High season for colds

17. October 2019

What protects against the flu?

According to the calendar, autumn has begun. Every year it’s the same story: summer is hardly over, and suddenly the weather is getting colder, the rain is back, and it’s high season for colds.

There are reasons for this, of course. We use public transport more often than in the summer, when many people travel to work by bike. We are also more frequently in closed rooms with lots of people. And as it gets colder, we turn on the heating. But dry air from heating systems isn’t good for us, because it dries out our mucous membranes and reduces the blood flow to them. This is bad news, as the mucous membrane in the respiratory tract can only act properly as a barrier against pathogens such as cold viruses if it is intact.

So you shouldn’t underestimate the significant increase in risk of infection posed by the autumn and winter period. In order to provide targeted support in the fight against viruses and other pathogens, we need to bolster our immune systems.

A vitamin-rich diet and plenty of exercise in the fresh air will help to strengthen your defences. Of course, sport is always good. But there can be an increased risk of infection here, because in sports studios you are often in a closed room with a lot of people. The common cold frequently begins with a sore throat, and often causes a runny nose. It’s not hard for cold viruses and bacteria to penetrate the mouth and throat. First your nose starts running, then it gets blocked, which makes breathing difficult. And when you can’t breathe properly, it’s impossible to get a good night’s sleep.

But there’s no point playing the blame game, because even with the best prevention you can’t always avoid getting ill. A study has shown that around 71% of Germans suffer from a common cold once or twice a year. Incidentally, cold weather doesn’t cause the common cold by itself. However, the cold virus finds it easier to infect the mucous membranes when our immune systems are already weakened by cold weather. It is almost impossible to get through the winter without catching a cold or the flu.

There are approximately 200 different cold viruses and, unlike flu, there is no vaccine against the common cold. And unfortunately, people often confuse colds with the flu. Natural medicine and modern medicine both promise relief, and household remedies are also very popular.

Around 4,000 men and women of all ages participated in a study by the online pharmacy Juvalis, which found the following: 56 percent of respondents rely on conventional drugs, 40 percent on herbal remedies, and 30 percent on homeopathy. 49 percent of respondents use teas to fight colds, and 48 percent use other household remedies.

Should you skip the doctor and head straight to the pharmacy?

Self-medication is very much in vogue. According to a study by the market research company IMS Health, sales of over-the-counter medicines in pharmacies have risen by 4.5 percent to 9.1 billion euros. In fact, 57 percent of people with colds or other ailments prefer to visit a pharmacy instead of going to the doctor (42 percent), according to a study by VuMA,

and the figures are the same for both men and women, which is perhaps a surprise to some. 54 million people buy their drugs at bricks-and-mortar pharmacies, while seven million order online. It is doubtful, however, whether self-medication is always the best option.

And here are a few more interesting facts and figures: the proportion of women interested in health topics is very high (52 percent), but much lower in men (38 percent). And perhaps unsurprisingly, the over-60s are much more concerned with their health than younger people.

How can you get through autumn and winter without succumbing to colds or the flu?

If possible, you should soak up the sun whenever you can in autumn, as this helps the body to produce the all-important vitamin D. Certain types of fish, for example salmon and sardines, also contain high levels of vitamin D, so your diet in autumn should include plenty of fish dishes.

Apples, pumpkins, carrots and cabbage, preferably grown locally, will also help you to stay healthy in the autumn. Eating a balanced diet is also very important, because 70 percent of our immune cells come from the intestine. So eat plenty of fruit and vegetables! And don’t forget about pulses, whole grains and nuts either.

Get the right vitamins from fruit and vegetables to strengthen your immune system.

Certain vitamins can help to you avoid catching colds: vitamin C captures free radicals. Vitamin A, contained in carrots, spinach, tomatoes and peppers, keeps the surfaces of the mucous membranes moist and thereby boosts their defences, which is especially important in autumn and winter.

Vitamin E, contained in almonds, hazelnuts, peanut oil, sunflower oil and olive oil, protects against free radicals and promotes the growth and maturation of the body’s defence cells. The body cannot produce vitamin E itself, so it has to be absorbed through what we eat.

Vitamin B6, contained in mackerel, herring and trout, activates the immune cells and stimulates the production of messengers in the immune system.

Sea buckthorn, the vitamin bomb from Nepal

Hippohae rhamnoides, also known as sea buckthorn, means “shiny horse, buckthorn-like”. The sea buckthorn berry made its way to Europe via Nepal, Russia, Canada and Mongolia. In Germany, the sea buckthorn bush is cultivated on the North Sea and Baltic Sea coast, where it grows happily. It is also known as the sandberry, or the “lemon of the north”.

West Germany only learnt about sea buckthorn in the 1990s, however the GDR and other Eastern European countries were growing it as far back as the 1950s; it was used to make up for the lack of citrus fruits, which at the time were not affordable. As we can once again see, necessity is the mother of invention.

Not only is this superfood from Nepal very rich in vitamin C, it is a veritable all-rounder. The berry also provides vitamin E, and the important B vitamins B1, B2, and B6. Even citrus fruit are no match for the sea buckthorn berry – it contains ten times more vitamin C than lemons, making it a true power pack.

Another special feature about this fruit: it is one of the few foods that also contains vitamin B12. But that’s not all: sea buckthorn berries also contain trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, provitamin A, beta-carotene, amino acids and essential oils.

Sea buckthorn also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which we now know are important for our health. Note: oysters, herring and trout are also good sources of vitamin B12.

Plants in the oleaster family prevent colds

Conclusion: sea buckthorn berries are great for our immune system, which we need more than ever in autumn and winter. The German Nutrition Society recommends sea buckthorn as one of the best sources of vitamin C. Sea buckthorn strengthens your immune system and improves its performance. We recommend 3 tablespoons daily to fight infections naturally. Sea buckthorn juice can also be added to smoothies, cereals and yoghurt.

And what about sea buckthorn tea made from dried sea buckthorn berries? To have a positive effect on your health, natural remedy experts recommend around 4 cups of sea buckthorn tea a day (according to the Vital Institute). Sea buckthorn has proven itself as a household remedy to fight colds and high temperatures. Its active ingredients in their entirety are a blessing for us.

Exercise, sleep and rest

Inner peace and well-being are also important factors for getting through autumn and winter. Regular exercise and adequate sleep are essential. Relaxation exercises, yoga, tai chi and qigong also help.

Practising endurance sports such as running, swimming or jogging several times a week also boosts your health and makes you less likely to get ill. The exercise activates your killer cells, thus protecting your immune system. If you do catch a cold, why not try tried-and-tested household remedies such as calf compresses, sage tea, and don’t forget chicken soup like your granny used to make.

Finally, of course, bookworms around the world look forward to the autumn, as it’s the best time to read. When it’s raining outside and you’re curled up on the sofa with a hot cup of tea and a cosy blanket, what better than a book to round things off – you just have to find the perfect book.

Following these tips, you’ll make it through the autumn just fine!