Naturopathy and Common Cold
Naturopathy and its approach to common cold is based on the principle that human body can develop the necessary immunity by natural means. We are so familiar with the common cold that we take it for granted. It has become part of our life. We do not think of ways of preventing it. Instead we are happy to gulp down an anti-allergic pill or some antibiotics which can have long term side effects on our immune system.
As per modern medicine, colds are caused by viruses, which in turn can lower your immunity causing other bacterial infections. Any antibiotics we take is for dealing with these bacterial infections. It cannot cure your cold. But there is a known side effect of taking antibiotics. Frequent use of antibiotics causes bacteria to develop new strains that are resistant to these antibiotics. Someday, when you really need these antibiotics, it won’t be effective and the doctors have to try a different type of antibiotics to cure you.
Naturopathy focusses on developing our immune system naturally. When we observe a group of people living in the same environment, we notice that only some people in the group develop the common cold. This is because their bodies were prone to the viral attack, while the body of others could fight is effectively. So the key is to strengthen our immune system. Prevention is better than cure as they say.
Naturopathy relates your illness directly to accumulation of waste material or morbid matter in the body by improper digestion or absorption or assimilation. The food that we ingest, sometimes does not get digested fully. Also, after digestion the waste products can remain in the intestines for a long time. Both can generate toxins which can get absorbed into the body and enter the blood stream. The human system has its own mechanisms to prevent any damage caused by these toxins. It stores these toxins away along with other fatty tissues to prevent any damage to any organs. But in due course of time, when the level of toxins increase, it can spread to the organs and cause diseases. This is the view point of Ayurveda as well as Naturopathy
The waste matter in the body is expelled out in form of sweat, urine, feces and CO2. Whenever there is a disturbance in expulsion of waste matter from body, it gets accumulated in different parts of body in form of toxins. The vital energy or prana in the body forces the toxins out of the body in form of acute diseases like cold, fever, loose motions, cough, vomiting. When medicines are taken, the diseases which come to the surface get suppressed. Actually, these acute illnesses like common cold may be helping us to clean our system. Nature has its own ways to remove waste from the environment. Flies and cockroaches are found in the dirtiest places; because nature needs them to be there to clean the environment. Similarly, the body may attract various microbes like bacteria to clean the waste in our body which may result in such acute illness. Disease coming to the surface during nature cure is known as “Healing crisis”. During nature cure, when the prana or vital force increases, the body throws out suppressed chronic diseases causing healing crisis in the form of fever, cold , cough, vomiting etc. When the healing crisis is over, the person gets healed from the disease.
Modern science has accepted that there is no complete cure for common cold. The complete cure is effected by nature alone. We can look at primarily three approaches to nature cure:
- Giving rest to the digestive system to aid detoxification.
- Adding antioxidants in our diet to fight free radicals.
- Proper stress management through yoga and other means.
The best way to give rest to the digestive system is a water fast. One can do a one-day water fast, few times a month. Those who cannot do water fast can attempt a juice fast. Intermittent one-day fasts can improve your digestive power, increase vitality and can put your immune system back on track. Those who have chronic attacks of common cold can attempt longer fasts like a three-day fast or a seven-day water fast. It will help to cleanse the body of toxins. Please take advice from a qualified naturopath or a doctor before attempting longer fasts, as everyone’s body conditions vary.
Immunity is maintained by individual cells of the body, which work as soldiers. Their work can be interrupted by free radicals which are unstable compound generated during chemical process in body. These free radicals are generated in the body due to abnormal metabolism or improper physiological function and they start damaging cells responsible for maintaining immunity of the body, thus lowering the immunity level and making the body prone to infections.
Anti-oxidants help to remove the free radicals that can harm your immune system. Fruits and vegetables are known to contain anti-oxidant vitamins, the most common being vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. They are found mostly in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially with blue, purple, yellow, red and orange hues. Consult a dietician and add sufficient fruits and vegetables in your diet. This will boost your immune system.
Another reason for common cold can be psychological, especially the accumulation of stress. Stress weakens our immune system. Colds always seem to strike when we’re overworked or emotionally exhausted. When we feel threatened or anxious, stress hormone named cortisol is released by the adrenal glands. Cortisol functions to reduce inflammation in the body, which is good, but over time, constant high levels to reduce inflammation also suppress the immune system. Stressed people’s immune cells become less sensitive to cortisol and so they are unable to regulate the inflammatory response, and therefore, when they’re exposed to a virus, they’re more likely to develop a cold.
Stress also affects the digestive system. It leads to poor digestion and to poor absorption of the digested food, which turn causes toxins to form in the intestines. These toxins get absorbed into the blood and the cycle of accumulation of waste goes on. As explained before, the accumulation of wastes tends to reduce our immunity and makes the body susceptible to common cold.
Stress management is a whole subject by itself. Yoga can provide a comprehensive solution to stress. Yogic postures, yogic breathing and meditation can calm down the mind and relax the body. Apart from stress removal, yoga can also improve our overall physical and mental health. Yoga improves our vitality and keeps the mind cheerful.
One of the easiest method to remove stress is do simple yogic breathing. Yogic breathing can be done even at your work place, relaxing on a chair. Yogic breath is a complete breath. One has to inhale slowly and deeply, till the abdomen, chest and the neck region is fully expanded. Similarly the expiration has to be slow and complete. This has to be done with awareness of the breath and with complete relaxation. Just do it for a minute and observe the difference. You can focus your awareness on the belly during this process. Observe how the belly moves in and out slowly. If you observe a baby during sleep, you will notice that the belly moves very rhythmically with full relaxation. As we grow old, we forget the basic ways of relaxed breathing. Yogic breathing brings us back in touch with our natural breathing process.
To summarize, management of common cold in naturopathy is based on strengthening our immune system to prevent colds. Naturopathy uses a combination of fasting and proper diet. Thus, yoga combined with naturopathy can be effective for preventing the common cold.