It seems as though the winter season is synonymous with common colds and flu. Well in all reality, it doesn’t have to be. Some people would mutter about the inevitability of catching a virus yadda yadda yadda. Nevertheless, I’m of the belief that the immune system plays a much more significant role in catching a virus than exposure. Sure, being exposed to the virus can be out of our control, perhaps you’re sitting on a plane within 6 feet of someone who won’t stop sneezing, coughing, and propelling microdroplets of the rhinovirus in every direction. But, to a very large degree, the strength of our immune response is within our control. With that said, preventing a cold is the true meaning of beating a cold. Unfortunately, millions of Americans still catch a cold, twice a year. So… what are the most efficient and proven ways to shorten this miserable sickness? P.S getting more than 200mg of vitamin C doesn’t help all that much. We’ll start with the rather obvious…
Get sufficient sleep! Even if you’ve already caught a cold.
In a study published in Arch Intern Med, of the 153 healthy people given a rhinovirus (the predominant cause of the common cold), those who slept fewer than 7 hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 or more hours of sleep.¹ One hour difference is all! The study controlled for all other factors including demographics, body mass, and health practices. Whether or not you’re trying to be a healthy human being and prevent the common cold or attempting to fight it off, good sleep will make a difference.
Amidst plenty of controversies, many Americans do not receive enough vitamin D. Amping up your vitamin D level provides numerous benefits. The vitamin, which is produced by the body in response to sunlight exposure, increases immune cell activity, reduces toxicity, and lowers the inflammatory response. ²
Double-blind studies have shown that zinc reduces both the intensity and duration of the common cold by up to 50%.³ Zinc also improves immunity and fights bacterial load within the body. ⁴ Common sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds and cashews
I get it, when you’re feeling a cold coming on exercise may be the last thing you plan on doing. Indifferent to your feelings, there are plenty of studies reporting significant improvements in immune function following exercise. ⁵ Plus it’s free. Exercise is also undoubtedly one of the best preventative measures for avoiding sickness, but exercising with a minor cold or during the onset will also help. Be sure to use common sense and care when exercising while suffering from any illness.
Take time to de-stress
Upon first thought, relaxing seems like a simple thing to do. But, nowadays pure relaxation is hard to come by in our face paced society. Being overworked and stressed can and will interfere with your immune system and increase your susceptibility to getting a cold. Research has confirmed that stress decreases the activity of the immune system and can lengthen the duration of illness. ⁶ Simple breathing exercises such as meditation, sleep and joyful reading can help strengthen your immune system.
The not so obvious…
Oil of oregano has been studied quite a bit for its natural action against harmful organisms. A recent study from Georgetown University Medical Center found that oregano oil was the most beneficial essential oil for combating infections. ⁷ If you have a cold, you can place a few drops of oregano essential oil in a capsule and take daily.
Turmeric is a yellow and slightly mild tasting spice, traditionally used in Indian cuisine and natural medicine. The root can be found in specialty supermarkets and most spice sections carry turmeric powder. It’s rich in antioxidants and may provide defense from harmful organisms that cause sickness, making it a perfect addition to your cold-fighting arsenal. ⁸ I’d recommend taking a daily turmeric supplement that includes piperine extract, as this allows the polysaccharides to be more bioavailable. These are usually inexpensive and provide all around anti-inflammatory support.
A powerhouse natural antibiotic, anti fungal, and antibacterial, garlic can tackle almost any illness. For the most potent effect, finely mince 1-2 cloves of garlic and float in a small glass of water. Drink quickly- if you are sick enough, you won’t even notice the taste. Note: Pregnant women should not take more than 1 clove of garlic medicinally per day, and children often resist this remedy. Garlic will boost your immune system whether you’re sick or not. ⁹
Quoting author and nutritional advisor Nora Gedgaudas:
“For shoring up your immune function during cold and flu season here’s–RULE#1: DO NOT OVEREAT. In fact, if you feel you have been exposed to a bug or feel something coming on, then light fasting is an excellent idea. Digestion takes more energy than just about any other daily human activity. Placing excessive burden on your digestive processes diverts energy and resources that might otherwise be devoted to better quality immune function… …avoiding sugar and starch in particular, here is critical. A high glycemic meal can decimate your leukocytic index (your primary immune response) for 2-4+ hours following it. Glucose also further attracts undesirable free radical activity (glycation), is acidifying to the system (favoring pathogens) and increases insulin production (taking away from your internal repair, immune and maintenance processes). Sugar also literally feeds pathogens. ALL carbs (except indigestible fiber) are sugar once they reach your bloodstream. This includes bread, cereals, pasta, potatoes, rice, juices (yes–even orange juice), grains (even whole or sprouted grains), corn, milk (especially low-fat/non-fat–very high in sugars), legumes (are about 60% starch) and other sugary/starchy carbs… …also, consuming excesses of protein up-regulate the metabolic pathway mTOR (which you can read about in Primal Body-Primal Mind in more detail) additionally suppressing internal repair and maintenance processes. Best to consistently moderate your protein intake–but particularly if you happen to be immune compromised… …use fats like coconut oil and poultry fat (both of which contain effective antimicrobial compounds) to help support your inner troops! Bone broths and light soups top the list of immuno-supportive meals when you’re fighting that bug! Supporting your internal wildlife with ample coconut kefir and cultured veggies is an added plus. None of these suggestions is costly and can serve to hugely augment the effects of any quality supplements you may want to add to this mix! If you can’t afford to do that then just sticking to Rule #1 might just help carry you through.”
So there you have it, some of the most well established and worthy ways of killing your cold fast! Always remember to stay hydrated and don’t shy away from the tea! Reducing your stress and getting enough rest should be top priorities while fighting any illness and as always taking advantage of mother natures incredibly well studied remedies. What’s your favorite way of beating the seasonal sickness?
⑵ “Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold” from Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(1):62-67.
⑶ Harri Hemilä. Zinc Lozenges May Shorten the Duration of Colds: A Systematic Review. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal. 2011; 5: 51-58.
⑷ H Babich and G Stotzky. Toxicity of zinc to fungi, bacteria, and coliphages: influence of chloride ions.Applied and Environmental Microbiology. December 1978; 36(6): 906-914.
⑸ Brolinson PG, Elliott D. Exercise and the immune system. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. 2007 July;26(3):311-9.
⑹ Suzanne C. Segerstrom and Gregory E. Miller. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological bulletin. July 2004; 130(4): 601-630.
⑺ Faleiro L, Miguel G, Gomes S, Costa L, Venancio F, Teixeira A, Figueiredo AC, Barroso JG, Pedro LG. Antibacterial and antioxidant activities of essential oils isolated from Thymbra capitata L. (Cav.) and Origanum vulgare L. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2005 October 19;53(21):8162-8.
⑻ Chinampudur V. Chandrasekaran, Kannan Sundarajan, […], and Amit Agarwal. Immune-stimulatory and anti-inflammatory activities of Curcuma longa extract and its polysaccharide fraction. Pharmacognosy Research. 2013 April-June; 5(2): 71-79.