Have you been feeling it? That sore throat? The runny nose? The incessant cough? And the overall feeling of fatigue that comes with fighting a cold. Cold and flu season is well underway and you may not be feeling your best. Here are 6 easy, whole foods-based solutions for fighting your cold naturally and efficiently and getting you back to feeling your best.
#1: Fluids, Fluids, Fluids
Drinking LOTS of hydrating, clear liquids is essential to getting over your cold quickly, and avoiding them in the future. Water flushes away toxins, brings oxygen to your cells and helps your body absorb nutrients — the kind of nutrients that fight a cold. Water also keeps your mouth and throat moist. When your nasal passage and throat are dry, bacteria just hangs out in there. Staying hydrated helps to frequently remove it from the body.
Alternate between LOTS of water, soups and the following lovely ginger tea. Raw honey is antibacterial and antifungal and can soothe your sore throat. Lemon is a good source of vitamin C, is antibacterial and helps the body flush out toxins. Cayenne helps to remove and avoid chest congestion. I also recommend running a humidifier in your bedroom at night.
Healing Ginger Tea:
full pot boiled water
2 ginger tea bags
1 inch fresh ginger, sliced
Few dashes cayenne pepper
½-1 lemon juiced
1 tablespoon raw honey
Let the tea steep for 10-15 minutes, then stir in the honey and lemon.
Cleansing Immunity Drink:
1 tall glass water or coconut water
½ lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1-2 dashes cinnamon
This DOES NOT mean drinking sugary drinks, like store-bought juices or gingerale, and certainly not dehydrating drinks like coffee and black tea. Give your body its best chance for recovery, which means giving it only things that will help it to heal.
#2: Avoid Sugar
Did you know that sugar suppresses your immune system for up to 5 hours? Any kind of sugar (even the natural, healthier kinds) lowers your white blood cell activity, which in turn dampens your body’s ability to fight an infection. So while you’re working on getting better, eliminate any processed sugars (white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, even fruit juice), and moderate the healthy sources (like raw honey) to what your body needs.
#3: Stick to Whole Foods
While your body is fighting the good fight, it needs reinforcements. Please don’t give it poor ammunition. In order to win the day, it requires whole foods to provide loads of nutrients that will support the immune system and supply it with clean energy to keep going. You know the drill: lots of veggies, fresh soups, clean protein and no processed foods. Your body doesn’t need bread, crackers, lots of pasta, chips, cookies, cake or fast food.
Some fantastic foods to load up on are antivirals such as ginger, garlic and onion; immunity-boosters, rich in vitamin c such as lemon, orange, bell peppers, cabbage and berries. Have you heard of kimchi? It’s a spicy, fermented Korean condiment. I love it while I’m sick because it’s made of cabbage, ginger, garlic and chiles, all good things to clear my congestion and support my body. A quick, homemade miso noodle soup can also do wonders. Bring some mushroom broth or water to a boil and cook garlic, chopped kale and a handful of any chopped veggies you have on hand. Add in some udon noodles in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and stir in a tablespoon of miso paste and a splash of tamari.
Here’s a delicious, hydrating smoothie to start your day while on the mend.
Immunity Boosting Smoothie:
1 grapefruit, juiced
1 orange, juiced
¼-½ cup coconut water
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax oil
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup greens
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 frozen banana
Few dashes of cayenne pepper
#4: Superfoods & Supplements
Lastly, here are the superfoods, supplements and tinctures I take to maintain good health. They all support immune function and warding the body from viruses. I recommend consulting with your doctor before adding new supplements to your diet.
- elderberry syrup: 1 tsp daily for maintenance, up to 4 tsp daily for adults at the first sign of a cold (here’s the recipe I use)
- probiotics and fermented foods
- vitamins C & D
- medicinal mushrooms (like shiitake, reishi and cordyceps)
- oil of oregano
- tinctures: Echinacea & Gondenseal. Echinacea produces white blood cells and eliminates waste. Goldenseal liquifies mucus and reduces inflammation of throat & sinuses
Deep Immune tonic: take this when you’re healthy to avoid getting sick – there’s one for kids too!
Sleep and rest are so important while your body is using as much energy as it can to fight a virus. We all have responsibilities, I get it, and taking a week off to rest in bed may not be possible for you. However, you can probably find ways to lighten your load a little, just for a few days, to speed up your recovery. And prioritize your sleep. Put the book, computer, TV remote down and get some zzz’s. Your body will thank you.
#6: Congestion Relief
To provide relief from my stuffy nose and ongoing cough, I like to make my own version of Vicks VapoRub using coconut oil and essential oils. I make one for my husband and myself and a kid-safe one for my kiddos. I rub it on our chests and backs for chest congestion and under our feet and between our toes for nasal congestion, in the morning and before bed.
My personal recipe (which lasts several months) is:
a full jar like this of coconut oil – which is antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial (~1/2 cup)
10-20 drops eucalyptus essential oil for breathing (avoid using on kids under 10)
10-20 drops peppermint oil for breathing
5 drops lavender oil – antibacterial
5 drops rosemary oil – antibacterial (replace with lemon essential oil for kids)
A neti pot can also really help keep your nasal passage moist and clean. Using one everyday when your sinuses are really stuffed up can provide both relief and accelerate your healing.
Phew! That was a lot. Are you better yet? Well, start brewing some tea and simmering some soup and you’ll be well on your way!