MEDIAPLANET: There are so many natural health remedies on the shelves. What’s important to look for?
BRUCE WYLDE: You absolutely can’t trust just anything on the shelves of a health food store. Health Canada (NHPD) has put in place the assignment of Natural Product Numbers (NPN) on natural health products.

Consumers can feel pretty safe about a natural health product with a label claim and an NPN on it because that’s a seal of approval showing evidence of safety. Health Canada issues NPN numbers as it relates to what is in a given substance, what that substance will do as it relates to safety and efficacy.

In order to be a smart shopper, the most important thing is to look for that NPN. Still, some claims, even with an NPN number assigned to it, may be very vague. Things like “improves immune function” or “a good source of daily anti-oxidant” are claims to be double checked for evidence in order to be sure you can expect a healthy cold and flu season.

Do your research, consult with a regulated health professional, and don’t believe everything that you read on the shelves.

MP: What is nutrition’s role in preventing the cold, cough, and flu?
BW: When it comes to nutrition, everyone needs to be eating a lot more micronutrient-rich foods — including Asian mushrooms, onions, and nutrient-rich greens — to help activate our immune systems. These foods help your front-line immune defense and stimulate natural killer cells.

MP: Okay, so you catch the cough, cold, or flu. What’s your suggested remedy?
BW: My number one tip for folks who have developed a virus is to save others by coughing or sneezing into your sleeve – that’s imperative.

To remedy a cough, you can create an at-home cough syrup by simply slicing up an onion and spreading a generous amount of honey over it. Let the juices accumulate onto a plate, and take a few tablespoons of that every few hours. I also like the proven science behind elderberry extracts. Culinary ideas that help keep a strong immune system include everything from Curcumin found in turmeric, cloves, and ginger – these are all great for a cough.

Once there is a cold or flu in place, there’s a number of things you can do: stay home, rest, don’t come in contact with others, drink lots of fluids, eat soup, keep an eye on your temperature, and take natural remedies to shorten the duration and reduce symptoms.

MP: What vitamins play a crucial role during cold and flu season?
BW: I call these the ACES: Vitamin A, C, E, and Selenium. Plus N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). They play a crucial role in increasing naturally produced glutathione in the body — an incredible anti-oxidant necessary to keep a robust immune system. It helps you to detoxify, deal with infections, treat upper respiratory tract infections, and loosen phlegm. 

MP:Can you tell us about honey’s role in keeping the immune system healthy?

BW: Similar to how honey engages the immune system as it relates to allergies, it essentially has an ability to up-regulate anti-inflammatory cytokines, which help subdue symptoms. Honey may also increase natural filler cells. The long and short of it is that there are micro-nutrients within honey, in particular non-pasteurized and local, that ramp up the immune system.