With winter in full swing, it’s inevitable that some get struck by the common cold. Symptoms like migraine, the shakes, fever, congestion and flu have either passed or are just around the corner – but there’s no need to despair.
When dealing with a cold, there are a few nutritional tips you can try to help ease your situation, protect yourself from getting even more ill, and help you feel better fast – some even within 24 hours or a couple of days.
Why do colds spread more in winter?
Although the common cold is caused by viruses rather than lower temperatures, a study conducted by Yale University found that these specific viruses actually multiply faster during chilly conditions – making us more prone to catching a cold during winter (1). Also, spending less time outdoors and more time gathered in confined spaces with re-circulated air doesn’t help.
How can the common cold be prevented?
The immune system works better when your body temperature is warm. When your body is fighting an infection, it’s best to rest and avoid stress in order to help support your immune system and boost energy levels. The best way to stay warm and feel good during the winter is to wrap up, stay hydrated, try home remedies like soaking in a hot bath with magnesium epsom salts, and inhale steam to open up the sinuses and ease congestion.
Foods to avoid if you have a cold or flu
Certain foods can hold you back if you’re fighting a cold or flu and actually increase some of the symptoms. When fighting the sniffles, try to:
• Avoid dairy, eggs and too much meat as they form more mucus in the system
• Limit salt as it dehydrates the body
• Avoid eating large meals as it can deplete your energy
• Avoid rich, heavy foods and instead go for lightly cooked, nutrient dense foods
• Limit sugar and refined foods as they are devoid of nutrients
• Reduce caffeinated drinks like coffee and cola drinks to an absolute minimum, and avoid alcohol as these are dehydrating, and in excess, are toxic to the body.
Home remedies and natural products that help when you’re sick and have a cold
Here is a list of some of the best food and drink to consume to help you ease the symptoms of cold and flu. Always consult your Doctor or Nutritional Therapist for more information on any of the below nutritional tips:
Fluid reduces the amount of mucus, so drinking plenty of water and herbal teas to help the body detox waste products of the battle against infection is a great first step (2). A great homemade elixir to help beat a cold is the classic hot water, with a teaspoon of honey, fresh lemon juice, and a slice of ginger.
2. Vitamin C
Prevent your cold from getting worse by taking 2g of vitamin C as soon as you experience the first signs of a cold – the scratchy throat, low energy, slight headache, etc. Then take 1g every hour until the cold has gone, which is usually within 24 hours. You can take 3g every 3 hours if easier.
This keeps blood levels of vitamin C consistently high as it is water soluble and not stored in the body. It’s best to choose a magnesium or zinc-based ascorbate tablets or powder.
The average zinc supplement dose is 10-15mg per day but at first signs of a cold, you can increase this to 50mg per day. You can get zinc lozenges which are really good for sore throats or look for a supplement which combines zinc and vitamin C.
4. Elderberry syrup
Elderberry has long been used as an herbal remedy for colds, flu, and sinus infections. Studies suggest that elderberry extract may offer virus-fighting, immune-stimulating, and anti-inflammatory effects – so it’s a great natural product to have in your kitchen that helps fight viruses (3). You can take a teaspoon every two hours until you feel a difference to your symptoms.
The root of the plant Echinacea is an immune-supporting herb and acts as an anti-vial agent, so it’s a double-whammy. You can take 2000mg capsules a day or place up to 20 drops under your tongue 3 times a day during an infection.
6. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another immune-supporting vitamin. Our natural vitamin D levels drop in winter as it is primarily made in the skin in the presence of sunlight. Try to increase oily fish and eggs to supply vitamin D naturally. Vegans could become deficient so it’s best to supplement vitamin D during the winter at a maintenance dose of 2000iu per day.
When it comes to protecting yourself from getting sick in the winter, it all comes down to a few key things – hydrate, stay warm, and eat an unprocessed diet full of nutrient-rich foods to support your immune system. That way, you’ll stay guarded against any pesky sniffles that try to creep into your system.