Beat Colds & Flus Naturally

What if I was to tell you to slice a few cloves of garlic and onion, rub olive oil on the bottoms of your feet before placing the garlic and onion on top, and then wrap your feet in plastic wrap?  Oh, and then, pull on some socks and head to bed?

Would you call me crazy?  Think I’m nuts?  Yeah, that’s what my Dad thought too when I proposed this idea to him.  You see, he’s been fighting cold and flu symptoms for about 4 weeks and nothing seems to be working.  Sleeping with garlic and onion on your feet has actually been practiced for hundreds of years to ward off cold and flu symptoms.

Sounds very weird, I know, but it works!

Can I stop a cold in its tracks naturally?

I’m not one to take medications, including prescriptions, unless I absolutely must do so.  I’ve had strep throat in the past where I had to take antibiotics – my throat was way too painful to NOT take the drugs!  But, given the choice of swallowing chemicals or finding a more natural way to deal with an ailment, I always strive to find the least offensive option.

Sometimes a cold does need some extra muscle power, though.  There are some situations where you just need to feel better.  Like on my wedding day last year, for example. I felt AWFUL.  I was at my absolute worst and needed something to help me get through the day.  It wasn’t like I could skip it and stay in bed!  So, yes, I turned to some powerful Mexican cold medication that definitely did the trick!

But, for your average seasonal colds and flus, you can often beat them with some strategic food choices, specific nutrients and a few extra supplements and herbs.

What can I do at the first signs of a cold or flu?

Maybe you wake up feeling more tired than normal.  Perhaps your glands feel achy or a bit swollen.  Or, your throat has that telltale tickle…you know that one that means a nasty saw-toothed blade is going to be ripping at your poor throat shortly.

When these first signs of a cold or flu hit you, start eating more detoxifying foods like parsley, cilantro, blueberries and dandelion.  Fluids are you best friend during an illness so concoct a liver-cleansing green smoothie and drink it often throughout the day.

Sometimes all it takes is a throwback to your childhood.  Did your Mom every tell you to gargle with salt water?  This has to be one of the most effective antiseptic fixes for a sore throat.  I swear by the salt-water gargle when my throat starts to tingle.  Gargle 3-5 times a day for two or three days and you should quickly lose that annoying sore throat. Not only does salt water ease the sore throat symptoms, but it’s anti-inflammatory and helps loosen mucous and kill bacteria.

If your sinuses and chest are congested, try diffusing essential oils into the air and breathing deeply.  Eucalyptus, frankincense and myrrh are especially good decongestants.  Tea tree oil has anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties and can help alleviate bacteria in the nose, throat and lungs.

Did you know that 70% of your immune system is located in your gut?  Boost immunity by drinking warm bone broth a few times daily at the first signs of a cold.  Bone broth contains gut healing properties that boost the good bacteria levels where immunity cells are formed.

Raw and makuna honey have antimicrobial properties while chaga tea can boost immunity and provide antiviral effects.  If you’re into adrenal adaptogens, maca powder is rich in vitamin C and ashwaganda improves your body’s natural defenses.

What about when a cold hits?

Sometimes a particularly bad strain of cold virus gets past your initial efforts, or you’re just unable to fend it off due to life’s circumstances.  There’s still time to bring on the natural substitutes for colds and flus and kick that cold to the curb fast.

Probably one of the most effective natural cold remedy (and also one of the worst tasting, in my opinion) is oil of oregano.  This oil is super potent and contains anti-bacterial agents that are very effective at fighting off an infection or getting rid of a sore throat.  In fact, oil of oregano is so potent that it should only be used for 7 to 10 days in a row.  The pills aren’t as effective as the oil, but they do help.

I mix about 10 drops of the oil into a glass of water and shoot it back.  Have something else to drink nearby in case you get a bit of the oil stuck in your throat – not a pleasant experience!  Oil of oregano has worked so well for me and tastes so bad that I like to call it the “original Buckley’s”.

Vitamins A, C, and D and the mineral zinc are helpful for boosting immunity, breaking up mucous and speeding up tissue repair.  At the first sign of a cold, take enough Vitamin C to induce diarrhea to help your body flush out the cold virus.

And, make sure you get exposure to the sun daily throughout the long winter months.  Many people experience illnesses during the fall and winter simply because they aren’t getting enough vitamin D.

Garlic is antibacterial and antiviral.  It also has warming properties, as does ginger, which is handy when you’ve got the chills.

Echinacea has proven anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-viral, decongestant, lymphatic, anti-inflammatory and inmunostimulant properties so it’s a great one to take at both the first signs of a cold and for the first few days.  Echinacea works best if taken at the very beginning of a cold or flu.

Are there ways to prevent a cold or flu?

I typically suffer from ‘vacation colds’, those pesky colds that pop up right in the middle of a much-needed vacation.  Vacation colds are typically associated with adrenal fatigue or chronic stress.  Chronic stress can suppress your immune system for long periods of time so it’s actually a good thing to get a cold on occasion.  While annoying, colds and flus are actually a necessary part of life because they can help the body boost overall immunity.

To prevent a cold or flu from hitting, make sure you wash and dry your hands thoroughly a number of times throughout the day.  There are the obvious times, like after you hit the washroom, but make sure to wash your hands when you get home from taking the bus or grocery shopping, too.

Avoid refined sugar because bacteria and viruses love sugar.  Sugar weakens the immune system for hours after you’ve eaten it, another reason we get ‘vacation colds’ at tropical resorts serving abundant sugar-filled pretty drinks.

If you’re susceptible to colds and flus, limit dairy products because these can be mucous-forming.  Bacteria and viruses take up residence in mucous so it’s important to break this up and avoid it as much as you can.

Which Foods Should I Eat?

Just like the rest of our body systems and tissues, the immune system responds positively to whole, natural foods.  A balanced diet that consists primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like raw nuts and seeds, and lean antibiotic-free and naturally-raised protein sources will keep your immunity strong.

There are, however, some foods that are superstars when it comes to boosting your body’s immune system.

Cinnamon has natural antiviral and antibiotic properties, plus it can help regulate blood sugar.  All you need is 1 teaspoon of cinnamon a day to reap its benefits.  Add cinnamon to oatmeal, smoothies, stews or chilis (especially Moroccan dishes), or your morning coffee.

As I mentioned, garlic helps prevent bacterial and viral infections, plus it’s a known liver-cleansing food.  Garlic, along with onions, keeps your microbiome healthy and boosts immunity.  To get the most from garlic, chop or mince cloves and let them sit for 10-15 minutes before sautéing or adding them to your recipes.

Coconut oil keeps mucous thin and fluid. Thick, viscous mucous can trap bacteria and viruses, making you feel sick for longer.  It’s also high in lauric acid to help dissolve liquid coatings around viruses, freeing them so that they can be flushed out of the body.  A tablespoon of coconut oil in hot water can help break mucous up when you’re feeling down.  For health maintenance, try 2-4 tablespoons of virgin organic coconut oil each week.

Apple cider vinegar not only promotes healthy digestion but it can be used to gargle with to prevent a sore throat from getting worse.  It helps keep the body alkaline, improving overall health and immunity.  And, apple cider vinegar has been shown to kill viruses inside the body.  Start each day right with a glass of water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed in (make sure to choose ACV with ‘the mother’).

And, ginger is a well-known immunity-booster.  Not only does ginger give your immune system important nutrients to keep it healthy but it also acts as a warming agent, which is useful when you’re feeling chilled from an illness.  I also like to drink ginger tea in the winter to warm up in the evenings at home.

More Immunity-Boosting Foods to Try

If you want to keep your body in strong fighting mode all year round, make sure to include fresh mushrooms, kiwi and pumpkin seeds in your regular diet.  Fermented foods and fiber are important to help build up that good gut bacteria that produces the majority of your immune system components.

If you love spicy food, you’re in luck!  Spices such as cayenne, curry and curcumin support a strong immune system.  They also help promote good digestion and help improve overall energy production within the body.

Conclusion

You need a strong immune system to keep cold and flu viruses away this winter.  Your immune system is always busy killing off pathogens from the food you eat, eliminating mutated cells in your body and taking care of any foreign invaders that may harm you.

You immune system is very important to your health!  Keep it working at its best with a healthy, whole-foods diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals.  Ditch foods that strip the body of nutrients, like sugar, refined grains or junk food.  Remember to drink plenty of fresh water daily to help flush toxins out of your body, and include a multivitamin/mineral complex, probiotics, and omega-3 supplements in your routine.

And finally, stress impacts the immune system by triggering it to the point of exhaustion.  Take mini-breaks from work and other stressful situations.  Exercise regularly, and schedule time for daily self-care.  Laugh often, be happy and remember to breathe.

References:

http://www.nationalnutrition.ca/HEALTHCONCERNS_COLDFLU.aspx

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-a-functional-medicine-expert-does-the-second-he-starts-feeling-sick?utm_term=pos-3&utm_source=mbg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=171106

https://wellnessmama.com/1499/natural-remedies-for-illness/

http://www.alive.com/health/holistic-cold-and-flu-remedies/

Daina Gardiner
Daina Gardiner

Health & Wellness Contributor (C.H.N.), Owner at Mind Body Healthy Calgary