Easy and accessible items and habits to keep in-mind and on-hand during the cold/flu season go a long way to prevent you from catching some nasty virus (cold or flu), can shorten the duration if you do get sick, and strengthen your immune system for the long haul. Viruses can hijack your energy, body and precious time. Truly, prevention costs less in both money and time. You are so worth the investment in prevention.
I encourage you to integrate some of these suggestions into your daily routine(s), whether it’s a morning drink, smoothie, soup recipe or night-time ritual.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Some of these suggestions may not be appropriate if pregnant or lactating.
Oregano oil has been used therapeutically for centuries. Approximately two hundred studies have documented its efficacy as a natural antibiotic, anti-fungal and antioxidant. It supports the immune system and protects against toxins. Research has also shown that oregano oil may be effective against types of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. It is used in the treatment of Lyme disease, Candida, E. coli, parasites and viruses.
Gaia Herbs offers them in capsules, or you can dilute in water and drink or mix with a carrier oil (olive or coconut), hold under the tongue, then swallow.
During cold and flu season, increasing intake of Vitamin C can gently boost the immune system. In four studies with British male schoolchildren and students, a statistically highly significant reduction in common cold incidence was found in groups that supplemented with vitamin C. It’s also been found to shorten the duration of the common cold. One gram a day as a precaution will boost the immune system. A few grams can be safely taken, but can cause loose stools, in which case the dose should be reduced. Good to know as well, that if constipation is an issue, C can help to “move the mail”. I found 832 abstracts with Vitamin C research for 458 conditions, showing hundreds of proven health benefits.
In clinical research, Vitamin D3 has been shown to be a potent antiviral, reducing colds and flu by 42 percent. Not only that, but it regulates gene activation, contributes to metabolic processes, has been shown to prevent cancer, is good for cardio health, improves beta-endorphins (makes us feel good) and contributes to healthy hormone balance. Vitamin D also acts more directly on mood by activating the genes that release the important mood-regulating neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These connections might help explain why people tend to experience low moods during the winter.
If you haven’t tested and don’t know if you are deficient in D, you can supplement with 2,000-4,000 IU/d. But better to test and supplement appropriately.
Vitamin A and D – Cod Liver Oil
Both of these fat-soluble vitamins are important for immune health. Research suggests that they are only effective for preventing/reversing colds and flus when taken together. Cod Liver Oil contains natural forms of both A and D in a synergistic blend. Chris Kesser suggests that if there’s only one superfood/supplement you take in winter, this should be it. Its rich fat-soluble vitamins regulate and support the immune system and fatty acids like EPA and DHA reduce inflammation.
Fermented foods – natural probiotics
70-80% of our immune system is in our gut. Poor bacterial
balance in the intestines can make us more susceptible to pathogens, viral and
bacterial infections. Here is a short list of fermented foods.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Beet kvaas
- Yogurt – sugar free!
Number 1 Sons in the DC area farmers markets makes FABULOUS fermented vegetables! https://number1sons.com/our-farmers-markets/. But its also quite easy to ferment your own vegetables. That’s a different article 🙂 If these foods are unappealing, you can take a daily probiotic. But getting your nutrients from food is preferable because of the variety of other nutrients you get from the whole food.
Ginger honey-lemon tea
Ginger is a natural antimicrobial and can alleviate nausea and upset stomach that comes with certain flus. Lemon has a soothing quality on a sore throat, especially combined with honey. Honey is a time-honored cough remedy and recent research suggests that it may be an effective cough suppressant. NOTE: never give honey to kids under 1-year of age.
An effective antimicrobial, garlic combined with miso can kick a cold or flu right out of your system. You might add a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper to either this concoction or the ginger honey-lemon tea to break up mucous.
Bone broth, vegetable, chicken, beef… More liquids are always good whether one is under-the-weather or not. Bone broth is particularly good for healing the gut. It is rich with easily absorbable minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and trace minerals.
Zinc is involved in more body functions than any other mineral. It helps promote healthy brain function and hormone regulation. If it is started early on, research suggests that zinc can reduce the duration and severity of a cold. 30 mg/d of zinc picolinate or zinc gluconate for short periods when you’re fighting something. Oysters are also a good source of zinc, yum!
Elderberry is one of the most effective botanicals for strengthening immune function and preventing colds and flus. Take 1 teaspoon 2x/day if you’re coming down with a cold or flu and continue taking it if you do get sick.
Many times, if we stay hydrated enough, fluids can flush a pesky pathogen out of our system before it takes hold. The general rule is to drink one half of your body weight in ounces (140 lbs, 70 oz). This is an approximate. More activity and heat, more fluids. Starting your day with a morning drink or smoothie is an easy way to both hydrate and get a head start on fluids for the day.
If you want to get started on a morning drink which is quicker and easier than a smoothie, here’s my daily morning drink: 2 tablespoons Hydrolyzed Collagen, 2 tablespoons ground Flax Seed, 1 teaspoon cacao, 1 teaspoon Turmeric, 1 teaspoon Chia seeds and a few shakes of cinnamon.
Wash hands A LOT, especially after being in public space (metro, meetings, office, shaking hands with others…). LOTS of fluids (water mostly, tea, coconut water, broths…). Adequate rest and sleep. These are not the same. We can rest intermittently throughout the day. If you can find a place to steel away for 5 minutes of quiet, eyes closed, focus on breathing, it can be a game-changer for your day. Also, 5-10 minutes of quiet time/space between work and home can help to put your day down so that you can be more fully present to your life at home. And adequate sleep is important to the immune system, helps to balance hormones and restores our biochemical soup.
I wish you all a healthy and happy autumn and holiday season!