It’s that time of year: the time when people start waking up with sniffles or head congestion: Cold and Flu season! So, what can we do to prevent this, or, in the case that you may already be coming down with a cold or flu, heal ourselves? Don’t fret! There are many natural methods to help yourself. No flu shots! Limited to no ‘cold and flu medicines’! You can prevent and heal with food, supplements, and lifestyle in general! Here are some methods I recommend, as do many professionals!
Build your immune system with vitamins and minerals found in whole foods.
Found in Brazil nuts, this mineral is associated with an anti-oxidant called glutathione peroxidase that is made by our bodies. A deficiency in selenium can decrease this anti-oxidant. Because of this decrease, oxidative stress can make us more vulnerable to virus mutation. Making sure we have enough selenium can help stave off this vulnerability. Try eating 1-2 Brazil nuts per day (Yep, that’s all you need!). This is my preferred method of selenium retainment. If you are not going to get it via food, make sure your selenium supplement contains Selenomethionine. This is a form of selenium that occurs naturally in foods, and is better absorbed by the body (Julianne Taylor, July 3, 2010).
Some studies have found that zinc deficiency can increase susceptibility to infections. In order to have an adequately adapted immune system, and possibly reduce risk of respiratory issues, zinc levels should be maintained. A good source of zinc (for those who are not allergic to shellfish) is oysters. Other sources include seafood and grass fed meat. If you are going to supplement, I recommend a high-quality multi-vitamin (I use TwinLabs Allergy Multi-Caps).
-Vitamins A & D
In order for the immune system to function normally, the skin and cells that line the digestive tract, urinary tract, and airways need to be a strong first defense against infection (Julianne Taylor, 2003). Vitamin A is the nutrient that can help with this. Sources for Vitamin A include beef liver, cod liver oil, and yellow vegetables and fruits.
Vitamin D has also been found to be important in immune system health. The mechanisms for Vitamin D’s role in immunity are complicated; however, it has been found in several studies to have a highly immunoregulatory role. Essentially, it has been shown to up-regulate antimicrobial peptides in immune cells (White, 2008). You can get Vitamin D from being out in the noontime sun for 15 mins – 1 hour (depending on skin color: the lighter you are, the less time, the darker, the more); however, this may not be enough. This is especially true if there is obesity or inflammation. A good source of Vitamin D (as well as Vit. A) is cod liver oil. There is a fermented cod liver oil/butter oil blend from Green Pastures that I recommend, but just the addition of a bit of fermented cod liver oil and pasture raised butter can help. If you are going to get a Vitamin D supplement, make sure it is high quality and is Vitamin D3. The dosage amount will vary depending on your own levels, but 2000-4000 IU per day may be a starting point. I recommend knowing your levels and going from there, though.
The B vitamins are really all important in immunity, but low Vitamin B6 has been associated with impaired immune system in several studies. You can find Vitamin B6 in pastured chicken and turkey, bananas, and spinach. A good multi-vitamin will also help.
Probiotics are very important for gut health, and gut health is important for every single factor of health! Whether we want to believe it or not, our bodies NEED friendly bacteria in order to function properly.The bacteria helps us digest, absorb nutrients, make nutrients, and make vitamins. In order to keep a balance of these friendly bacterias in our guts (as well as keeping the bad bacterias down), we need to make sure we eat probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, or other fermented foods. We also need to keep out the foods that cause gut irritation. These include improperly prepared or raised foods like grains, legumes, and dairy. I personally have removed all grains and legumes, and only eat raw, pastured dairy. This helps my gut heal, and gives me a stronger gut; therefore, I have a stronger immune system than ever before.
There is a reason we all know to eat chicken soup when we’re sick! Homemade broth is filled with minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and other minerals that are hard for us to get from any other source. All of the vitamins and minerals found in homemade bone broth help boost health and vitality. To learn more about this, I recommend you visit the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website at: www.westonaprice.org/food-features/broth-is-beautiful.
I personally make bone broth every week or so. I then freeze it and try to get in at least a cup a day. When I feel a cold coming on, I up my cup to a bowl or two!
-Sleep, rest, destress
One of the most tried and true preventatives for colds and the flu is rest. Resting helps the body optimize immunity. The body likes to repair during sleep and rest periods. Getting adequate sleep at the right times of night is important. If you don’t sleep long enough, you may find you are feeling run-down. This is because the body works to protect itself during sleep. Not getting enough sleep can inflame the body and elevate inflammatory markers (Kresser, 2011). Prevention is simply in resting, sleeping, and engaging in relaxing activities like meditation.
When all the preventatives have not helped, and we get a little croupy or ill-feeling, there are ways to treat. These are not medications that mask the symptoms (that’s really all those OTC medicines do). They are also not the so-called ‘preventative’ toxic mixtures such as flu shots that are still not proven. These are natural, immune boosting remedies that will speed up your body’s own natural defenses and get you healthier faster!
Help the immune system heal by boosting immune building nutrients
-Increase your dosage of Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
As was mentioned earlier, fermented cod liver oil is a good source for Vitamins A & D (incidentally, it is also a really good source of those wonderful Omega 3 fatty acids that our body requires a good balance of). If you have become ill, up your normal dosage of fermented cod liver oil to get more of those immune boosting vitamins into your body!
-Ginger, honey, and lemon in a tea
This tried and true cold and flu remedy comes with some good research behind it. Because ginger is an anti-microbial, it can help with things such as nausea to the flu. Lemon, a good source of Vitamin C, combined with the ginger can soothe a sore throat. Add honey, a possible cough suppressant
-Increase your probiotic intake
If probiotics are ideal for boosting gut health, and therefore immunity, increasing the probiotic foods you eat during a cold or the flu may help fight it off. Boost the healing your body can do by eating more of the fermented foods listed above.
-Sweat it out
Yes, I said it. Sweat your cold or flu away! In fact, according to Chris Kresser (2011), Chinese medicine recommends sweating in the early stages of a cold. There are any number of methods I have seen and experimented with myself on this. The best is a nice, hot herb bath. Run a hot bath and add herbs like eucalyptus and rosemary to it. This will help you sweat and give you the healing benefits of the herbs! Another method I have used and seen promoted is exercise. While you may not feel like doing an intense workout when you’re sick, some have suggested that light exercise such as light yoga could be beneficial for speeding up the healing process. Finally, in this category, is the good, old-fashioned cover up and snuggle into bed. This does 2 things: 1. It gets you toasty enough to sweat, and 2. It gets you resting (a crucial aspect of healing, as stated above).
As previously mentioned, sleep is vital to healing in all aspects of the body. One of the best things you can do for yourself during a cold or the flu is to rest and sleep.
-Garlic, Cayenne, Cinnamon, and Cloves
Garlic is a natural antibiotic and antiviral. It can reduce the severity of a cold and possibly lessen the time it takes to heal. It may be hard to handle, but the best way to utilize garlic would be to mince it up and drink it in water. If you can’t handle that, find some really good, high-quality garlic tablets.
Cayenne, Cinnamon, and Cloves
These warming herbs help break up mucous. They have long been touted as natural remedies for coughs and colds. Stir these into an herbal tea and drink up!
Coconut oil is a miracle! It is anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial! There is literally nothing I can think of that coconut oil is not good for! Contrary to the rumors of the past, coconut oil is not fattening or bad for you. In fact, it is quite the opposite! For more on the miracle of coconut see the book ‘The Coconut Oil Miracle’ by Dr. Bruce Fife.
-Apple Cider Vinegar
A teaspoon of ACV in warm water can be gargled to help a sore throat. ACV aslo has a reputation for being anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
-Steam (especially with herbs)
Steam, and specifically herbal facial steams, can be good for clearing up congestion. Just boil some water, turn off the heat, add some herbs like rosemary, thyme, and eucalyptus, stir, cover for about 5-6 minutes, remove lid, drape a towel over your head, and lean over the pot. Breathe in the steam. It can loosen your congestion and kill bacteria.
-Use a humidifier
Often, dry air is a real problem during cold and flu season. Prevent drying out of the respiratory system by using a humidifier. I do have to say, though, make sure you keep the humidifier full, and that it is the right size for your room!
Make sure you stay hydrated during a cold or flu. Fluids are important to keep the immune system working well!
-Use hydrogen peroxide
For earaches and clogged ears, you can put a few drops in the ear. Lean over and let the peroxide bubble. Then turn over and repeat on the other side. You can also add a capful to your bath. This will permeate the skin and help ward off bacteria.
Use a neti pot with CLEAN water (distilled or boiled then cooled) and sea salt to clean mucous from the sinuses.
There are many, many more natural remedies for preventing and healing colds and the flu. I hope this blog has helped you find some that you feel comfortable with! If you do the things on this list, you should help yourself prevent and heal much better and faster than ever! It all comes down to eating well, sleeping well, and caring for yourself! Trust me, this is MUCH better than just masking the underlying cause! Do these things, and you may find you get sick much less than anyone around you! I know I did!!
Kresser, C. (2011, Dec. 2). How to prevent colds and flus naturally. Retrieved from chriskresser.com/how-to-prevent-colds-and-flus-naturally
White, J. H. (2008). Vitamin D signaling. Infectious diseases and regulation of innate immunity. Infect Immunity.
Taylor, J. (2010, July 3). It’s flu season – How to boost your immunity. Retrieved from paleozonenutriton.com/2010/07/03/its-flu-season-how-to-boost-your immunity/