Do you remember 1980s Vick’s NyQuil commercial touting, the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine? It was hard enough to watch the red-faced, stuffy-nosed husband suffer, let alone vicariously experience his symptoms. But, can the cold and flu be eliminated or better yet, prevented, without medication? Let’s just say, avoiding the cold and flu is akin to preparing a meal ahead of time. With a dash of natural knowledge and a cup of self-care, fevers, body aches, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, chills, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea can be a thing of the past and best left to the early eighties television actors.
1.) Sanitize Safely
A steady supply of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers have provided a false sense of security for many germophobes. Recent research by the University of California San Diego revealed the common synthetic antimicrobial, triclosan which is linked to endocrine disruption, causes liver fibrosis and cancer in laboratory mice (through mechanisms relevant to humans). Add to this the fact that, according to the Food Safety Network at Kansas State University, hand sanitizers are not as effective as hand washing in the removal of viruses, spores, and fungi. Opt instead for good old fashioned hand washing using hot water, plain soap and a bit of elbow grease while singing the tune of Happy Birthday twice. This way you’ll assure you’ve scrubbed long enough; 20 seconds minimum.
Hands down (pun intended), the number one tip for avoiding catching a cold is frequent hand washing. It’s fast, affordable and extremely effective. When handwashing isn’t an option, then be sure to sanitize safely. Click HERE for a list of common hand sanitizer ingredients to avoid.
Remember, hand sanitizers use alcohol as the main ingredient to kill germs and the Center for Disease Control recommends they contain at least 60% alcohol; those containing less have been proven to be ineffective. Lastly, look for natural brands that use ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol) made from renewable resources versus isopropyl alcohol.
2.) Eat Your Way to Health
In addition to frequent hand washing, you can increase your intake of immune-boosting foods like fresh, organic fruits, dark, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables while also adding supplements (you could look here) to your daily routine including:
a.) Apple Cider Vinegar. This will help keep your body more alkaline (keeping pH levels balanced) which can help ward off colds and flu germs.
b.) Coconut Oil: coconut oil contains a fatty acid called lauric acid, which has anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has anti-viral properties which make it perfect for fighting colds and flu. You can cook with it or add to foods/beverages.
c.) Omega-3 (fatty acids): According to a study by Britain’s Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Medicine, fatty acids have immune-fortifying properties. They increase phagocytes which attack bacteria, hence creating the ability to ward off the flu.
d.) Vitamin D: Harvard studies reveal vitamin D may help boost immunity and prevent colds. The active form of vitamin D tempers the damaging inflammatory response of some white blood cells, while it also boosts immune cells’ production of microbe-fighting proteins.[i] Adults who have low vitamin D levels are more likely to report having had a recent cough, cold, or upper respiratory tract infection.[ii]
3.) Choose Wisely
It takes the flu shot about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to develop in the body. However, we advise keeping your body strong all year by making healthy living a way of life. In a 2008 study, the influenza vaccine proved only 59% successful while benefitting only 36% of the healthy children over the age of 2 who received it. Although a personal decision, your current immune system, and genetics need to be considered. If you do elect to receive the flu shot, we recommend you request a thimerosal-free vaccine. Even if this means a little inconvenience to find, you may not want to subject your body since studies reveal thimerosal can contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases by suppressing the overall immune system.
4.) An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Since the majority of cold and flu viruses are spread via direct contact, frequent hand washing at home, work and/or the gym is highly recommended. Don’t forget these germs can live for hours, so wiping down phones, keyboards and fitness equipment is essential. You’ll want to use non-toxic and fragrance-free wipes that don’t contain harsh chemicals (or, make your own).
Also, frequenting your fitness center during non-peak hours will reduce the amount of potentially sick people you are in close proximity to. Skip the rush hour crowd and visit later in the evening or during your lunch hour instead. Finally, use a towel or your shirt to touch or scratch your face and open doors. Your eyes, nose, and mouth create an easy entry point for the influenza virus.
5.) Early Birds Stay Healthy
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season begins as early as October and peaks around January or later. But, it’s never too early to boost your immune system to prepare for flu season. You can do this by limiting your intake of foods high in sugar and reducing alcohol intake since both of these can suppress the immune system. Daily exercise will keep the circulation strong while also reducing stress. Finally, make sure you are getting plenty of sleep; at least 8 hours, but more if necessary. Your body needs downtime to rest, recuperate and heal. Turn off the Smartphone, release the stress and give your body time to decompress from the activity and toxic exposures of the day.
Keeping your body’s immune system strong should become a way of life; not something you do a few times a year. Obtain your daily dose of vitamins and minerals through whole, plant-based food whenever possible. A great way to do this is by juicing in the morning. This is a great way to give yourself that much needed boost of energy in the a.m. hours while supplying your body with fresh fruits and veggies. Nowadays, it’s so easy. Even if you don’t own a juicer or Vitamix (or don’t have time), there are many places that offer delivery service to your home or office for your convenience. The same goes for lunch and dinner. Supporting your local farmers market or growing your own herbs and vegetables will keep the price down while making it easier to get nutrients on your dinner table or in kid’s school lunches.
6.) Create a Healthy Home Sanctuary
In addition to improving your diet, getting some type of daily exercise and drinking plenty of water (half your body weight in ounces); you can also turn your home or workplace into a healing sanctuary. The average person breathes in 10 to 20 thousand liters of air per day. Health consequences from breathing poor indoor air quality include runny nose, itchy eyes, a scratchy throat, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, skin rash, and respiratory infections. The solution? Implement a portable air purifier like the HoMedics Brethe with Nano Coil technology that kills cold and flu viruses. Additionally, look for a HEPA or other filtration to remove 99% of airborne contaminants while keeping your immune system stronger. Or, add Poinsettia’s which, according to NASA studies, are great at absorbing toxic chemicals from the air.
Finally, avoid synthetic air fresheners which can interfere with your sense of smell by merely masking odors. Many brands contain a mix of synthetic chemicals that can create watery eyes, headaches, skin and respiratory irritation, asthma and allergic reactions. Some even coat the nasal passages with oil that temporarily blocks your sense of smell. With hot cocoa, fresh cider, pine and other holiday aromas in the air – your nose knows you don’t want to miss out on the sweet smells of the season.
[ii] Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA, Jr. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med. 2009; 169:384-90.