It’s cold and flu season once again. How are you doing this winter? Are you fighting off the ‘crud’? Don’t have time to be sick? I mean really who does?
Here are a few things I have found that help that you can do to help avoid colds and flu this winter.
Because colds are caused by a virus, generally you do not need to run to a doctor for medication when you come down with a cold—or even the flu. You are better off letting it run its course and taking good care of yourself so your body can fight it off with its own defenses. However there are a few things you can do to beef up your body’s defenses to help it fight better.
Most colds last about 8-10 days or so, but some may last even longer. The speed at which your body is able to fight off a cold has a lot to do with the state of your health and your immune system.
While many people turn to over the counter remedies to ease the symptoms, did you know that if you take aspirin or Tylenol, these medications actually suppress the body’s antibodies and so prolong the cold or flu? And Tylenol is in many OTC cold preparations. In addition, OTC medications can have a lot of other unpleasant and unhealthy side effects, so it’s best to avoid them if at all possible. Even though they may ease the symptoms you may be stuck with the cold or flu even longer.
You should be able to easily fight off a cold or flu if your immune system is operating at its peak. In fact, just being around someone with a cold or flu does not mean you will come down with it yourself–as long as your immune system is functioning well. The following are a few suggestions to keep the immune system operating at its best. (And these suggestions work too, if you have already gotten sick, since they help you fight off the virus quicker.)
- Be sure you are eating a healthy diet-Avoiding sugar and grains will help keep your immune system strong. And if you feel that you are coming down with something, stay away from all sugar and processed grains. We know that sugar and grain turn to glucose in the body. However, this increased level of sugar in the body actually weakens the immune system drastically. So to keep viruses away, avoid sugar and processed foods.
- Add in some extra vitamin C—Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and works well as an immune enhancer, and you can take up to several grams per hour. While that seems like a lot, vitamin C is water-soluble so any extra will wash out of the body. The only side effect to large doses of vitamin C is loose stools, so just beware. And, as an added note, vitamin C has been shown to be very helpful with depression, so if you are dealing with the winter ‘blahs’, vitamin C will help that too.
- Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants, including lots of raw fruits and vegetables, and high omega 3 foods like grass fed beef and wild caught salmon. Besides antioxidants, these foods are packed with vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals that are great for the immune system.
- Be sure to get your vitamin D—Several research studies have shown that catching a cold or flu is actually a symptom of a vitamin D deficiency. Low levels of vitamin D make you much more susceptible to contracting colds, flu and other infections. If you can’t get outside in the sunshine (and that’s hard in the winter when we are all covered up), then go for a good supplement of vitamin D3, which is the must usable source of D.
- Add lots of spices to your foods—many herbs or spices are extremely high in antioxidants and will help the immune system fight off invaders. The best ones are turmeric (the yellow spice in curry), oregano, cinnamon and cloves. Just add liberally to foods.
- While it may be difficult to do, avoid stress—Many of us may be stuck in stressful life conditions, but if you cannot avoid stress, then find a way to deal with it. Get exercise, or follow a healthy outlet to relieve stress. Excessive stress will wear you down until your body cannot fight off any invaders.
- Get enough sleep—Do your best to get a good 7-8 hours sleep if at all possible. If you are having trouble sleeping, be sure not to exercise too late in the evening, avoid caffeine after noon every day, and take a magnesium supplement and a melatonin supplement before bed. Both of the supplements will allow you to relax and enjoy a deeper sleep.
- Get exercise—Exercise triggers a rise in immune natural killer cells that attack any potential invaders. Plus exercise reduces stress, which in turn is good for the immune system as well. But if you are already sick, exercise can help you fight off any virus, as long as you take it easy and try not to get in a super intense session when you are under the weather.
So what if you end up sick after all?
These are some of the things I have tried that seem to work to either help get rid of it or at least help the symptoms.
- Green tea or other herb teas-Teas are warm and soothing and green tea is full of antioxidants and these help fight off the free radicals in the body. Other herb teas containing echinacea, goldenseal, ginger, elderflower, peppermint or ginger are also highly effective. Ginger is an immune stimulant, and I like to make my own tea from sliced fresh ginger, steeped in water that has been brought to a boil. Add in honey and a slice of fresh lemon if you desire. Enjoy its spicy kick.
- Hydrogen Peroxide–This remedy may sound far fetched, but I have tried it and practically swear by it. It has actually stopped a cold in its tracks for me several times, but the key is to get it at the first sign of a cold or flu. While lying on one side or with the head on a table, add a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide to one ear. You will hear it bubbling around inside and possibly feel a slight stinging sensation. After about 5-10 minutes, drain the ear onto a tissue and repeat with the other ear. You can repeat this procedure every 2-4 hours until the symptoms subside. You may be absolutely amazed!
- Olive leaf extract--Ancient Egyptians and Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a natural, non-toxic immune system builder.
- Also make sure to drink plenty of fresh, pure water. Water is essential for the optimal function of every system in your body and will help loosen secretions. Drink enough water to turn your urine a light, pale yellow.
- Honey makes a great gargle for sore throats and is antibacterial and antiviral as well.
- A natural nasal saline irrigates your nose and helps clear thick mucus and relieve pressure from your sinuses. Just use a neti pot and a mixture of sea salt and luke warm water.
- White and Cider Vinegar—I’m not sure of the science behind this, but wearing a pair of cotton socks soaked in white vinegar is an old, natural remedy that is still used today to reduce a fever—if nothing else, it won’t hurt, other than making your feet smell funny!
- Don’t forget the chicken soup! Chicken noodle soup has been medically proven to help cure a cold or fever. It is most effective if the soup is made with actual chicken bones in the broth.
- Garlic—One of my favorite solutions for a cold or flu is to chop up raw garlic and eat it, swallow it, or add it to some olive oil and top your salad with it. Raw garlic is a potent antiviral and is full of powerful antioxidants and other phytochemicals that help your immune system battle viruses. It really seems to work! Of course no one may want to get too close for a while, but you will feel better!
So take care of yourself, don’t overdo, avoid stress if you can or find effective ways to handle it, sleep well and most of all, eat a healthy diet. Hopefully you will escape the creeping ‘crud’ this year!