Natural health: Sore throat and selenium supplements

Megan Sheppard says that sore throats respond very well to natural remedies.

Q. My youngest daughter, aged nine, has been poorly with a sore throat.

I gave her the usual lemon and honey treatment, but was wondering if there is anything else you could recommend for this common problem?

A. A sore throat can present as anything from a tickle through to a burning sensation, but is usually the result of inflammation. 

While it is one of the minor symptoms of an illness, a sore throat can cause you to feel miserable.

The most common triggers include allergies, infections (bacterial or viral), and environmental irritants. 

When there is infection in the area, the body increases blood flow to the throat so that the white blood cells are able to directly fight the infection. It is this extra blood that contributes to the swelling and redness in the throat.

The good news is that sore throats respond very well to natural remedies, and there are a number of things that you can have on hand to relieve and soothe itchy and scratchy throats.

Vitamin C is a tried and true remedy for fighting infection and bolstering immunity. It is worth noting that vitamin C is a natural antihistamine, so it will help reduce inflammation caused by allergies. 

Family members over the age of 12 will need to take 1,000mg three times daily to fight infection, and any little ones between the ages of six to 12 years should take 500mg, three times daily. Decrease the dosage incrementally if they develop diarrhoea.

Zinc is brilliant in reducing the duration of the cold virus in adults, but research indicates that it makes little or no difference in children. 

If you do use zinc for sore throats, try it in lozenge form, and use one lozenge every three to four hours or as required.

Echinacea and garlic are best taken at the first sign of irritation, and they both contain antiviral and antibacterial properties. You can used fresh or aged garlic, and echinacea can be taken as a tea, tincture, or capsules.

Slippery elm and marshmallow root, taken either separately or combined, are two soothing herbal remedies. 

They both work by soothing the membranes, making swallowing much less painful. 

I like to prepare these herbs as a cold infusion, where you simply brew enough for a whole day by infusing four teaspoons of dried herb in a litre of cold water overnight, then strain and drink throughout the following day. 

You can also use this tea as a gargling solution to reach the inflamed area.

See your doctor if a sore throat comes on very suddenly and is severe, if there is a high fever with no other cold or flu symptoms, if you are unable to swallow liquids, if you also have a rash, or if it simply doesn’t seem to be shifting after around 10 days.

Q. I have recently learned about the importance of supplementing with selenium from a friend who has early stage breast cancer.

Should I also be giving this to my children?

A. Selenium is an important antioxidant, supporting the function of the cell membranes — in particular, determining what crosses that membrane. 

It is this role that makes selenium so important in protecting against damage from free radicals. 

Free radical build up is typically associated with major diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes — all of which are linked to low selenium levels — which is why your friend is taking this valuable mineral.

Natural sources of selenium include wheatgerm, whole grain breads and cereals, eggs, mushrooms, legumes, brazil nuts, peanuts, asparagus, cabbage, celery, garlic, onion, potatoes, radish, tomatoes, Brewer’s yeast, seafood, chicken, rabbit, and organ meats such as liver or kidney.

The recommended dosage for adults is around 200-400mcg (micrograms) daily. 

While the selenium content of Brazil nuts can vary, a single nut typically provides around 70mcg of selenium.

This is indeed an important mineral for children, so if you feel they are not getting enough from their diet, the following dosage guidelines apply:

1-6 years = 20mcg

7-10 years = 30mcg

11-14 years = 40-45mcg

15 years and older = adult dose


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