As we enter the late fall & winter months, cold & flu season is officially upon us.
It’s possible to prevent contracting the cold or flu, but if you do end up suffering from the common cold or flu, there are lots of ways to combat it to reduce its severity and duration.
Although the cold & flu may look similar, they are caused by different viruses, but treatment is typically the same, focusing on reducing the severity and duration of the illness.
Typical symptoms of the flu include; fever, cough, body aches, headache, fatigue
Typical symptoms of the common cold include; sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache, body aches
The best line of defense against the flu or cold is to avoid it altogether, and there are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of contracting either illness.
Some of these include:
Staying hydrated: Ensuring you are properly hydrated helps to support the body’s immune system, and flush the body of toxins.
Consuming a whole foods diet: Ensuring you are reducing your simple carbohydrate & sugar intake and consuming enough healthy fats and proteins will help to reduce inflammation in the body and will support the immune system. Consuming enough brightly colored fruits & vegetables daily is important, as those are the foods that have the highest amounts of antioxidants in them to support the immune system.
Getting enough sleep: Getting enough sleep helps to support your immune system. It’s during sleep that we restore and heal our bodies from the stress of each day.
Exercise: Regular exercise supports your body’s immune system. It is important to note that too much high-intensity exercise will actually suppress your immune system somewhat, so focusing on moderate-intensity exercise daily is the best practice to reduce your risk of contracting a cold or flu.
Manage your stress levels: If we are chronically stressed, this suppresses our immune system & creates a lot of inflammation in the body. So ensuring you properly manage your stress daily will help to boost your immune system.
Adequate vitamin D levels: Vitamin D is extremely important in supporting our immune system. Most of us are low in blood levels of vitamin D, especially during the winter months. It’s important to test your levels to determine where your vitamin D levels are at before supplementing.
Additional vitamins: During the cold & flu season, it may be beneficial to supplement with vitamin C & zinc to help support the immune system. Though this isn’t needed for everyone, it can be helpful in reducing the risk of contracting a cold or flu.
Even when we do all these things, sometimes we still contract the common cold or flu. If this happens, there are things you can do to reduce both the severity & duration of the illness.
Some of these include similar things that you’d use to prevent the common cold & flu, as well as some additional herbs that could be helpful.
Whole foods diet: As with preventing the cold & flu, increasing your brightly colored vegetables & fruits, and reducing your simple carbohydrate and sugar intake will help to support the immune system and fight off the cold & flu
Getting enough sleep & rest: As with the prevention of the cold & flu, getting enough sleep & resting, in general, will help to support the immune system to help you fight off the illness quicker.
Manuka honey: Manuka honey is a type of honey with well-established antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and recently has been shown to have anti-viral properties as well. It has been used during the cold & flu to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Bone broth: Bone broth is excellent for supporting the immune system as it’s full of vitamins & minerals and is quite anti-inflammatory, this will help you to fight off the cold & flu. It’s also a nice warming drink that will help to open the sinuses & reduce congestion.
Echinacea: This is a plant that has both immune-stimulating and antiviral activity. It can be used to reduce the severity & duration of the common cold & flu.
Elderberry: This is a plant that has antiviral activity, and potentially immune-stimulating activity. It’s also a diaphoretic, meaning it can help to reduce fever. This herb may also be useful in reducing the severity & duration of the cold & flu
Mushroom extracts: Mushroom extracts such as reishi mushroom have powerful immune-stimulating activity. You can supplement with mushroom extracts in capsule or powder form, but you could also just increase your intake of mushrooms through your food.
Vitamin C: Increasing your vitamin C intake during the common cold & flu has been shown to decrease the duration of the cold & flu.
It’s important to note that you don’t need to do every one of these things if you come down with the cold & flu. You can always talk to your healthcare provider to determine which ones are right for you.
Dr. Samantha Allen, ND