How to Prevent Colds and Flus Naturally | Chris Kresser
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How to Prevent Colds and Flus Naturally

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How to cure cold and flu naturally

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.

Prevention

  • 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 hereDosage: 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.

Treatment

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.

Now I’d like to hear from you? What are your favorite natural remedies to prevent and treat colds and flus? What do you do during cold and flu season to protect yourself?

114 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. I recommend adding fresh turmeric to the ginger tea. usually about a 2 inch piece sliced thinly, steeped and strained. Works like a charm

    • Where do you find fresh turmeric? I checked the high end grocers, and the only Asian grocery in town and got blank stares on all fronts. There is a Whole Foods about an hour away that I could try on my rare visits to that town. Any other ideas out there?

      • You get Turmeric – raw and powdered in Indian grocery stores. Whole foods also carries Raw Turmeric in their prodcue section

  2. Great post! I add extra epsom salts to a mustard soak (either Dr. Singh’s or just plain mustard seed and ginger from the cupboard). Also swear by saline nasal irrigation. There’s an over the counter product that you can usually find behind the pharmacy counter here called Alkalol; it’s an herbal mucous solvent that is sooooo soothing when added to the saline for nasal irrigation. Also homeopathic pulsatilla 30c if nasal drainage gets thick and dark and nasty.

    Both of my kids will ask for epsom salt baths and “to have their nose cleaned” (nasal irrigation) when they are feeling down, which says alot to me about how effective those remedies are. My 3 year old son had a stuffy nose hang on for a month an a half and pulsatilla is what finally got rid of it.

  3. Hi Chris. How would you respond to Paul Jaminet’s position on FCLO?

    “I’m a skeptic on fermented cod liver oil. The underlying biology is discussed here: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=3390. Basically, fish oil + vitamin A + oxidative stress is a highly toxic combination. Cod liver oil has the first two, so you’d better eat it fresh or not at all. Fermenting is great for vegetables but for cod liver oil I would avoid it.”

    Thanks. Ben.

    • I don’t agree. It has a long history of successful use and I’ve had great experience with it myself and with my patients.

      • I take cod liver oil regularly, but I have a couple of questions here. I have discussed this topic with a few people who state that buying fermented cod liver oil is hype and a waste of money, because it’s not possible to ferment oil anyway. Think about it. I’ve never heard of anyone fermenting any other oil, so, why would it work? What are the probiotics that would grow on it anyway, and what do they do for people? I’ve never seen any of this information any where, so I just buy regular CLO and don’t spend my money on the fermented stuff, because there are enough things that I know I need. If anyone has information on this please reply, because I’m all for taking better supplements, but not interested in wasting my money.

  4. Once I know I’m coming down with the flu, I take oscillococcinum and I find it dramatically reduces the duration and severity of the flu for me. In fact, I carry it with me all flu season. I also take Southern Ban Lan Gen Chong Ji tea which I get from my acupuncturist. In the past I’ve had bad gut dysbiosis, so am excited to see if I fare better this season now that I’m healthier in the gut. I’m taking a probiotic that works for me (so many didn’t) and immunoglobulins. I make my own bone broths and just ordered the FCLO/BO capsules from Green Pasture after reading about it’s benefit for skin. Good to know it will support my immune system too!

  5. Does fermented codliver oil spoil or go rancid? If I opened a jar a year ago, kept it in my refrigerator, using it occasionally, is is still good? The use-by date is still a year away, but I am wondering if opening it up and exposing it to oxygen speeds up the process by which it will go bad.

    Thanks.

  6. Sinus rinse. If my sinuses have the least indication of feeling stuffy, I rinse. Usually clears up immediately.

  7. I’ve heard on the Mercola website that using putting hydrogen peroxide in your ears at the very early stages of a cold or flu you can eliminate it quicker or completely stop it from manifesting. I’ve done it on mulitple occasions will little positive results fwiw. However I didn’t apply the remedy asap. Maybe it is more benficial the faster you do it.

    • I have also tried the peroxide in my ears several times. I do think it shortened my cold considerably at least twice that I can pinpoint. With all the bubbling it sure *sounds* like something is being eradicated! My husband thinks it’s just reacting with ear wax.

      • If I get an earache, I’ll pour hydrogen peroxide 3% solution into my ears. It definitely helps them get back to normal. The tingling is annoying, but it feels like it’s working!

      • I’ve been using H2O2 for a decade or so in relation to colds/ear-problems. It is not just earwax bobbling; it is sterile and thus does not react with the H2O2 unless some other bacteria is present. An easy way to verify this yourself is to simply use the H2O2 when not ill – I only have the faintest/if-any bobbling when not ill. That being said of course it is a last resort, better not get ill to begin with by having a strong immune-system.

    • Me too! And they (YLEO) have this capsule called inner defense that has thieves mixed with oregano and a couple of other things, it is great!

  8. If I may add a note about Jade Windscreen — thanks for mentioning that it should be used cautiously with autoimmune conditions. It is a powerful formula but Huang Qi/Astragalus can “lock the thief in the house” so to speak if there is a chronic infection going on, and make it more difficult to treat later.

  9. I use a Neti Pot. You are supposed to do it daily…

    Also, my pediatrician recommended Umcka for cutting the severity of a cold/flu, but I think like zinc you have to take it early on. They have an alcohol free one for the kids.

    Justin,
    It depends on what flavor you get. We like cinnamon tingle and oslo orange around these parts.

    Sara,
    I hope they offered you at least an exchange? I buy mine from the GAPS store and their customer service is great. One bottle came broken and they replaced it no questions asked. Maybe try the FCLO & Butter Oil blend?

    Kristen

    • They offered for me to ship the bottle back and for them to test it, but given their attitude that it wasn’t possibly rancid, and that I didn’t know what I was talking about, I didn’t trust them to be objective, and didn’t want to spend the extra bucks to ship it back. Maybe if I bought it through a distributor instead of directly from Green Pasture, that would help. Thanks for the tip!

      • Well the stuff tastes and smells pretty bad so I can see how you would think it was rancid even if it was not. Given that it is fermented, can it be rancid? Isn’t fermented stuff already “rotting” I guess?

      • Sara –

        I’d definitely buy through a distributor. I get mine off Amazon. I had originally bought the ginger flavor for my kids and when it arrived it was mostly goop and hardly any liquid. I contacted the seller and they refunded me the difference between that flavor and capsules. We now just take the capsules. My kids and hubby take 2 FCLO/BO a day and I take 4.

  10. Ginger tea is fantastic! I got it when I was in Japan a year ago. It’s called shougayu/shoga yu, and is really just boiled water with fresh grated ginger and a sweetener. A added a little potato starch to give it a little texture, just because I like it; I get the feeling it lubricates a little.

  11. Has anyone had trouble with the Green Pasture butter oil being rancid? I bought both FCLO and butter oil from them: the FCLO was great, but the butter oil was distinctly rancid. A subsequent email correspondence with the company made me hesitant to buy their products again. At over $60 per bottle including shipping, I can’t justify buying it if it may be inedible. If it’s a rare occurrence, then I might reconsider. I’m interested in other people’s experiences with the Green Pastures butter oil or FCLO/BO blend.

    • As a nutritionist, I buy it wholesale and sell it. The local farm around me stopped selling it for the same reason. I haven’t had the problem yet. They aren’t very good to deal with when you want to return their product.

    • We have just the fclo and it’s fine. I know others that use it and haven’t heard anything bad. Maybe call the company, I am sure they want you to try their product and may send you out a new bottle,

      • When I first received my FCLO, I put it in the refrigerator and used it the next day – so it was cold when I used it in a power shake. I had the worst heartburn ever. Then I put it in a dark cabinet overnight (so it was room temp) and then shook the bottle before putting it into a power shake. This time – no heartburn.

        I think there may be some separation in the oil when refrigerated and whatever was at the top was very heartburn inducing – hence the reason for storing it at room temp and shaking it up before using.

        I also typically take mine with raw milk and banana blended up. The first dose I tried that gave me heartburn was .5 ml. Now I take 2.5 ml at a time and zero heartburn.

        Anyway, hope this helps!

      • I agree. The cinnamon is just great. I take it every day. I tried the “unflavored” version once, and will never make that mistake again!

      • I find the chocolate FCLO/BO gel just horrible, myself. I have a hard time even swallowing. I just “wash” it down my throat with some kombucha. But it’s good for me, so I take it!

    • I take a spoonful of the nonflavored FCLO/BO every morning and I love it! Was a bit bitter and fishy at first, but over only a few days my palate changed and I actually like it now. I’m a firm believer that it is important to taste your medicine, as it gets your body ready to process what you are giving it. Maybe expectations that something will taste bad make it taste worse than it otherwise might?

  12. Wonderful and perfect timing! I actually came to your site and did a search trying to see if you had any older post on this very topic. I’m just getting over a very intense case of the flu and any tips I can get that will help with recover is most helpful. Thank you Chris!

  13. These are great tips. For a cough, I make a “shot” of 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon raw honey, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. It completely clears out any chest congestion.

  14. I’m assuming one shouldn’t take normal Fish Oil while doing the Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil to avoid overdosing. Is the CLO/BO better in winter and Fish Oil better in summer? Or CLO/BO > FO?