8 Ways to Beat a Cold or Flu Fast:
Millions of cases of the common cold are reported each year. Adults on average are stricken by a cold 2 to 3 times annually with symptoms persisting for up to 10 days while kids may be sick from a cold up to 10 times each year (2, 13). The severity of seasonal influenza is unpredictable year to year. Officials from the CDC suggests that one-fifth of United States population can be protected from the flu if students and school staff work diligently to protect themselves from becoming sick (1).
As you contemplate the reason for the season these upcoming months, have you ever wondered why the cold and flu strikes so harshly during the fall and winter months? Why are there postings for signs around every corner reminding you to get your flu shot now? Cold weather and long winters bring on more attempts of pathogens to weaken your immune defenses.
Fortunately, there are natural ways you can overcome your symptoms of cold and flu and even prevent becoming ill. Follow the 8 ways listed below to help build a titanium immune system and protect your body from the pathogens that are circulating on and around you.
What is Cold and Flu Season?
Understanding the difference between the common cold and the flu can may help ease your mind when you ponder how long your kids will be out of school and thus how long you will be out of work. These facts that follow can help you understand the symptoms and causes of each.
Primarily associated with rhinoviruses, the common cold is amongst the most common illnesses in the world. The majority of treatments involve a trip to the pharmacy and at home remedies while a smaller percentage of only 28% showed individuals actually visit a practitioner for advice. (11)
Differences between Cold and Flu:
Although the differences in these two illnesses are distinct they may be mistaken for one another if you are uncertain of their symptoms. Typically a cold causes symptoms of cough, sore throat and nasal congestion. 200 known viruses are known to cause a cold (11).
Cold viruses infect the nose and throat. Kids pass along germs easily while playing and then touch their nose, eyes and even put things in their mouths making them more susceptible to infection. Poor hygiene practices such as the lack of washing their hands, sneezing and coughing into the air and mindlessly touching anyone or anything are all easy transit routes for viruses to spread. (13)
Symptoms of the Flu:
Unlike a cold, infection from the flu affects the nose, throat, as well as the lungs which makes it a more severe illness. Most commonly, drops of bodily fluid from sneezing, coughing and even talking spread the virus to others. (32)
As the old saying begs the question, should you eat a cold or starve a cold? Breaking the cycle of consuming your standard meals is necessary when your body should be focusing all of its energy to healing. Every time you ingest food you are taking resources away from your immune system from battling your illness. Instead it is working to protect you from the bacteria, viruses and other harmful agents that are present on your food.
The introduction of more bacteria to your gastrointestinal tract poses a threat to your gut microflora and also your immune system. Microbes in the gut interact or “communicate” with the immune system signaling several immune responses to occur and therefore promote inflammation and a longer recovery time. (14)
I am a huge fan of water fasting or broth fasting when you are feeling ill or if you are feeling like you are more immune susceptible. A simple 24 hour water fast can boost your human growth hormone by up to 2000% and give your immune system a significant boost!
If you are hungry while battling sickness, feed yourself foods that will boost immune defenses. Prebiotic and probiotic rich foods like Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, citrus fruits, as well as fermented dairy and vegetables will feed your gut beneficial bacteria and encourage a strong immune system.
2) Hydrate Well:
Your immune system relies on a well hydrated body to stimulate detoxification pathways needed to stimulate enzymes and other biological agents which help flush pathogens from the body and repair damaged tissue (3, 4). Polyphenols found in lemons, apple cider vinegar, herbal teas and even antioxidant rich broths repair the immune system and effectively destroy microbes along the digestive tract.
To help alleviate sore throat and cough symptoms, try hydrating with some of these polyphenol rich liquids:
- Add a splash of apple cider vinegar to a cup of water or drink herbal teas.
- Herbal teas provide antioxidant support that help fight against infection from viruses, bacteria and even fungus. Ginger tea boost glutathione activity and helps reduce inflammation and Echinacea is a long established Ayurveda herbal treatment that is loaded with supportive vitamins and antioxidants. (5, 6)
- Sipping on lemon water throughout the day can heal and help you combat the tiredness you are facing. Out of 300 participants in one research group, the use of lemon was most popular to treat cold and flu symptoms accounting for 73% of treatment uses (11).
- Bone broths prepared from pastured chicken or beef bones are high in amino acids proline and glycine critical to inhibiting bacterial and viral inflammation. They are also contain potassium and magnesium to calm muscle and joint pain.
3) Use Healing Herbs:
Even through the constant advancements of modern medical medicine, the use of medicinal plants has continued for their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the human body (10).
Herbs are a powerful weapon to eliminate contaminants in the body including harmful microbes. European countries rely on commonly and effectively treating cold and flu with the following plants and herbs: (11)
- Purple Echinacea
- Sea buckthorn fruits
- Willow bark
Garlic and onions are some of the best foods you can eat to combat symptoms of cold and flu. Both of these flowering plants have long been used since Egyptian practices for their medicinal treatment of viruses, bacteria and fungus (8). Garlic and onions contain a compound called allicin that contains sulfur and provides countless ways of healing the body from inflammation (9).
4) Diffuse Essential Oils:
An abundance of clinical data and scientific research exists supporting the benefits of aromatherapy oils on the immune system and their topical uses to treat symptoms of cold and flu. Essential oils contain antiseptic compounds that combat bacteria, viruses, fungus and reduce inflammation that can help you feel better sooner and heal faster.
Studies support that essential oils lower causes of inflammation and sickness by reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation, regulating natural killer cell response and lowering cortisol levels (23, 24). Chemical messages are transmitted to the brain through inhalation and boost mood and can calm emotions (25).
The following oils have medicinal benefits and therapeutic effects on human health and can be indirectly inhaled via a room diffuser, directly inhaled to alleviate sinus pressure, massaged onto the skin or applied to baths and lotions:
Eucalyptus oil: A useful agent to regulate the immune response, eucalyptus oil supports cell-mediated pathways including their innate attack on pathogens (22).
Consider taking a steamy bath with a few drops of added eucalyptus oil for natural decongestant relief to help you breathe better and sleep sounder.
Frankincense oil: Frankincense contains Boswellic acids that have the healing potential to stimulate the immune system and serve as a potent anti-inflammatory compound (26). This oil is useful at reducing inflammation from stiff joints and sore muscles as well as alleviating symptoms of a sore chest and throat.
Oregano oil: Plant extract from oregano has been used as an alternative home remedy for its antibacterial properties. Oregano oil inhibits the growth of E.coli and pneumonia causing bacteria in clinical research (27).
Thyme oil: When used in combination with oregano oil, thyme oil exhibits powerful anti-inflammatory effects. When consumed orally, the benefits of thyme oil exhibited significant anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial responses in the gut increasing cytokines to help fight infection. Traditionally, thyme essential oil is used for antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties and also exhibits free-radical scavenging abilities. (28)
Citrus oils: Citrus essential oils are great to help you combat fatigue and alleviate those winter blues. Not limited to lemons, limes and oranges, citrus essential oils also include grapefruit, bergamot, and neroli. These oils are best inhaled for their therapeutic properties to suppress abnormal cell cycle pathways that cause tissue damage and regulates cytokine activity (29).
Citrus oil compounds have been used in Ayurevic practices to prevent symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism and can be equally beneficial to helping your overcome a cold or flu. (30)
Clove oil: Clove oil has tremendous abilities to destroy bacteria that accumulate in the oral cavity creating inflammation and free radical damage. Clove oil has been shown to also effect multi-resistant strains of bacteria and exhibit strong free radical activity (31).
When battling infection with symptoms of a sore throat or cough, take simple measures like brushing your teeth with an added drop of clove oil to reap the benefits from this powerful astringent.
5) Sun Exposure:
The need for vitamin D to regulate the total health and healing abilities of the human body has long been underestimated until recent years. Vitamin D deficiency can be linked to any abnormal immune system complication. Vitamin D is required for detoxification pathways and healthy immune stimulating responses such as the generation of GcMAF, a type of protein responsible for activating macrophage activity and repairing body tissue (15).
Without adequate sunlight exposure, the body cannot produce the active form of vitamin D3 called cholecalciferol. Ideally, 10,000 to 20,000 IU of vitamin D3 should be produced from penetrating UVB rays beneath the epidermis. Sunbathing a minimum of 3 times a week is recommended with the following guidelines based on skin color:
- Light Skin = 15-20 minutes per day
- Medium Skin = 25-30 minutes per day
- Dark Skin = 40-45 minutes per day
When unable to receive the recommended sun exposure, boost your vitamin D levels with a supplement containing doses at 1,000 IU of vitamin D3. For every 25 pounds of body weight, supplement 1,000 IU vitamin D3 daily and best taken with a healthy fat such as olive oil for maximum absorption.
While sick you are probably also feeling blue and could use a mood booster. Grounding is a beneficial exercise that you can practice to relieve symptoms of depression, increase your energy, reduce stress, optimize healing and can be done while getting that necessary sun exposure (16).
Grounding consists of connecting your mind with your body while transferring Earth’s natural electrical energy through your body to reduce stress. Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) are present in the world all around us of which we can naturally absorb from the ground by walking barefoot on sand, dirt and grass. Getting in sync with these natural rhythms has been shown to decrease cortisol levels which helps remove interferences from the body’s immune system better allowing us to heal (17).
Practice grounding by reading a book beneath a tree, going for a light walk around your yard while barefoot, and performing meditative exercises outside such as yoga while also barefoot. You may also consider eating grounding whole foods farmed from the ground like radishes, sweet potatoes, beets and fruits.
7) Chiropractic care:
The cliché that “chiropractic adds life to years and years to life” is not just an old saying but stands on truth. Although the validity behind the claim that it can add years to life is still debated, research shows that receiving chiropractic care does boost the immune system response and does improve the quality of life. Chiropractic care can help prevent the frequency of sickness and help you recover from an illness.
Spinal manipulation has been shown to increase polymorpho-nuclear neutrophils (18). These circulating blood cells are one of the first lines of defense against infectious invaders. These leukocytes enhance the function of immune cell responses that protect the body against destructive agents.
When inhibition is present along the spine, the nervous system is unable to properly communicate with the immune system. Chiropractic care helps to remove this interferences or adjust subluxation so that the body is able to repair itself (19).
8) Vitamin C supplementation:
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient key to promoting human health and optimizing immune function in numerous ways. Vitamin C has been found to increase NADPH pathways which are required by biological agents that seek to destroy pathogens (20). It supports reactions which lead to both DNA and RNA synthesis, stabilizes white blood cell count to better handle oxidative stress and also prevents the depletion of glutathione from recycling old vitamin C (21).
Some of the highest sources of vitamin C per serving are found in spinach, leeks, chives, kale and sweet bell peppers (7). Other foods rich in vitamin C are lemons, limes and an abundance of green vegetables which also contain low concentrations of sugar. Add these vegetables to your bone broths and soups for a light and healthy meal to fight infection while sick and juice lemons and limes into your water frequently to maintain optimal hydration.
Try to avoid vitamin C supplements containing added sugars, artificial colors and preservatives which can inhibit immune defenses. We recommend Super C, which has a 1:1 ratio of vitamin C with citrus bioflavonoids for added immune and anti-oxidant benefits. Take 2 grams of a vitamin C supplement every hour that you are awake until you feel better. The following day supplement with 1 gram of vitamin C to restore your vitamin C levels.
Bonus– Zinc Supplementation:
While awake, supplement with 20mg zinc every 3 hours until you feel better. This essential mineral is vital to supporting the immune system but is largely depleted due to influences from our lifestyles. An unhealthy diet high in sugars and carbs inhibits zinc absorption as do phytic acids found in grains and legumes. The overuse of medications or NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) also increases the deficiency of zinc in the body.
Zinc increases the performance of powerhouse antioxidant systems like Sod (superoxide dismutase) that protects cells from viral infection and damage. Zinc increase the immune response to defend against pathogenic activity including viral replication and inhibits oxidative damage. It is especially helpful at reducing inflammation in the body by regulating the immune response to destructive activity. (12)
In combination with the 8 ways listed above, consider the benefits of supplementing zinc into your diet and you will be have fewer sick days in a year. Especially over the cooler holiday months when you are more confined in doors with others, add these foods to your meals for their zinc protection:
- 100% grass-fed beef
- Wild caught salmon
- Pasture raised chicken
- Dark chocolate
- Grass-fed dairy
For faster results, use a high quality zinc supplementation. The ideal form of zinc supplementation is zinc glycinate where zinc is connected to one or two molecules of the amino acid glycine. Glycine helps with liver detoxification and supports the immune system. I personally use Zinc Charge, which is in the zinc glycinate form.