How to prevent (or cope with) a cold or the flu.
I used to think it was inevitable that I would fall ill when my daughter caught cold or flu—not because I catch bacteria or viruses easily but because of the closeness that would occur when she was sick.Little ones with fevers like to be close to their mothers. Late nights of warm baths and back rubs when they have a temperature takes a toll on mom’s immunity. I am currently dealing with a cold that my daughter brought home from school and it has inspired me to share with you the best ways to prevent, heal and recover from the nasty bugs that tend to circulate through the community during this season. Hopefully there are some golden nuggets of information for you the next time you or a loved one experience the cold/flu bug.
Do not wait until the flu hits to begin supporting your body and immunity. Be sure to stockpile immunity-building supplements, teas and liquids now, before you need them.
- Using bone broth with lots of garlic, apple cider vinegar and lemon drinks daily not only keeps your immunity strong but also repairs your gut. All disease begins in the gut, according to Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Be proactive and you might even avoid all colds and flu in the first place.
- Stay hydrated! I can’t stress this one enough. Some 20 billion electric biochemical responses in your body are all dependent upon. Drink half of your body weight in ounces a day with a pinch of sea salt for minerals and electrolytes to support your adrenals and digestion.
- Avoid sugar. Sugar can incapacitate the immune system for up to four hours after consumption. Hugs and kisses can be the perfect storm for bugs to enter your system while its defenses are down.
- Wash your hands. Frequent hand washing is an effective means of cold prevention. Avoid anti-bacterial soaps or gels —they can do more harm then good in the long run. Simple soap and water will do.
- Sleep! Best preventive and cure. Don’t skimp. Start now.
If you feel something coming on, begin amping up your system with any and all of these healing and immune-supporting remedies immediately. By using these products in protocol every four to six hours I usually can prevent any cold or flu from really taking hold. Keep these and other immune-boosting remedies on hand and begin dosing at the first sign of cold or flu.
- Vitamin C. Taking vitamin C before the onset of cold symptoms may shorten the duration of symptoms. There is mixed information as to evidence that Vitamin C really helps colds and flu. I think the reason for this has to do with the dosage taken in the studies. Begin with a loading dose of 3,000-4,000mg, and then dose 1,000mg every one to two hours until you hit bowel tolerance. Bowel tolerance is a polite way of saying diarrhea. Let’s say that you hit 15,000mg and begin to notice more flatulence (gas) and some looser stool. At that point, you would back off your dosing slightly. If you’ve been taking 1000mg every hour, once you are near your bowel tolerance you would back off to 1000mg every two hours, adjusting up or down as needed to stay just below bowel tolerance.
- Zinc. Recently an analysis of several studies showed that zinc lozenges or syrup reduced the length of a cold by one day, especially when taken within 24 hours of the first signs and symptoms of a cold. But read labels—many cold/flu prevention products now on the market contain zinc and most of them are sweetened with sugar. You can get all the cold and flu prevention love from zinc by simply using an organic food-based zinc supplement. Plus you will avoid the over-priced sugary lozenges that might build but will also cripple the immune system.
- Medicinal mushrooms. Rishi has been known for thousands of years as the king of immunity. This woodsy little mushroom along with its immune-building buddies maitake, cordyceps, lion’s mane and shiitake have the power to kill viruses, bacteria and yeast; destroy cancer cells; and even assist with nerve regeneration. Chinese have long used mush-rooms for their medicinal qualities. More recently, numerous studies published by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health show strong evidence that controlled use of some mushrooms have immune-stimulating impacts on patients (particularly cancer patients). Daily use will help prevent myriad health issues. Ramping up your dosage at the first sign of cold or flu will shorten the duration of most illnesses significantly. Many products on the market offer a blend of these mushrooms in a liquid supplement. Placing the recommend dosage under your tongue and holding it there for 1-5 minutes will super charge your immune system.
- Fermented garlic or fire cider. Garlic is known as the Russian Antibiotic. Some hospitals in Europe that will give you an enema and garlic before even seeing the doctor when you come in with cold/flu symptoms. There are many simple recipes online to make these home remedies yourself and it is best to keep a stock pile of them on hand during the winter months.
- Grapefruit seed extract. Do not confuse grapefruit seed extract with grape seed extract. Though both are healthy, it is “grapefruit” seed extract (abbreviated as GSE or GFSE) that works as a natural antibiotic with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Simply add 10-30 drops (it has a bitter taste) to your drinking water. GSE’s antifungal properties may give you a bellyache. If that happens, discontinue or lessen your dosage.
- Oregano oil. The oil has been proven to be an effective antimicrobial agent. Oregano oil contains 50 active compounds with immune-boosting and germ-fighting properties, and antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Its nutrient content includes vitamins A and C, both of which support respiratory health and help fight infection. Oregano oil also contains calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, copper and boron. Oil of oregano helps your lungs recover from a bout with a cold or flu by thinning the mucous, allowing for easier breathing and faster removal of the infecting virus.
- Diffuse essential oils. Thieves, peppermint, eucalyptus and oregano oil have the ability to keep airborne bugs at bay and relieve congested nose and lungs. I personally like to diffuse these and other oils throughout the cold and flu season in my home and studio as a form of prevention and a mood enhancer.
These are just a few of the many items I keep in a little prevention box in my cupboard. Finding the right combo that works for you is key. The minute a sore throat or sneeze makes its way into my home, the box comes out and the whole family begins to dose the protocol (even if it is 3 a.m. in the morning).
If the cold/flu has got a hold of you
Even with all the prevention in the world, sometimes it happens and you just don’t feel good. Here are my mommy go-to’s for easing the duration, body aches and pains during the throes of the cold/flu.
- Rest. This is the number one thing you can do for yourself anytime you are ill. Getting quality sleep and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and action movies will keep your body in a regenerative state that can help rebuild the system once a bug has taken hold.
- Hot baths/showers. I can’t stress this one enough! They help with aches and pains plus will assist a fever in raising your core temperature to burn out the bugs. You can add Epsom salts to ease aching joints and get a dose of magnesium to help you sleep or eucalyptus oil to open clogged bronchial pathways. I have been known to use three or four of these a day when resting with the flu. You can keep the same water in the bath and add more hot when you are ready to take another dip to conserve water and Epsom salts.
- Hot tea and broths. Warm fluids help the body with lymph drainage and can unstuff a congested nose and throat. You can purchase organic herbal teas specifically formulated for colds, sore throats, stuffy noses and immunity building. Local raw honey, lemon and cayenne in hot water can instantly relieve a sore throat. Ginger and honey will help stomach aches and pains. Yes, honey is a form of sugar but it also has antibacterial properties that can support healing.
- Neti pots. A neti pot is used for nasal irrigation, usually with a solution of purified water and salt to clear out mucus and allergens. I keep a solution of Himalayan salt crystals and filtered water next to my neti pot in the shower. By flushing regularly when sick I use less tissue and prevent the raw dry skin from cracking and becoming painful under my nose.
- Vapor rubs. Choose a vapor rub that is organic and has no toxic ingredients like petroleum. You do not want to cause more work for the body then it already is doing. I love a product called Winter Crest and use it not only for sore muscles but also for sore throats and congestion. It has the power to clear up stuffed noses and alleviate pain from the outside in with vapors of menthol and wintergreen essential oils. The skin is a great pathway to absorb medicines and release toxins.
- Continue with all the immune building supplements and protocols mentioned earlier in this article until the body has recovered and you are feeling well.
- Visualization. Use visualization, meditation and positive affirmation techniques to speed up the process of recovery. Seeing yourself as healthy, happy and whole can have a placebo effect with far-reaching benefits. Any time you use these protocols or other wellness remedies, focus on the work that they are doing in your body and see them working quickly and efficiently to make you well.
Continue to care for your body and get good sleep even after you are feeling better. Even after cold and flu symptoms have subsided the body is still working with a below-par immune system.
Nicole DeVaney is a holistic health coach and co-owner Iron and Salt studios.