Fall is upon us and cold and flu season is right around the corner. Although you can’t avoid contact with cold and flu viruses, you can avoid suffering the unpleasant symptoms associated with them. By giving your body the right fuel, you can help boost your immune system and break the annual cold and flu cycle—or at least minimize your symptoms. Here are my top tips for how to beat a cold.
How to Beat a Cold or Flu: Lifestyle Changes
The best treatment for colds and flu is to prevent them altogether—and the best way to do that is to keep your immune system at its peak throughout the year. Follow these simple suggestions to optimize your immunity:
- Wash your hands frequently. Your hands constantly come into contact with viruses and bacteria that are transmitted to your mouth, nose, and eyes. Use paper towels or tissues and discard them at once, and avoid sharing towels, glasses, and eating utensils. This is a very simple way to stop viruses before they gain entry into your body, thus reducing the risk of infection and lessening the load on your immune system.
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep rejuvenates your cells and recharges your body, and it is especially vital for the proper functioning of your brain and immune system. Research has shown that immune function declines when a person is sleep deprived, and an accumulated sleep deficit dramatically lowers the efficiency of your immune system.
- Take a high-potency multivitamin and mineral formula. Optimal nutrition is crucial for enhancing resistance to colds and flu. Be sure your multivitamin contains at least 1,000 mg vitamin C, 30 mg zinc, and 15,000 IU of vitamin A/beta-carotene.
- Take extra vitamin D. Most people require at least 2,000-5,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D in order to maintain optimal blood levels of this immune-boosting vitamin. This is particularly crucial during the wintertime, when sun exposure is at its lowest point and vitamin D levels plummet.
- Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. Keep yourself hydrated—dry mucous membranes are an excellent playground for viruses.
What to Do if You’ve Already Caught a Cold or Flu
If you do succumb to a cold or flu virus, you can minimize your discomfort and bolster your immune defenses. But time is of the essence—start taking the following supplements as soon as you feel an illness coming on:
- Increase your dose of vitamin C. Vitamin C protects white blood cells, boosts levels of virus-fighting interferon and natural killer cells, and fortifies the mucous membranes—plus, it has antiviral activity of its own. At the first sign of illness take 500 mg of vitamin C every waking hour. To avoid possible gastrointestinal upset, build up gradually by taking 500 mg every two hours on the first day and moving up to the higher dose on the second day. Take no more than 10,000 mg per day, and ease back to your usual dose as symptoms improve.
- Begin taking Echinacea. This trusted herbal therapy is a proven infection fighter. Echinacea binds to receptors on the surface of white blood cells, literally turning these immune cells on. Look for a standardized product and take as directed.
- Don’t forget the zinc. Zinc gluconate lozenges have been shown to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms by an average of three days compared to a placebo. If you’re coming down with something, start taking zinc lozenges every two hours.
- Add Oscillococcinum to your arsenal. Though researchers have yet to identify precisely how this homeopathic remedy works, its effects can be amazing when taken at the first sign of flu. Packaged in individual doses of little pellets that dissolve under the tongue, it is easy to take, has a pleasant taste, and like all homeopathic remedies, is gentle, safe, and nontoxic, making it especially good for children.
- Reduce your fever with cayenne. Despite its fiery taste, cayenne is a cooling herb with a long history of use as a fever reducer. Cayenne is a natural decongestant and works much like cold and flu medications to restore free breathing.
- Drink ginger tea. One of the most satisfying tonics for flu is homemade ginger tea. Ginger is rich in zinc, perhaps the most important mineral for immune function, plus it helps relieve nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. To make therapeutic ginger tea, chop a one-inch slice of fresh ginger, add to three cups of water, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, if desired.
How to Beat a Cold: Recap
So there you have it, my top recommendations for how to beat a cold. But remember, prevention is always the best medicine. A healthy lifestyle, scrupulous hygiene, and a broad-based multivitamin and mineral supplement are the foundation of a healthy immune system and overall good health.