When the colder months are upon us, it seems like the perfect time to head to the local herb or health food store for a few key items that will save you from suffering from cold symptoms and help to boost your immune system.
As with many health conditions, prevention is the golden ticket to dodging that nasty head or chest cold that seems to circulate throughout your office, or your kids' school, for months every winter. Here are four natural ways and home remedies to help you avoid getting sick and stay ahead of everyone else's common colds.
Tips to prevent getting sick
1. Wash your hands
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that handwashing alone can reduce rates of the common cold by 21% (1).
I bet you're thinking, "this tip doesn't apply to me because I'm a good grown-up and wash my hands when I'm supposed to" – but most of us simply don't realize how many surfaces we come into contact with. So wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm, running water (it's more effective than hand sanitizer, says the CDC) any time the opportunity presents itself.
2. Get more than enough rest
Research agrees – lack of sleep and issues with insomnia suppresses the immune system. And, less than 6 hours of sleep per night increases susceptibility to colds by up to 4.5 times, compared to 7 hours per night (2).
If you haven't been sleeping enough, you might want to try and add regular meditation sessions to your day as they will boost your immune system and increase antibodies.
3. Add Vitamin C to your diet
Please note that this does not seem to reduce your chance of getting a cold, but it can reduce the duration and severity of colds in people who already take it regularly. With minimal effort, you can be one of those people. Try foods that have vitamin C like kiwi and bell peppers, or supplementation. Consult a Nutritional Therapist or doctor should you have any medical issues prioir to embraking on a change in diet or medication and supplements.
4. Up your zinc intake
Zinc prevents catching colds, but also helps with treating them. When taken within 24 hours of the first sniffle or itchy sore throat, zinc supplements (lozenges, tablets, or syrups) can significantly reduce the duration (from 7 down to 4 days) and severity (coughing for 2 days instead of 5 days) of common colds.
Stick to brands that can be ordered only by a healthcare professional, as they are tested for quality and tend to include fewer unnecessary filler ingredients. And avoid zinc nasal sprays, which can cause a permanent loss of sense of smell.
These four home remedy tips can go a long way toward preventing colds and getting over them quickly, but there is more you can do to encourage lasting immunity.
How to prevent a cold naturally
There are some other natural ways to help stop yourself from getting sick. Altough the research doesn't all agree, you can also try echinacea which has been widely studied with inconsistent results. Some studies indicate that it can reduce the duration and severity of colds, but may not be effective in prevention. But remember, what works for one might not work for another! (3).
And, finally, studies show that acupuncture treatments boost the immune system's production of natural killer cells for up to 3 days after the treatment.
So try picking up some vitamin C and zinc, making time for 7+ hours of sleep per night, bringing some delightful-smelling soap in for the restroom at work, and perhaps making a few acupuncture appointments!
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1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/
2. NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/news/lifestyle-and-exercise/does-lack-of-sleep-make-you-susceptible-to-common-cold/
3. Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/expert-answers/echinacea/faq-20058218