Natural Cold & Flu Prevention Tips
Its that time of year again....
The cold and flu season is looming upon us, and has already started for some. But instead of feeling like a sitting duck – instead, why not go on the offensive with some natural ways to boost immunity. As the expression goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here are some tips to help you stay a step ahead of colds & flu this year.
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8 NATURAL COLD & FLU PREVENTION TIPS:
1. GET YOUR SUNSHINE VITAMIN
Do you get several colds every year? That could be an indication that your vitamin D levels are too low. Perhaps one of the most important things we can do to prevent colds and flu – is to optimize our vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but a pre-hormone produced in the skin after exposure to the sun’s UVB rays. So vitamin D levels typically drop in the Fall/Winter months when we get less sun exposure.
A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 70% – 97% of Americans have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is known for it’s role in building strong bones, but it also plays a significant role in our immunity – in fact, our immune system requires vitamin D in order to properly function.
Some research shows that vitamin D is more effective in preventing the flu than a flu shot. To get ready for cold and flu season – the Fall/Winter is a good time to supplement with vitamin D3. Low levels of vitamin D not only raise our risk of colds and flu, but also increases our risk for breast cancer, fractures, depression, heart disease, Alzheimers disease, and more.
Ideally, you should have your levels checked twice yearly to know if you are supplementing at the right dose. Optimal blood levels of vitamin D should be between 40 ng/dL – 60 ng/dL. Getting your vitamin D in the optimal range could literally save your life – as low vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.
Vitamin D is critical for all aspects of our immune system - experts say that 70% of breast cancers could be prevented by optimal blood levels of vitamin D.
One additional thing to consider with vitamin D, magnesium is needed in order for it to be converted into the active hormone form. With an estimated 70% of the population deficient in magnesium, I always recommend taking vitamin D with magnesium – because it is needed for the conversion to the active form.
2. BOOST YOUR (GOOD) BACTERIA!
Our bodies are teeming with bacteria, in fact, according to scientists, we have 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells! And it is important for us to remember that some of those bacteria are the “good guys,” which are important not only for our digestion, but also for our immune system, and even our mental health.
Studies show that probiotics are a very powerful tool in the fight against infection. So if you want to boost your immune system, increase the good bacteria in your gut by eating probiotic rich foods, and/or taking a probiotic supplement.
According to this article, “a healthy lower intestine should contain at least 85% friendly bacteria to prevent the over-colonization of microorganisms like E. coli and salmonella." Replenishing the healthy bacteria in our gut is especially important after a course of antibiotics – critical really – because they wipe out ALL the bacteria – good and bad. So although antibiotics can help to get rid of an infection like strep throat, they can leave your immune system vulnerable to future infections.
3. WASH UP!
Whenever you put a bunch of kids together in a room, you increase the chances that viruses and bacteria can spread.
One of the best ways to prevent germs spreading around is to simply wash them off! One of the simplest things our kids can do to prevent getting sick is to simply wash their hands. Because viruses can live for up to 48 hours on a surface, so remind your kids to make sure to wash their hands before they eat, or when they come into the home from being out in public places touching surfaces. Also remind your kids to not put their hands (or toys) in their mouths, and to not share water bottles or spoons.
Do your kids do the ‘quick rinse’ in the sink without soap? I know a lot of kids do – they are far too busy to wash with soap. But a quick rinse with water might not get all the germs off. So hands should be washed with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating, and after handling things in public places (ie: playground, museums, grocery stores, health clubs).
But just say no to the antibacterial soaps! Studies show that use of the anti-bacterial agent Tricolsan (found in many antibacterial soaps, gels, and wipes) could be creating resistant strains of bacteria. So don’t forget to wash hands, but stick with regular soap.
My favorite hand soap that we use in our house all year long is doTERRA’s On Guard hand soap. It contains essential oils that help to remove bacteria, but does not create resistance.
4. GET SOME VITAMIN C
Ever since Nobel prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling wrote the book 'Vitamin C and the Common Cold' in 1970, the debate about whether or not it can help prevent the common cold has raged on. But research does shows that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can support a healthy immune system. So during the cold and flu season – load up on the citrus fruits, strawberries, and red peppers. It is also a good idea to supplement with vitamin C as well. Take vitamin C with food if you have a sensitive stomach or it gives you loose stools, or consider liposomal (or lipospheric) vitamin C. Liposomal C is a very powerful form of vitamin C that acts like IV vitamin C.
5. GET YOUR ZZZS (SLEEP)
Sleep is needed for the body to recover, detox, regenerate, and repair – several different studies have shown a link between lack of sleep and lowered immune system. Adults should get no less than 7 hours of sleep. Kids need different amounts depending on their age. But they should be getting to bed early enough each night that they wake up feeling refreshed. Turning off electronics 1 hour before bedtime helps people settle down to sleep better. – because the blue light emitted from screens intereferes with the body’s production of melatonin, a sleep hormone.
6. CUT OUT THE SUGAR
One of the worst foods for our immune system are sugary foods and drinks. Studies have shown that ingesting a sugary solution reduced white blood cell effectiveness by 40%, thereby reducing the body’s ability to fight infection. Sweets also increases systemic inflammation in the body, and create imbalances in our gut bacteria, which are both important players in the immune system. So try to cut back on the sweets this time of year to boost immunity (easier said than done with Halloween around the corner!).
If you are struggling with a sugar addiction, consider my Break up with Sugar eCourse!
7. LOWER STRESS LEVELS.
Stress can lower the immune system, making the body less effective at fighting infections. So doing things like yoga or meditation to reduce stress levels will help to boost the immune system. If possible – giving kids downtime away from homework and other commitments to just have some fun – also helps to lower stress levels too. Kids (and adults) need play time!
8. TRY SOME ESSENTIAL OILS.
Essential oils can be powerful tools in the prevention of colds and flu this time of year. I use a line of essential oil blends from dōTERRA that are designed to support the immune system called On Guard®,a proprietary essential oil blend, which may offer protection against environmental and seasonal threats with essential oils known for their positive effects on the immune system. They also have an essential oil blend called Breathe™ – that is wonderful to diffuse if you are feeling stuffy. They also have a Breathe stick – that reminds me of a vaporub – that I love to use if I feel a little stuffed up. And both come in lozenges as well.
Essential oils are very powerful – so it is ideal to get informed before using them.
STOP A COLD IN IT'S TRACKS!
No prevention methods are failsafe - what should you do if you start to feel a sore throat, or other symptoms of a cold of flu? In addition to the above, there are a number of natural things that we like to do to stop a cold in it’s tracks!
1. TAKE SOME NATURAL ANTIBACTERIALS
Garlic, oregano, and silver – are powerful antiviral and antibacterials – if you catch it early enough, at the sore throat stage – I have found that taking some oregano oil can really nip a cold in the bud. We always have some on hand in case we feel a cold coming on! Silver is also a very effective natural anti-bacterial. If you catch it at the early stage – taking natural anti-bacterials can help to prevent a virus from taking hold, or progressing into a more serious infection.
Note: do not take oregano oil or other antibacterials for longer than about 2-3 weeks – like other antibacterials – it can affect both the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
2. TAKE A HOMEOPATHIC COLD REMEDY.
The minute I feel a sore throat coming on – I reach for a homeopathic cold remedy. If there is a fever, I go for a homeopathic flu remedy.
If you catch it early enough – homeopathic remedies may help to slow a virus from progressing, lessen the symptoms, and perhaps shorten the duration. If you do not catch it early enough to prevent – homepathic remedies are also natural ways to manage the pain and inflammation, and help to drain the mucous membranes.
I always have these on hand, so we can start them right at the first sign of illness.
3. BOOST THE VITAMIN D, ZINC, & PUSH THE VITAMIN C.
If your immune system is fighting a virus, supporting it with additional C, D and zinc is helpful. Vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D are all important players in the immune system. So if you seem to get every cold and flu that you come into contact with – you could be deficient in vitamin D or zinc.
I recommend having your vitamin D levels checked each year, especially if you are prone to getting colds. If you do supplement with vitamin D, always take it with magnesium – needed for the conversion.
One of the most powerful forms of vitamin C that I have found Lipsomal C. Liposomal C products use phospholipids to maximize absorption. Phospholipids are primary building blocks of the cellular membrane: the thin, protective wall around each cell in your body – the wall functions as a skin for each cell, keeping things in or out. While your body can make some phospholipid compounds on its own, others must be supplied by your diet. These are called essential phospholipids.
Liposomal vitamin C is one of the most powerful ways to get vitamin C into the cells, nearly as powerful as IV vitamin C. You can see the power of IV vitamin C in this video – “Vitamin C The Miracle Swine Flu Cure” – about how a dairy farmer who had “white out” pneumonia complications from the Swine Flu – his life was literally saved by IV vitamin C. High dose IV Vitamin C may also help with recovery from other immune issues like shingles and lyme disease.
4. Chicken Soup feeds the soul & immune system
Organic slow-cooked chicken soup made with bones is not just comforting and good for the soul – it provides collagen which helps to support immunity and gut health, it also has electrolytes which help to keep the body hydrated too.
5. Get your Rest!
Lack of sleep can leave us feeling run down and prone to illness. So if you are feeling something coming on – try to get to bed early and get some ZZZs, so the body can recover.
6. Stay Home...please!!
Taking Advil and heading to work to "tough it out" is not only going to lengthen your illness, it also will expose others to the virus!! So the prudent and nice thing to do for yourself and all of your colleagues is to stay home if you are not feeling well. If you have the energy, and have to get work done - do it from home to prevent spreading your illness. In some cases like the flu, you might not have the energy to do anything except sleep - listen to your body!!
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED TO TAKE ANTIBIOTICS:
If you end up with a bacterial infection, or your doctor determines that you need to take antibiotics to get well – it is good to be ready to do some “clean up” work to get our bacterial balance back in order to support our health. Antibiotics are not selective – they kill the good bacteria along with the bad. So if you take antibiotics, you will want to replenish the good bacteria in your gut by taking a probiotic (or you will find your immune system to be more vulnerable).
During Antibiotic use:
Prevent digestive distress and protect healthy gut bugs with – Saccharomyces Boulardii has been shown to be protective against diarrhea (which antibiotics can cause), and also to help maintain a beneficial bacterial environment in the gut. Saccharomyces Boulardii is a beneficial yeast (not a bacteria/probiotic), so it will not interfere with, or be killed off by the antibiotic, so you can take during antibiotic therapy. We also like to bring it with us if we travel to help prevent traveler’s diarrhea too. Immunocompromised individuals should consult their doctor first.
Take a biofilm interruptor to allow the antibiotic to break through the bacterial biofilm in order to effectively eradicate the bacteria.
After Antibiotic Use:
Reseed and replenish good gut bacteria – When you are done with your course of antibiotics, you take a high quality probiotic – to help “reseed” the good bacteria in the gut.
This article was updated on March 1, 2017 and October, 2019.