Since cold and flu season is now upon us (at least in the U.S.), I figured I’d take the opportunity to share my favorite tips for natural prevention and treatment.
- A nutrient-dense, toxin-free diet: avoid the foods that tend to weaken the immune system, such as sugar, unprepared grains, industrial seed oils and processed and refined foods.
- Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil: if there’s only one superfood/supplement you take through the winter, this should be it. It’s rich with fat-soluble vitamins that regulate and support the immune system, and fatty acids like EPA and DHA that reduce inflammation. It also seems to have some kind of synergistic quality above and beyond the individual nutrients it contains that powerfully boosts immunity. I rarely get colds and flus when I’m taking it. I now recommend Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil from Rosita as my preferred cod liver oil product. For more information, read this article. You can purchase EVCLO here. Dosage: 1 tsp/d or 2 caps per day.
- Liver. Liver is nature’s multivitamin. It’s the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, as I explained here. I recommend eating 3 ounces a week if you’re taking EVCLO.
- Bone broth. Grandma knew best! Homemade bone broth is rich with easily absorbable minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and trace minerals difficult to obtain elsewhere. Check out the Weston A. Price article “Broth is Beautiful” for recipes and more information.
- Fermented foods and/or probiotics: 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut. If you have intestinal dysbiosis or poor gut flora, you’ll be more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections (and colds and flus).
- Vitamin C: I don’t supplement with vitamin C at all times during the year, but when cold and flu season rolls around, I’ll often take 1 g/d as a precaution.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a powerful immunoregulatory role. For most people, the EVCLO should be enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. However, some people require higher doses of vitamin D to keep their 25D levels in the desired range of 35-60 ng/mL. This is especially true of those with obesity or inflammation, because these conditions impair the conversion of sunlight to vitamin D. Dosage: 2,000 – 4,000 IU/d depending on beginning level and amount of EVCLO you’re taking.
- Jade Windscreen Formula. Jade Windscreen (or Yu Ping Feng San in Pinyin Chinese) is an immune system tonic made up of botanicals that enhance the immune system and have anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. The traditional formula contains Astragalus, Actractylodes and Ledebouriella, but modern preparations also add cinnamon, siler root, Chinese yam rhizome, and white peony root. You can often buy Jade Windscreen at a health food store or natural pharmacy. You can also buy it online. I like the Kan Herbs tincture. Dosage: 10-20 drops 2-3x/daily (check with your medical provider if you are pregnant or nursing or have an autoimmune condition)
- Sleep and rest. Getting adequate sleep and rest is perhaps the most important thing you can do to optimize your immune function. Just a few nights of not sleeping well can elevate inflammatory markers and reduce the protective capability of your immune system. That’s why it’s a good idea to go to bed earlier, sleep longer and rest more in the winter season.
Sometimes despite our best efforts, a virus slips through our defenses and our immune system is called into action. Here are a few things in addition to the above that you can to do fight off the cold or flu and shorten its lifespan.
- More EVCLO: double or even triple your dose to get more immune-boosting fat-soluble vitamins into your system.
- Ginger honey-lemon tea with optional additions: ginger has anti-microbial and can help with nasea and G.I. upset that comes with certain strains of flu. Lemon is a good natural source of vitamin C, and has a soothing quality on a sore throat – especially when combined with honey. Honey is a time-honored cough remedy, and recent research suggests that it may be an effective cough suppressant. (Important note: never give honey to kids under 1-year of age.) Optional additions to this tea could include fresh garlic (anti-microbial), a pinch of cayenne pepper (to help break up mucous) and other warming herbs like cinnamon and clove. One of my favorite brands of raw honey is Beekeeper’s Naturals.
- Sweat: in Chinese medicine, sweating is recommended at the early stages of a cold. The best way to do this is to take a very hot bath. I also recommend adding herbs and essential oils that promote sweating, such as wintergreen, eucalyptus, rosemary and thyme. Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath is a powder containing these ingredients that you can add to your bath. It’s available at Whole Foods and other health food stores, and also online.
- Increase probiotic intake. I find beet kvaas and kombucha to be particularly helpful at the early stages of a cold.
- Rest, rest, rest. Again, there’s no better remedy for a cold or flu than rest.
- Zinc. Research suggests that zinc can reduce the duration and severity of a cold – but only if it’s started early on.