Natural health: Shake off a head cold with rest and fluids

"It can be quite difficult to completely shake off a head cold once it sets in. Our bodies are wonderful at dealing with coughs, colds, and flu if our immune system is strong and we are keeping on top of our stress levels – unfortunately, this is not always possible."
Natural health: Shake off a head cold with rest and fluids

Rest and fluids are crucial to recovery from a head cold but it's important to choose the right kind of liquids.

I developed a heavy head cold recently. I'm over the worst of it but am feeling run down. What would you suggest? 

It can be quite difficult to completely shake off a head cold once it sets in. Our bodies are wonderful at dealing with coughs, colds, and flu if our immune system is strong and we are keeping on top of our stress levels – unfortunately, this is not always possible.

Typically, a head cold will last between two and four days but can drag out for longer if you are run down. Rest is crucial to recovery. It is essential to get the necessary downtime and sleep required to rebuild your immune function.

While ‘plenty of rest and fluids’ sounds like a cliché, it is exactly what your body needs to kick a cold virus and improve white blood cell function.

Keeping the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract hydrated helps to repel viral infection. However, it is important to choose the right kind of liquids. Water, unsweetened herbal infusions, and broths are ideal. Sugar, sweet drinks, and even fruit juices are best avoided until you are fully recovered.

Even though you are over the worst of it, it is still important to nourish your body with soups, broths, and other simple and hearty foods.

Zinc is an important mineral for immune health and is particularly effective when taken as a lozenge. You will need to take a 25mg lozenge three times a day (providing 75mg daily) for a week, then reduce the dosage to 15-25mg daily for maintenance and ongoing immune support.

Vitamin C is another well-documented nutrient crucial to recovery and immune health. This is easiest taken as a supplement — but if you can get sodium ascorbate in crystal or powdered form, then this is ideal as it doesn’t contain flavouring, colouring, or sweeteners like many vitamin C supplements.

A quarter teaspoon of pure sodium ascorbate stirred into a glass of water (gargle a little against your throat before swallowing for best effect) will provide around 1,000-1,200mg of vitamin C.

When you have been ill, your vitamin C requirements typically increase, so you might need anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000mg daily. If you notice that you have developed loose stools or have excessive flatulence, then you need to reduce your vitamin C intake (take 1,000mg less the following day).

In some cases, individuals may need even more than this, but it is best to consult with an integrative or natural medicine practitioner on a one-to-one basis to discuss large or therapeutic dosages of any nutrient.

I've started to develop stress headaches in the past few months. I find drinking lots of water helps to reduce the pain. Is there anything else I can do? 

You have already discovered that staying well-hydrated is important, which is a good start.

Stress or tension headaches typically occur as a result of tightening the muscles – particularly scalp, jaw, neck, and brow.

Another underlying cause can be magnesium deficiency. Topical application of magnesium is thought to be more bioavailable than taking it orally. For tension headaches, it is best to use a cream or gel magnesium preparation and apply it to the neck and base of the skull.

Massaging it in may also help, as there are trigger points that can provide relief, but this can also worsen a stress headache so do not continue to apply pressure to a point if it does not provide immediate relief from symptoms.

This is an area of concern where vertebral and postural alignment may need to be addressed. Chiropractic care can help in cases where misalignment is at the root of muscular tension. A chiropractor will usually provide you with exercises to help with postural and muscular imbalance.

  • NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.

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