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Exercise To Fight Off Colds

Getting regular exercise strengthens muscles and conditions our hearts, and it may also bolster the immune system enough to help us ward off colds and flu. A study from South Korea examined this potential benefit in mice. The researchers reasoned that inflammatory compounds produced in fat cells can weaken the immune system’s response to illness or infection. However, exercise can reduce the number and size of fat cells and thus potentially lower levels of inflammation. To test whether physical activity can actually have that effect, the researchers compared the results of infection with Staphylococcus bacteria in mice that exercised and those that didn’t. They divided laboratory mice into two groups. Those in one went about their usual activities, while those in the other group exercised by swimming. Because they’re not natural swimmers, the mice expended a great deal of energy staying afloat. Even though the strain on their muscles promoted some inflammation, the exercise also led to fewer and smaller fat cells. After putting the mice through the exercise, the researchers inoculated half the swimmers and half the sedentary mice with Staphylococcus. All the infected mice became ill, but the swimmers had lower levels of pro-inflammatory cells and their bodies produced greater numbers of immune system cells capable of fighting the infection. Would this effect be reproducible in humans?  The Korean researchers think so.

My take? These findings may help explain how aerobic exercise strengthens the immune system. We know that exercise conditions our hearts and arteries and respiratory systems, increases stamina and general fitness. It also promotes cleansing of the blood by stimulating circulation and perspiration, and leads to a sense of well being, in part by releasing endorphins, the opiate-like molecules in the brain that can make us high, happy, and more tolerant of discomfort. Physical activity also increases the flow of oxygen to all organs, enabling them to work more efficiently. It burns calories, reduces stress, lowers serum cholesterol and tones the nervous system. Given its positive impact on the entire body, it makes sense that exercise would also help us fight off colds and flu.

5 Ways to Minimize Cough and Cold

Don’t let a cough or cold ruin your day – try these five natural suggestions to minimize their effects.

If you are looking for effective, safe herbal treatments for coughs and congestion, I recommend the following natural treatments. All can be used safely by both adults and children:

1. Echinacea: The adult dose is one teaspoon of tincture in water four times a day or two capsules of freeze-dried extract four times a day. Give children half those amounts.  

2. Garlic: The best home remedy I have found for colds is to eat one or two cloves of raw garlic at the first onset of symptoms. You can chop the garlic fine, let sit for 10 minutes to “activate” and mix it with food, or cut a clove into chunks and swallow them whole like pills.  

3. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): The flowers and fruit of this shrub have a long history of use for treating colds and flu.  

4. Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra): This remedy from the inner bark of the red elm tree is available as lozenges, powder, capsules and extracts. Use the lozenges as needed for sore throats due to colds. 

5. Zinc: In moderate doses, this mineral can enhance immunity.