Treating Colds and Flu naturally

Most people are exposed to cold and flu germs on a regular basis but more noticeably during change of season and Winter. In this blog I will cover some simple treatments both homeopathic and nutritional you can use at home for cold and flu as well as a little advice on managing fever.

The body has a number of natural defence mechanisms after exposure to germs or allergens. These include a streaming nose or increases in temperature.Fever for example helps to reset the bodies internal temperature to create a climate which doesn’t allow the bugs to multiply as quickly, which then allows your immune system to respond faster.

Fever when it is well managed can assist in dealing quickly with an infection. It is usual with a fever to experience some side effects, such as reduced appetite, muscle aches and pains, headache and tiredness. These effects tend to be more pronounced if the fever rises quickly or is higher than 39.5 C (103.1 F). A normal temperature ranges from 36C to 37.2C.

Management of Fever

Generally speaking when managing a fever its best to follow these tips;

  • Keep the patient quiet and comfortable. Bed rest (if possible) otherwise minimal activity. Even though the patient may feel warm it is important not to chill them but to keep them dressed appropriately with a light cover.
  • Keeping the patient at a comfortable temperature by sponging with tepid water where they are very flushed or when you are concerned that the temperature is climbing quickly.
  • Keep up the fluids in particular water as during fever patients lose a lot of fluid through sweat or just increases in their metabolism.
  • The patient’s appetite may not be good however light nourishing food such as soup or juice where tolerated will assist in keeping up fluids as well as providing nourishment. It is not really necessary to “starve a fever” as a lot of energy is used up when a patient has a fever.
  • Refer to a practitioner if the fever is in excess of 39.5C or the patient is very distressed or complains of neck pain.

Always consider immune support in the form of 1-2g of Vitamin C and 25g of zinc a day during the illness. Vitamin C is generally better given in divided doses over the day as what the body doesn’t use it will excrete.

There are also a couple of teas that are useful during cold and flu. A popular option is YEP tea which is Yarrow, Elder and Peppermint and it can help cool the fever by sweating it out a little. Another I use when the cough is protracted is lemon garlic and manuka honey. Basically boil a  quartered lemon with 5 cloves of garlic in a covered pot for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and serve the strained liquid with manuka honey. Ideally I would recommend you use an organic lemon as you really want the limonene from the peel.

Homeopathically there are some excellent options for managing cold and flu and fevers and I have summarised the type of symptoms you would see in a patient who needs this remedy for a few of my favourites below.

Aconite

First remedy to consider where the onset is very sudden and in particular after exposure to cold dry weather.  Person who needs Aconite is usually extremely anxious, fearful and/or restless.

Violent onset of bursting headache in forehead with burning, tingling and numbness in the nose.  Worse for warm room, cold, dry weather. Better for lying down or open air.

Belladonna

Sudden onset of intense, bursting head pain with hot, red flushed face. Restless, delirious, desire to escape, may strike or bite. Throbbing in the temples worse for  motion of eyes, light, noise, touch, jarring. Better for lying, pressure, bending head back, wrapping up head warmly.

Good remedy for middle ear infection with bright red face and sudden onset of ear pain.

Also good for right sided sore throats which are quite red.

Bryonia

Dry cough which is worse for movement and causes pain in the chest.Constipation with large dry stool.

Pressing or bursting in temples and forehead like a crushing weight worse for motion, stooping, moving eyes. Better for pressure, rest, closing eyes and warmth.

Irritable, thirsty, wants to get back to work.

Gelsemium

Tired exhausting flu. Generally dizzy, drowsy, droopy or dull. Thinking is an effort. Chills or dull pain up and down the spine. Wants to sleep or lie down. Little thirst.

May be accompanied by diarrhea.

Hepar Sulph

Sensitive and irritable. Sore throats with a feeling like something is stuck in it, like a splinter. Swollen tonsils and glands often with pus.  Sharp pain on swallowing. Discharges smell sour. Worse for drafts and touch. Good to use if you don’t get to the Aconite early enough and it comes on after being out in the cold.

Merc Sol

Toxic states or burning or painful sore throats, with bad breath or a metallic taste in the mouth. May have a lot of extra saliva in the mouth.

Temperature sensitivity. Green or yellow discharges.

Pulsatilla

Well developed colds with yellow or green mucus. Symptoms change constantly and person is easily upset and wants people around them Cough can be dry at night but loose in the morning. Worse for heat. Desires rich and creamy foods.

Christine Pope is based at Elemental Health, St Ives and runs regular workshops to teach people how to use natural medicine for treating common health complaints. Her next workshop is on 22 May from 11.30 to 1.30pm. Check the facebook page for details on how to book in.

What do you do when your child can’t eat egg, potato, dairy or wheat?

Health food ingredients in white porcelain bowls over papyrus ba

Recently I have seen a few children with an interesting range of food intolerances. In fact one recently was such a challenge it made gluten and dairy free look easy!

So how do you make changes when your child’s diet is so restricted ? What the hell do you put in their lunches for school?

First up don’t focus on what they can’t eat, focus on what they can eat. Typically there is a long list of fruit and vegetables plus meats and fish. Not a bad start. Then look at substitutes for foods. One tougher example is egg however there are a number of options in baking including “no egg” replacer by Orgran. I also found vegan recipes have some good substitutes including 1/2 a mashed banana or soaked chia seeds in lieu of eggs. Orgran also offer vegan options in many of their baking mixes which are helpful. This vegan website has a great range of egg replacment options http://chefinyou.com/egg-substitutes-cooking/ .

Coconut oil and fresh coconutIn a previous post I have already covered options for dairy free in detail so have a look if you need some more information http://wp.me/p4iTIZ-2g .

Secondly make sure you spend time working on gut repair. Many minor intolerances fall away when you repair the gut with adequate glutamine and support effective digestion with herbs and probiotics. Continue providing support with home made stocks and fermented foods. Fermented foods are a good source of probiotics for the gut and often cheaper than supplements.

Home Made Cultured Or Fermented Vegetables

Now the school lunches – gluten free breads are available but often include rice and potato flours which are also increasingly common intolerances. Some options here could be;

1. Use firm lettuce as wraps for fillings or hollowed out cucumber or corn cakes.
2. Consider salads with a firmer leafed green such as wombok with chicken, Waldorf salad with chicken or Thai roast beef salad with cos lettuce.
3. Drumsticks are a great option with a simple marinade.
4. Meatballs – Recently I made baked chicken meatballs which were very popular. Ingredients were bacon onion and tomato paste.
5. Vegetable sticks with hummuus, avocado or mashed bean dip.
6. Leftovers are always good, specially roast meats or sausage with a roast vegetable salad.

Pinkfarm’s facebook and website have great ideas and lots of information on fermented foods. Have a look at http://www.pinkfarm.com.au/lunchbox-ideas/ for some more ideas on lunches and also their fabulous stainless steel lunchboxes.

Whilst it may seem like a lot of work initially I find a little more preparation in the evenings makes the morning rush much easier. I usually pack up lunch size portions of leftovers for my children for the next day and then it can be grabbed out of the fridge before I drive them to the train station.

The extra work really pays off when you see the change in your child’s health as a result of making these changes. I often have parents telling me how sickly kids no longer get every cold that’s going or how much their skin has improved as a result of making these changes. Its really worth giving these changes 3 months to see the full benefit. Particularly if you can work on gut repair at the same time.

Would love to hear your stories about how dietary change has made a difference to you or your child. Please leave a comment on the blog below.

Christine Pope is in clinical practice at St Ives in Sydney and if you need help managing or identifying food intolerances you can make appointments on 8084 0081.

Brain Fog – is your brain suffering?

Those of us who have given up gluten are often familiar with the concept of brain fog. Basically that’s what used to happen to us every time we had gluten ( the big protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt, barley and oats).

However there may be other reasons you get a foggy brain, problems with your memory or keep losing things like the shopping or even the car at the shopping centre! Many of us just blame it on getting older or being really busy but what about if its something more concerning? Really what if the brain is starting to struggle and it needs more support?

Recently I have been reading a lot about the concept of a “leaky brain” , in many ways a similar concept to that of a “leaky gut”. The blood brain barrier is supposed to be relatively impermeable to protect our brain. There are a whole range of factors which can damage this barrier including not surprisingly diet but also infection and toxicity.

Diet is a relatively easy example. In the US Cyprex labs tests include a wide range of gluten intolerance testing including transglutamaninsases 2 ,3 and 6. Each of these is associated with different types of gluten intolerance reactions and only one of them is a gut type reaction, commonly associated with coeliac or gluten intolerance. If you have antibodies to the transglutaminase 6 for example you can be reacting to your central nervous system – on other words autoimmunity to brain tissue. Some early indications suggest this is what may be happening in the case of MS where the sheath around nerves starts to unravel.
Bakery Bread on a Wooden Table. Various Bread and Sheaf of Wheat
How do you support brain health if you are having problems? First up if you have coeliac or gluten intolerance in the family get testing done to ensure you are not coealiac (much easier to do whilst still eating gluten) and then do a food intolerance panel to eliminate any other allergens. Unfortunately the testing done in the US is not available here yet but you can easily get gene testing done on a couple of genes which do indicate a strong possiblity of gluten intolerance.

Next try eliminating gluten and dairy for 6-8 weeks. I know it seems like a long time but it takes a while for damage to be repaired and for you to see a shift in your symptoms. Make sure they are eliminated and not just reduced and also include any foods which come up in the food intolerance panel. During this period make sure you are eating a lot of vegetables ( 3 cups a day) and a couple of serves of fruit a day. You may even find smaller meals more often will support your energy levels better.

bigstock_Health_Capsule_74886

In addition some basic anti-oxidant support in the form of fish oils as well as resveratol may also be useful but at a minimum ensure that you are eating good quality fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil and including sources such as nuts and seeds and avocado.

Then see how you are going? Is your memory better, gut less upset etc. If it shifts it might be time to say goodbye to gluten!

Research – is it all lies, lies and damned statistics?

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A recent press release by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) stated that where there was evidence to support the use of homeopathy the trials were too small and not well designed. Its kind of damning with faint praise isn’t it?? By the way most of the headlines were a lot less favourable but I read the detail of the report.

So I decided to write about research and try and explain what is contained in the report and perhaps shed a little light on the whole process. I did try and avoid a lot of maths in this discussion but this is going to be a little longer than my usual blog as it covers a fair amount of information.

Research – hierachy and different types

First up there is a hierachy in terms of research evidence in western medicine. At the top of the research hierachy is the randomised controlled trial (RCT) , which is regarded as the gold standard of evidence. Unfortunately it takes a lot of gold to meet the gold standard and it will always be more difficult with natural medicine which can’t really patent its findings to generate the types of revenues that fund this standard of research.

How much of western medicine is based on the gold standard of RCT’s? Surprisingly a lot less than you would think. Back in the 1980’s when the Cochrane Collection was established only 10- 15% of drugs in use had been subject to this research. The rest of the time they relied on long term clinical use (kind of like a lot of natural medicine). That number has at least doubled in part due to the efforts of the Cochrane Collection which is an independent research body promoting the use of evidence based research in clinical decision making.

Before you get to the RCT however there are other forms of research which contribute to the picture , this can include case study reports, in vitro research (cells in a test tube), animal studies and cohort studies, case control studies and clinical use. A case study report is usually a report which can highlight problems with an existing treatment or a way of dealing with a case which yields some new information. Studies on cells in test tubes or animals may be done at the start of research. They are  not considered as reliable as human trials as humans may react differently to animals.

Case control studies try to identify what is different between a group who have developed a condition and those who didn’t. They tend to be more cost effective but not always as reliable as a Cohort study where participants are tracked over a long period of time. Try remembering what you were eating like ten years ago? See? Its really not that easy. A Cohort study that tracks it over time can document what you were eating at different times in your life and see if the group who develop a condition were eating differently or eating more of a particular food group.

How do we design an RCT?

Whilst the RCT is the gold standard its fairly hard to find any RCT that is perfect. Typically an RCT is set up to compare one treatment against another or against placebo. You then recruit a group of people to your trial who need treatment for that condition – therefore you need to make sure they have the type of condition that will respond to your drug. To avoid complications you try to exclude people in the research who have other conditions as well. In the US students are often happy to participate in those trial’s as its a good way to earn some extra money.

So is that group of people you have just recruited to your study the same as the group of people who will ultimately take your drug? Quite often people as they get a little older are on multiple medications and they aren’t as robust as the group of students who did the trial.

So in your analysis you have just looked at the recruitment of participants and already you may not be that happy with the design.

See how easy it is to start to poke holes in the design of any trial and I haven’t even looked at numbers of participants yet?

Size of trial

To determine how many people you need in a trial you need to look at what the size of the treatment effect is and then a calculation is done (called a power calculation) to determine how many participants you need in your trial at the end to be able to see that the treatment effect is actually statistically significant.

This means a bigger group doesn’t add up to better research. It tends to mean that the smaller benefit someone gets from treatment the larger the group you need to show that it was  statistically significant and didn’t just occur by random chance. When newer drugs are being trialled against older drugs you often see only small improvements in the treatment so large scale trials will be needed.

Most natural medicine trials are quite small as funding is usually restricted however there are processes in place to ensure that the size of the group is adequate to measure the treatment effect. The NHMRC was generally negative about the fact that so few of the homeopathic trials had in excess of 500 participants but neglected to explain why that may not be necessary. They completely omitted the explanation of power calculations or whether in fact these indicated that smaller studies were still reliable evidence. Sometimes its not all about size!

Natural Medicine and RCT’s

In the next blog I will look at some of the reasons why natural medicine doesn’t fit well into the world of RCT’s. I was going to cover it here but its already a bit long!! Would love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to comment.