This week, I wanted to write about something different that is important this time of year. We all know about the importance of minerals for our health and well-being. Whether it is calcium and magnesium for bones, nerves, potassium for muscles, and better sleep but what about trace elements? I was first introduced to them as a teenager in France. My parents had a wonderful naturopath that would come to our house. He would test us and find imbalances. He also practiced acupuncture. He would always prescribe a treatment that included either homeopathic medicine or herbal supplements and minerals like colloidal silver or zinc for instance. His approach was always preventive so that it allowed us to prepare our terrain and get ahead of things. It must have worked because I don’t remember my parents ever getting the flu or a flu vaccine (maybe a rare cold) and they both lived a long life!
What are trace elements?
They are chemicals or micronutrients that are found in minute quantities in the body. There are 14 trace elements. Some of these are well known like iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), selenium (Se), chromium (Cr), cobalt (Co), iodine (I), and manganese (Mn). Others are less known like molybdenum (Mo), rubidium (Rb), strontium (Sr), lead (Pb), arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), vanadium (V), and cadmium (Cd). The most important and abundant trace element in our body is iron (3–5 g) because it is found in our blood, liver, muscles, and bone marrow.
The winter months are known to bring winter ills like colds, flu, sore throats, fever, bronchitis, etc. With COVID and all of its variants, there are 3 trace elements that are particularly important to replenish. They are Copper, zinc, and selenium. Luckily, if you don’t like to take pills, these minerals are found in a number of common foods.
Copper: Nuts, seeds, leafy greens, cacao, green tea, spirulina, shiitake mushrooms…
zinc (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties): pine nuts, peanuts, cashews, and almonds…
Selenium: pumpkin seeds, garlic, bananas, brazil nuts (one nut provides twice your daily requirements)
There are so many ways to incorporate these foods into our daily meals. Nuts and seeds can be added to salad dressing, smoothies, oatmeal, sprinkled on salads, stir-fry.
If you think about it, there are several logical reasons why we tend to get sick during the winter months. Starting with the outdoors: colder temperatures, more grey days, breathing dry indoor air, big temperature differences between cold outdoor and overheated building depending on where you live, just to name a few… In terms of lifestyle changes: we don’t move as much, we stay indoors because of inclement weather, we consume more starchy and cooked food and less fresh ingredients.
When everything works correctly our immune system effortlessly handles bacteria and viruses and keeps them at bay. The reason why more people with underlying health issues have succumbed to COVID is that their bodies were already fighting chronic and autoimmune infections making them more vulnerable to the virus. A weakened system always has 2 characteristics: it is too acidic and produces excess oxidation. The good news is that we can easily reduce the acidity level of our body by eliminating alcohol and tobacco, meat, cheese, eggs, and chicken. All animal protein is acid-producing and leaves acid residues in the body. In addition, reduce the consumption of white rice, pasta, desserts, potatoes even when you are trying to recover. Increasing the amount of fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables will speed up the recovery process by lowering the acidity level.
Copper and bacteria
Did you know that 99% of bacteria will die when in contact with copper? Lots of experimentation* has been done in hospitals where bedside rails, tray tables, intravenous poles, and chair armrests were coated with copper alloy and showed a 50% decrease in the rate of infections. This obviously should be implemented in schools, hospitals, senior facilities, homes around the world! So go to your local hardware store and get some!
Have you ever used a copper tongue scraper? A dear friend of mine gifted me one many years ago (thanks Janice!) and it has been a great addition to my daily routine. I use it after brushing my teeth to zap any bacteria or virus I may have inhaled. It can also help eliminate bad breath, prevent cavities, and gum disease. I can even feel a slight tingling in my mouth. The scraper removes the thin layer of bacteria that builds up and it jump-starts digestion. It also helps provide enzymes required for the healthy bacteria to thrive in the mouth and maintains the alkalinity of the tongue. Not bad for a little piece of thin copper. Scrapers are inexpensive and make a great gift for the whole family.
All you have to do is clean them up once in a while. Just mix 3 tsp vinegar with 1 tsp of salt in a little boiling water. Soak the scraper for a minute and wipe off any tarnishing and rinse underwater and you are good to go. If you are in a hurry you can also dip the scraper in some mouthwash. What I love about this little tool is that there is no need to recharge, it never wears out. It is the gift that keeps on giving. No wonder Egyptians used copper pipes 4,000 years ago to carry their water.
What to avoid if you are feeling achy and coming down with something
Contrary to what our ancestors may have prescribed, you should stay away from grog or any hot alcoholic beverage. Originally it was thought that alcohol should be taken to warm up and even help eliminate toxins. We know today that it is not the case. Alcohol actually weakens the body and its ability to fight viruses. It does this because it shrinks down our blood vessels, in other words, it slows down our blood circulation especially in our extremities. Sure, you will feel brief warming up at first but your overall body temperature will soon drop, triggering chills and a feeling of coldness.
A much better solution is a warm/hot cup of vegetable broth, miso soup, and layers of clothes to make you sweat.
Let’s be honest, while over-the-counter products may provide a little relief with our achy, feverish symptoms, they rarely help our immune system. Below is a list of things to do to help our immune system so it can better fight viruses.
10 steps to speed up recovery from a cold or flu
- Blow your nose often to clear nasal passages.
- Gargle with warm water with a pinch of Himalayan salt.
- Drink lots of filtered water, herbal infusions, broth, and liquid soup like miso soup.
- Wash and rinse your sinuses with warm water and a pinch of sea salt once or twice a day.
- Spend most of the time sitting up instead of laying down to ease breathing, especially at night when coughing gets worse.
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom and add a few drops of essential oils (see below for specific conditions) like peppermint, thyme, eucalyptus, tea tree.
- Rub a little oil of ravintsara under your nose to ease breathing.
- Sleep more. Take melatonin, drink chamomile tea, anything that will help you sleep deeply. The deeper you sleep the faster your body eliminates toxins and recharges itself.
- Take anti-oxidants like vitamin C (fruit juice, parsley), vitamin E, D3 (wheat germ), magnesium (parsley), selenium (garlic), and take probiotics.
- Increase your intake of fresh foods.
Best essential oils to use to fight colds and flu
Here is a quick list to get you started.
Cough & throat infection Peppermint
Fever & anti-viral Eucalyptus
Stuffed up nose Lemon
Cold symptoms Chamomile
Anti-bacterial Tea tree & Thymes
Fatigue & headaches Lavender
A little prevention goes a long way, so if you or a loved one is feeling under the weather, try to incorporate some of these tips. They are simple but they do work and the best part, they have no side effects besides feeling better!