Want to share this article? Visit our re-post guidelines.
Natural Ways to Beat Cold and Flu This Winter
- The common cold and flu are one of the most common causes of sick days in the United States. Around 1 billion colds are reported on average each year in America.
- Colds and flu are viruses that are experienced usually because of a drop in immune system function. During winter, when vitamin D levels drop, and other immune system issues occur, colds and flu become increasingly common.
- Lifestyle factors can have a huge impact on your chances of suffering from the cold and flu. Eating too much sugar, which suppresses the immune system, and failing to exercise or manage emotional stressors can all lower your ability to fight back against common viruses.
- Perhaps the most important tool in fighting back against the cold and flu is vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to boost the immune system and fights back against various forms of bacteria, virus, and fungi that might be present in the body. Unfortunately, most of the American population is vitamin-D deficient.
- Making lifestyle changes – including adjusting your diet, getting more exercise, ensuring healthy sleep patterns, and dealing with stress can all help to protect you from cold and flu during winter.
- Drinking plenty of water, eating raw garlic, knowing how to blow your nose, and drinking bone broth can all help to fight back against cold and flu naturally. Dietary solutions like apple-cider vinegar, lemon, ginger, and garlic are all beneficial too.
- Besides dietary and lifestyle changes, there are a range of great herbs, vitamins, and supplements that can promote a stronger immune system, and limit the effects of cold and flu season – from peppermint, to elderberry, ginger, and vitamin C.
You’re curled up in bed – dreading the moment when you need to drag yourself out of the covers and get ready for work. Your head’s pounding, your nose is stuffy, and you feel as though a weight-lifter is sitting on your chest. Whether the congestion, coughing, sneezing, and phlegm point to signs of the common cold – or something a little more exotic, like influenza – one thing is certain: You’ve fallen victim to the dangers of winter.
Even though a new CBS study suggests that around 83-97% of flu-symptom illnesses are caused by bacteria instead of the influenza virus – colds are still very common. In fact, colds represent one of the leading causes of missed work days and doctor’s visits during the colder season. Americans experience an average of around 1 billion colds every year – that’s about two or three bouts a year for most.
Part of what makes colds and flu so common, is the fact that when temperatures drop – many of us begin to barricade ourselves in doors – away from the dropping temperatures, and the sun. Unfortunately, this means that our levels of vitamin D start to drop, and our chances of spreading viruses skyrocket. The truth is that cold and flu issues exist all year around – but the winter season does affect how well we respond to them.
What Causes Cold and Flu?
Most people assume that colds and flu are caused by the presence of bacteria – but this isn’t the case. In fact, they’re caused by viruses – which is why they cannot be helped by antibiotics. Viruses have entirely different structures to common bacteria – making antibiotics useless. The only time your doctor should recommend antibiotics for treating your cold or flu symptoms is when a secondary sinus infection, or issue like pneumonia arises.
While a virus is responsible for triggering your cold and flu symptoms, it’s also worth noting that it might not be the real cause of the illness. Rather, the underlying cause of cold and flu comes down to your immune system. Scientific research indicates that catching a cold or flu regularly might be a sign of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. Problems with your vitamin D levels can easily impair your immune responses and ensure that you are more likely to fall victim to respiratory infections, influenza, colds, and other illnesses.
While there are numerous factors that can contribute to a weak immune system, the most common factors contributing to your cold or flu symptoms might be:
- Inability to manage emotional stress
- Insufficient activity or exercise
- Lack of healthy sleeping patterns
- Consumption of too much sugar and grains
- Vitamin D deficiency
Sugar is perhaps one of the biggest problems to be aware of when you’re fighting back against cold and flu symptoms, as it’s responsible for suppressing the immune system and increasing inflammation levels. Because sugar causes so much damage to the immune system – it should be avoided completely during the winter when your immune efforts need to be improved – rather than suppressed.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices for Winter
Besides staying away from sugar and grains, there are a range of lifestyle choices that you can make to fight back against the cold and flu naturally. The best options are to address your nutrition, sleep, and exercise habits the moment that you start to feel as though you might be falling ill. Often, when people experience a cold or flu, it’s because their defenses are weakened. This means that you need to find a way to start building those walls back up as quickly as possible.
The moment you notice that you’re coming down with a cold, start addressing the factors that could be contributing to your weakened immune system. For instance, it might be a good time to start adjusting your diet and consuming more foods that will boost your immune response.
Helpful options might include:
- Fermented foods like miso, kimchee, kefir, sauerkraut, and pickles
- Organic, raw eggs from free-range chickens
- Grass-fed beef
- Organic vegetables and fruits
- Garlic (a strong antimicrobial that kills off viruses and bacteria)
- Coconut oil and coconuts
- Spices and herbs with high ORAC scores, such as oregano, Turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon.
Besides adjusting your diet, you should also be considering other lifestyle factors. For instance, think about how well you’re sleeping. If you’re not getting enough restorative sleep each night, you’ll find yourself at an increased risk for viral problems. Similarly, it’s worth remembering the value of regular exercise when it comes to boosting your immune system. Though over-doing your exercise can lead to extra unwanted stress on the body, the right amount of exercise can protect you from further disease.
Keep in mind that emotional stressors can also leave you more susceptible to infection. Discovering ways to manage instances of daily stress, as well as managing your reactions to various circumstances that you encounter each day should help to improve your immune system resilience.
The Ultimate Flu-Fighting Power: Vitamin D
Ask any immune system expert what the most powerful ingredient is for fighting back against viruses like cold and flu and you’re sure to get the same answer. Vitamin D is an incredibly powerful antimicrobial agent that produces up to 300 peptides in your body responsible for killing fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Unfortunately, in the U.S. the typical level of vitamin D in winter is only around 15-18 ng/ml. This amount indicates a serious deficiency, and when you combine that fact with the concept that over 95% of the senior population in America may be vitamin D deficient – you have a major problem.
Evidence suggests that vitamin D is essential in maintaining health and preventing disease. Of the approximately 30,000 genes in your body, vitamin D affects around 3,000 of them – alongside the various vitamin D receptors throughout the human form.
The most effective source of vitamin D is direct sun exposure. If you cannot get enough natural sunlight daily, then you may need to consider taking oral supplements to help boost your internal levels of vitamin D. Most experts suggest that to fight back against cold and flu, children and adults need around 35 international units of vitamin D per pound of body weight. Most adults need an average of around 5,000 IU per day, but some adults have to take up to 30,000 IU a day just to retain optimal vitamin D levels. Since different people process vitamin D in different ways, it’s worth getting your vitamin D genetic pathway evaluated along with your blood checked by a doctor to determine the best intake for your needs.
Natural Solutions for The Cold and Flu
Beyond vitamin D and lifestyle changes, there are a range of fantastic ways in which people can fight back against the cold and flu this winter. However, before we start listing some of these options, it’s worth noting that you should be careful in deciding when to start treating your symptoms.
As strange as it may seem, the annoying symptoms that you experience during cold and flu bouts are also a natural part of the healing process within your body. For instance, the hot environment of a fever helps to create a hotter-than-normal environment in your blood, improving the delivery of proteins and banishing unwanted germs. Coughing can also be a productive symptom for clearing out your breathing passages, and removing mucus that might carry germs to your lungs.
The value of various cold and flu symptoms is what makes natural treatments so important when dealing with cold and flu. While you might want to reduce your discomfort – it’s important to allow your body to work as it needs to in ridding itself of various germs, bacteria, and mucus.
1. Drinking Water
The first step in treating cold and flu naturally is to drink as much water as possible. Experts recommend about half your body weight in ounces per day to keep your mucous membranes clear, and relieve symptoms of dry eye. There’s a reason why your doctor will often recommend rest and hydration for minor illnesses – and at the first sign of illness, you should start sipping water frequently to support the natural healing processes of the body.
2. Blowing your Nose (Properly)
When you have a cold, it’s important to blow your nose regularly, rather than simply sniffing all day long. However, when you blow too hard, you can force germy phlegm back into the ear passages – leading to additional symptoms. Instead, press one finger over one nostril and blow gently to clear the other.
3. Eat Raw Garlic
Garlic is one of nature’s most potent remedies for several health problems. Over 5,000 studies have outlined the ability of garlic to help the body recover naturally from illness. To get the most of your garlic remedy, mince a clove and drink it with a small glass of water.
4. De-Stuff Your Nose with Warm Salt Water
Rinsing your nose with salt water can help to break up nasal congestion and banish virus particles from your nose. One good recipe is to mix a quarter teaspoon of salt with a quarter teaspoon of baking soda in around eight ounces of luke-warm water. Use a nasal irrigation kit to flush water through the nose, holding one nostril closed while you clean the other. Repeat a few times with each nostril.
5. Steam your Face
Steam can help you to breathe easier when you’re suffering from a cold or flu. Simply pour boiled water into a large bowl, and drape a towel across the top of your head to trap the steam. Breathe in through your nose for about five to ten minutes, and avoid lowering your face too close to the water so that you don’t scald yourself. To maximize the effectiveness of your steam inhalations, add a few drops of eucalyptus or thyme oil to the water, and keep your eyes closed as you breathe in and out.
6. Drink Soup and Bone Broth
While chicken soup is the classic remedy for illness, many people are beginning to turn towards bone broths for healing when they’re feeling unwell. These foods can be made with ingredients from typical grocery stores, and can offer a great deal of effective benefits, as they are rich in protein and minerals.
7. Use Ginger or Lemon Juice
Fresh ginger and lemon juice in water can be particularly effective at soothing respiratory issues, and reducing the symptoms of a sore throat. If you’re suffering from cold or flu, try slicing a piece of ginger into some hot water, and squeeze in an entire lemon for a soothing beverage. Remember, lemon is full of vitamin C to boost your immune system, and can help to promote a healthy digestive system too.
While you might not like the taste of apple cider vinegar – it can be very effective in soothing the numerous symptoms of cold and flu. Drinking around a teaspoon in 8 ounces of water during your illness can help to clear up a sore throat almost instantly. Try adding honey if you can’t stand the taste.
Other Natural Remedies
Besides the solutions that we’ve outlined above, there are also several herbs and supplements that can support the healing process within the body when you’re recovering from illnesses like the cold and flu. Having a handful of these herbs and spices on hand for when you’re feeling ill can be a great way to boost your body’s defenses.
- Nettle leaf – This substance contains trace minerals and huge amounts of vitamins that helps the body to remove toxins and stay hydrated. Mix into a tea with peppermint, Alfalfa, and red raspberry leaf to boost the immune system.
- Yarrow – A herb commonly used for children, this substance is soothing, and helpful for the liver, kidneys, and endocrine system. Include stevia leaf, honey, or peppermint in a tea to improve the bitter taste.
- Elderberry – Known across the world for its immune system support, elderberry syrups can be found in stores across the U.S. today.
- Ginger – Fresh ginger root steeped in boiling water creates a tea that’s particularly effective at fighting back against congestion and flu symptoms. You could also consider a ginger bath to reduce muscle aches.
- Chamomile – Ideal for helping you to get the healing sleep you need when suffering from cold or flu, Chamomile is calming and easy to drink.
- Peppermint – Perfect for digestive discomfort and calming a fever, peppermint can be used as a tincture or tea to bring temperature down. It’s also antiviral, antimicrobial, and delicious too!
- Oregano Oil – Look for an oil that’s rich in carvacrol, as this is the primary antimicrobial substance in oregano.
- Vitamin C – A potent antioxidant, use natural forms of vitamin C like acerola to boost the immune system during cold and flu.
- Olive leaf extract – Used by Mediterranean and Egyptian cultures for years, olive leaf extract is a natural solution for building the immune system.
- Propolis – One of the most beneficial antimicrobial compounds around, this substance is rich in apigenin, and caffeic acid – essential in aiding immune response.
- Beta Glucan – One of the most powerful immune system booster’s that is available in the natural health world. Supports phagocytosis of cells and selective cytokine release.