothie one day and a green another day, based on how you're feeling.
Enjoy experimenting – there are 1001 ways to make a smoothie, so you should never become bored.
Red antioxidant recovery smoothie20 to 30 g plain whey protein(or egg, hemp, brown rice or pea)1 small pot natural yoghurt (just 'milk and cultures' on ingredients list) or 50-100 ml kefir100 ml fruit juice (eg. grape, berry, apple)½ to 1 cup frozen berries 1 banana2 to 5 g amino acids (eg. leucine, glutamine)1 scoop red powderSuperfood, e.g. 1 to 2 tsp moringa and/or camu camu
Green Collagen Recovery Smoothie20 to 30 g plain whey protein (or egg, hemp, brown rice or pea)1 small pot natural yoghurt (just 'milk and cultures' on ingredients list) or 50 to 100 ml kefir1 small banana2 big slices pineapple1 tbsp hydrolysed collagen powder2 to 5 g amino acids (eg. leucine, glutamine)1 scoop green powder1 to 2 tsp raw honeySuperfood - e.g. 1 to 2 tsp maca and/or baobab
Other smoothie ingredients include: nuts or nut butter, cocoa or cocao powder, chia seeds, flaxseeds, soaked dried dates or figs, coconut or hemp oil, agave or maple syrup
Today, back pain can be considered as one of the most common of all physical complaints in the world. It is therefore one of the single most important factors in time lost from work and recreation – the condition should be addressed as soon as possible.
Back pain ranks as extremely high among the reasons for visits to various health care providers and has an effect on one’s finances as well as one’s lifestyle. Back pain is caused, broadly, by physical and psychological stress or by weak muscles.
We can survive for weeks without food, but no more than a few days without water. Sally-Ann Creed explains why we need to drink more of it.
A teaspoon of water a day is not enough to keep the body alive and a bathtub a day would kill it – but just the right amount of fresh water taken throughout the day is life giving, cleansing and absolutely vital for optimum health.
The itch of eczema can be mildly irritating but it can also be so maddening as to drive you to desperation. But do not despair as there are many natural ways to manage eczema and bring that itch under control.
Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin, which may present with red, blotchy and itchy skin, with scaling and cracking and a rough and scaly appearance. Blisters may form, oozing fluid and leading to crusted and hard skin. Itching may become so severe as to cause sleep disturbance, agitation and depression.
ATOPIC DERMATITIS There are many types of eczema, of which atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common. AD affects up to 20% of children and up to 3% of adults. AD occurs as early as infancy or childhood (teething), and presents most often on the face, hands, feet, back of the knees and inner elbows. Recent data indicates that its prevalence is still increasing, especially in low-income countries.1 In South Africa some studies done among children of different age groups show one-year prevalence rates of 1 to 13.3%. Sixty percent of cases show spontaneous clearing by puberty; however, the condition may recur in adults.2 In a population-based study in the US, the chronicity of AD highlights that only 50% of children below the ages of seven years, and 60% in adulthood, had complete resolution.3
CAUSESGenes and the environmentAlthough the causes remain unclear, AD appears to occur as a result of predisposing genes, in combination with environmental stimuli. Recent studies suggest that there is a deficiency of a protein in the epidermis, the filaggrin gene, which offers a protective barrier,4 and keeps the outer layer of the epidermis (stratum corneum) hydrated. This deficiency breaks the skin barrier, causing loss of water and exposure to potential allergens. This results in dry and scaly skin, as well as inflammatory and allergic immune responses.5
Further studies suggest that there is a higher risk of children aged two to four years developing asthma and allergic rhinitis who have AD, due to sensitisation of IgE antibodies to common environmental allergens.3
DietMany studies have shown the link between diet and eczema, in which certain foods may either cause or exacerbate the condition. However most food allergies have been found to resolve in early childhood, or after dietary elimination, except for allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, which are likely to continue.6
ROOT CAUSESGenetic predisposition makes a person more vulnerable to developing eczema. Stress is a contributing factor, which causes repeated flare-ups if this is not well controlled. Hormonal changes in women occur post menopause, when there is a decrease in production of oestrogen. Among other actions, oestrogen is responsible for the production of collagen and skin oils, without which the result is dry and itchy skin.
Poor lifestyle choices, occupational hazards, as well as poor compliance to the prevention and management of eczema, will also affect the outcome of skin health. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies contribute to a weakened immune system, which further predisposes a person to developing eczematous skin reactions.
Triggers These may include: harsh chemicals, detergents, disinfectants, soaps, perfumes or preservatives, found in cosmetics or toiletries; nickel found in jewellery, watch straps or zips; wool/synthetic clothing, dust, pollen, smoke, pollution, mould, pet dander, dust mites and dandruff; skin infections, sweating, teething, and extreme changes in temperature and humidity.
Allergens Testing for allergies is recommended, so that the root cause can be identified early and avoided/treated.
Allergens are substances which cause an allergic reaction. The antigens cause an abnormally vigorous immune response, in which the immune system fights off a perceived threat that would otherwise be harmless to the body.
Food allergies are especially common, such as gluten (wheat, oats, rye and barley), peanuts, fish, cow’s milk, eggs and soy. An acute immune reaction occurs within a few minutes to three hours of ingesting the agent to which a person is allergic. The body responds by making the antibody, IgE, which releases chemicals that create inflammation, which can lead to tissue damage. Examples of an acute food allergic response include: eczema, hives, bronchitis, asthma, sneezing, coughing and excessive spitting up.
A food allergy involves an immune system response, whereas food intolerance occurs as a result of an inability to properly digest a substance in certain foods, which may be from an enzyme deficiency. When a person has gluten intolerance, there is a greater production of zonulin (a protein that dismantles junctions). Zonulin breaks down the lining of the gut, thereby also contributing to a leaky gut syndrome, which is a contributory factor for eczema.
MANAGING ECZEMAThere is no known cure for eczema, but management of symptoms includes creams to moisturise the skin, ultraviolet light, or medication to control the immune response. Topical antiseptic, antifungal, antibiotic or steroidal creams may be prescribed, and/or immunosuppressant drugs, such as antihistamines to control the itch. Studies suggest that certain types of nutrient supplementation with probiotics, prebiotics, fatty acids, or formula, may prevent or reduce the severity of eczema.7
Skin care Use a non-soap cleanser or dermatological bar, and wash your skin with your hands instead of a facecloth, as this is not only harsh on the skin, but it also harbours bacteria. Pat the skin dry, instead of rubbing, to protect the skin. If you are allergic to pollen, wash your hair at night to get rid of pollen on the hair, and use a mild dermatological shampoo.
Moisturise the skin immediately after hand washing or showering to keep it moist and supple. Shower with warm water at about 32°C (heat dries out the skin), and not for too long, as this will further dry out the skin. Rinse off the body immediately after swimming, and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, and use a high factor sun protective, waterproof lotion.
Calendula oil promotes skin healing, eliminates bacteria, and reduces inflammation. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a rare type of fat found only in coconut oil and mother’s breast milk. Lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, fungus and other microorganisms. It also deeply penetrates and moisturises the skin, while protecting it from environmental and free radical damage.
Environment, air and breathingGet plenty of fresh air and avoid polluted areas (car fumes, industrial exposure and tobacco smoke). Exercise the judicious use of air conditioners by not making the air too cold, which will dry out the skin. A humidifier adds moisture to the air, preventing dryness of the skin.
Reduce stressTake time out to relax. Do deep breathing exercises, get fresh air, do yoga, socialise with your friends, join a club, have a hobby, do not overwork, and get emotional support.
EliminationKeep the bowels functioning regularly, have gentle massages and cupping therapy. Drink plenty of fresh water, at least one and a half litres for children and two litres for adults.
Exercise Moderate exercise stimulates circulation and strengthens the immune system. Do not overdo exercising as increased sweating dries out the skin.
Rest and sleep Listen to gentle music before going to bed, while sipping on a cup of warm camomile tea. Get sufficient rest and sleep to recuperate the body, and to facilitate healing. Avoid heavy meals before retiring, as well as stimulants, such as alcohol or coffee. Avoid watching TV or working at the computer before sleeping, as this will keep the mind stimulated.
Diet Avoid a diet high in processed foods, with preservatives, added colourants and favouring, as this causes inflammatory reactions in the body.
Anti-inflammatory foodsParticular attention needs to be paid to diet, by substituting pro-inflammatory foods for anti-inflammatory ones. Eat plenty of raw and organic food, and avoid processed foods, caffeine, dairy, gluten, meat, sugar and alcohol, as much as is possible. Dark leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, such as spinach, kale and broccoli have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, and disease-fighting phytochemicals, than those with lighter-coloured leaves.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation. Nuts contain antioxidants, which assist the body to fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation. Almonds are a good source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats, which are rich in fibre, calcium, and vitamin E. Walnuts have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat.
SupplementsA probiotic supplement and cultured probiotic foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, natto, tempeh, kimchi and miso assist the body to restore friendly bacteria in the gut and fight against bad bacteria that cause inflammation.
Supplementation with essential fatty acids (omega-3 and -6), vitamin D3, vitamin B12, magnesium and zinc promotes a healthy immune system. Vitamins C and E help protect intestinal cells from oxidative and free radical stress, and vitamin C has anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant activity and antibiotic qualities. Flax seeds, chia seeds, cod liver and fish oils, evening primrose oil, blackcurrant seed oil, borage oil and hemp oil are all also great sources.
CONCLUSIONAlthough eczema is physically, emotionally and socially discomforting, do not despair. Making healthy lifestyle choices and being aware of contributing factors can ensure a good quality of life.
A list of references is available from the Natural Medicine office. Tel: 021 880 1444
Healthy lifestyle choices will boost your immunity and promote skin health.
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