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

How to Prevent Colds and Flus Naturally

by

Last updated on

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. Using a humidifier in the winter seems to help prevent secondary infections in our home.

    Very warm bath, or very warm corn bean-bag (microwaved 🙂 held on the infected area, usually works really well if one of us gets an infection.

    Gargling with warm/hot salty also seems to work well to keep a cold from taking root.

    But we have one child who has consistently gotten a severe sinus infection every time we have moved, even if relatively low-stress. Maybe this will not happen in the future as we improve our health, but it seems like some things you can’t help! (or avoid- germs and stress 🙂

    We have also gotten a lot less stomach flu (rotavirus) since we are on well-water (versus chlorinated city!), but that one is not fool-proof, either! I am sure if we used probiotics more regularly, that would help, also.

  2. Would you recommend a product like desiccated beef liver for those who don’t have the budget to eat grass fed beef liver 3x/week? I found a brand called radiantlife…their beef liver comes from undefatted argentine grass fed cows (jeez that’s a mouthful, lol)

    Also, do you take the fclo/bo blend on days you eat liver? I take the blend myself, wanted to incorporate desiccated liver for its folate and b12 content but am concerned about vitamin A overload.

  3. Chris, I currently supplement with Vitamin A and D. From your post you are saying that this is not the best approach and to instead use Cod Liver Oil. Do you know the IU dose of vitamin D and A in a 5ml dose?

  4. Just thought I’d chime in with a prevention tip that I think bears repeating: Wash Your Freakin’ Hands!! That, and please cover your mouth and nose when you cough/sneeze/expel virus in another manner. No need to be the crazy person with an econo-pack Purell and surgical mask, but these are such simple ways to prevent spreading the virus that it’s maddening to see people not doing them!

  5. I just found this – seems quite new – and it made me so angry I wanted to tell Chris because you’re one of the few we can trust – I suspect the food lobby is trying to counteract honest, well-researched analysis with disinformation and abuse. Which, if true, is shocking. But several people challenge them, in the comments. Still, some people might be convinced by it. Really, if it is disinformation, surely there is a law against it? http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/debunking-diet-myths-weston-a-price-foundation-stupid-traditions.html

  6. Do you have any other brand of FCLO that you would recommend? Just this week (10/7/12), Green Pastures put a very offensive and just plain unprofessional political post on their site. It’s so disappointing that I don’t even want to buy their products anymore.

  7. I’ve always relied on Elderberry extract (taken early like zinc) + my netty pot but tried something new this past weekend. I took an extremely hot bath so as to raise my internal body temp enough that it would kill off the virus. It worked! I would consult with your MD or ND to find out how long, how hot, etc. but as my ND pointed out when teaching me this nifty trick, fever reducers are bad in many cases b/c that is your body’s way of killing off the illness!

  8. I eat a low pufa diet with sardines and salmon for added omega 3 and take vitamin d and vitamin a from cod liver oil, and lef’s super k2. This has worked great for me for keeping illness away and is much more cost effective than 60 dollars for a little bottle of cod liver oil. I think the price is just ridiculous. If there were more competitors maybe it wouldn’t be so outrageously priced. I also think there may be validity to what Paul jaminet and ray peat have to say about the damaging effects of a lot of saturated fatty acids. Vilhaljmur (spelling?) Steffanson noted how rapidly inuits age. Could this have been from the large amounts of unsaturated fatty acids and lipid peroxides in the fermented fish they ate?

  9. chris,
    do i need to take the fclo/bo blend (blue ice) with food like other supplements or can i just take it by itself?

    is 5ml or 2 caps of the fclo/bo blend (blue ice) sufficient to provide the daily requirements of vitamins a, d, and k2?

    thanks

  10. Chris,

    Highly respect your work, esp wrt the gut.

    Hand sanitizers vs the common cold virus – hand washing and Purell did nothing – surprised me. See the Mar 2010 paper in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy “Effectiveness of Hand Sanitizers with and without Organic Acids for Removal of Rhinovirus from Hands”. They had six treatment protocols to get cold viruses off their finger tips. 70% Ethanol with 2% of citric and 2% malic acid worked and had a 4 hour residual virus killing.

    Had to mix my own. Could not find it ready made even though the research was funded by Johnson and Johnson, Dial, and Proctor and Gamble back in 2009. Pure citric acid is available in cake shops. Malic acid at Nuts Online. Mixes well into Purell (though that is not only ethanol, it was my best choice).

    Trying to give back to one who has given so much.
    Eric

  11. Here my method for taking the Green Pastures Fermented CLO without gagging or burning my throat:

    Generate a mouthful of saliva

    Shoot the CLO into front of mouth with syringe and work mouth and tongue to mix it around so it is throughly blended with saliva.

    Swallow.

    • when i first got it i shot some into the back of my mouth with the syringe and it actually hurt. (didn’t know how bad it would taste either)

      i discovered, just hold your breath, swallow a teaspoon, keep holding your breath, drink several gulps of water, then breathe. there will be just a slight aftertaste, very tolerable to me. easy to do.

  12. Pam, can I ask you; do you know about any other manufacturers of cod liver oil and/or butter oil that produce good quality products?

    Best regards,
    Ørjan

    • Hi, Orjan,
      I’m looking for other possibilities, too. I think I’ll go to my local health food store or just Whole Foods and see what they have. The big issue with retail is how fresh the items are, as well as the inherent quality. If you find something great, let us know.
      Pam

      • Thanks for the reply, Pam!

        Whole foods organic is always the preferred … However, do you know anything about Carlson Labs? They claim to sell products of good quality, but I have not found any independent authority that verifies their products.

        Ørjan

  13. While FCLO is healthy stuff, I’d recommend against buying from Green Pastures if you gag easily. Unfortunately, even if you get an unusually strong batch that literally makes you gag, they will not accept any responsibility. I’ll be looking for milder options and producers who stand by their customers as well as their products.

  14. We use large doses of vitamin c and elderberry extract, early on it will keep the cold away. If I do get sick I have found Avgolemono soup made with just homemade chicken broth, eggs, and lemon juice to be a staple. If it’s a nasty flu-like cold I do a vitamin c flush. Peppermint tea works great for a stuffy nose and mentholatum on your feet.

  15. Great post! Any thoughts on other cod liver oils? It’s way too expensive to get in Canada. I understand some brands add no synthentic vitamins A or D (such as Sonne’s and possibly Twinlabs). These synthetic vitamins, at least to my knowledge, are the main problem with most commercial cod liver oils. Any advice would be much appreciated!

  16. I agree with sinus rinse. If I can’t use the neti pot then I at least do a quick rinse with water from the sink from my hand. I wonder if the chlorine in the water contributes to the beneficial effects.

    Also if I do get sick I’ll add a bit of whiskey to the lemon water for my throat (or to put another way, I add a bit of lemon to the whiskey when I’m sick, otherwise I’ll just drink the whiskey straight). I’m not advising anyone to do that obviously.

  17. Can you please give me the source material you used for your recommendations that include the mechanism of action for these suggestions. With your first suggestion, couldn’t you have just said “don’t eat junk food”? As for the recommendation to avoid sugar, since I don’t know anyone who simply pours refined sugar down their throats, wouldn’t that be covered under “don’t eat junk food” too? And can you explain how adding sugar to coffee or tea or other things is inherently bad, considering that insulin is a major nutrient transport system, and for many athletes and physically active people adding sugar at the right time can be quite beneficial to their exercise goals and nutrient uptake. And at the right time, there are hundreds of peer reviewed studies that prove that brain function is improved with properly timed sugar intake. I’m not trying to be flippant. I want to see the science behind the recommendations, since I leave faith to the snake oil salespeople.