I don’t get sick often these days, but when I do, IT SUCKS. There’s no way around it. I’m totally knocked out for a couple days, and then without having to do anything too crazy (usually), I’m back on my feet and ready to go.
But those couple of days? WOOF. The worst, you guys. This time, it hit me while I was on vacation. (RUDE, BODY, RUDE. I fed you vegetables last week for god sakes, ungrateful.) So I figured I would write up a post for you guys on my favorite Natural Cold Remedies, with bonus tips for the Flu and Sore Throats, since so many of you asked!
So first…REST. You need it.
You want to get a lot worse? Keep going to your intense workouts, chugging along at work, not sleeping extra so you can recover, and not following the other tips below. Guaranteed you will not get any better any time soon. Case and point: when I was recently sick on vacation, I tried to ski through it. DUMMY. I knew this wasn’t the right choice, but I was only there for a couple days so I figured I’d try it out…NOPE. Got so much worse I had to go to urgent care the next morning. Lolz don’t be that dummy (like me).
Did I just tell you to take a day (or two, the horror!) off work and exercise to rest, and watch trashy tv on the couch all day? Basically. Your body will thank you for it and you’ll get better so much faster from what your body needs – A BREAK. Getting enough sleep is the #1 thing you need to get better faster.
Natural Flu & Cold Remedies
Raw Honey (local is best!) Honey is a super powerful, natural anti-viral and antibacterial agent, which makes it amazing for keeping away and fighting off illnesses, plus it’s high in antioxidants to help fight off those bugs!
Raw Garlic. Garlic is a super powerful anti-viral and anti-microbial. This may gross you out, but it totally works. Peel and crush a clove of raw garlic. Coat it in a teaspoon of honey, chew it up, and swallow. Goodbye, germs! Here comes the anti-virus SWAT team. Do not recommend the garlic alone, it’s not pleasant. They honey makes it much more palatable and you’re getting the benefits of raw honey from above! It may sound like an old wives’ tale, but I swear it works!
LIQUIDS. You need them to stay hydrated.
Bone Broth: Our grandmothers had it right when they gave us chicken soup when we were sick – not for the noodles, but for the broth! Warm liquids can ease congestion by encouraging mucus flow, it’s easy on the throat, and there are certain amino acids in bone broth like cysteine that can help to reduce inflammation. The salt in the broth will help thin mucus out, and the protein will help give you energy and strength to recover faster! Plus broth contains a ton of beneficial minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, sulphur, silicon, and other trace minerals that the body can easily absorb for healing. Homemade is best, but now it’s super easy to buy well-made, quality-sourced broth from the comfort of home too! My favorite is Bare Bones Broth. Use code “realfoodwithdana” for $5 off your first order.
Green Juice! Oh wait, let me guess…you got sick after one too many days of indulgences over the holidays or vacation? Your body is probably screaming for vegetables. And I highly doubt you’re going to be chowing down on raw kale salads with all the colorful veggies in them when it hurts to swallow from a sore throat or you can barely breathe from being congested, right? So suck down those green juices to get the essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs to help you get better faster!
Tea: Can be super soothing to a sore throat, help clear you out, and just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside (especially if you’ve got the fever chills!) Some brands I recommend: Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat or Breathe Easy or Yogi Cold Care (Echinacea teas). Hot water with lemon and honey is also great for the same reasons!
Vitamins & Herbs:
Vitamin C: there’s a reason there are so many companies that make Vitamin C packets and market them to you when you’re getting sick. Vitamin C is a huge immune-modulator (meaning you need it when you’re sick, duh!), and can help reduce the duration and severity of colds. Just eating one orange isn’t going to do it here if you’re already sick, so go all in on the Vitamin C. You’ll know when you’ve taken too much (your digestive system will let you know. Things will move a bit faster than normal). If you feel a cold coming on, you can also do a Vitamin C flush. I take about 5,000mg over the course of the day when I’m feeling horrible (in divided doses of about 1,000 mg at a time). Vitality C and Perque Potent C Guard are two good options.
Vitamin D might be the most potent immune system regulator out there, and plays a big role in preventing the initial infection and duration of sickness, especially during the winter months (when most people’s Vitamin D level is much lower than in the sunnier months), for athletes, and those with compromised immune systems. A daily dosage of vitamin D can help prevent colds and the flu, as recent research suggests, and taking extra when you feel something coming on can definitely help. There are some dosage recommendations that are WAY out there for when you’re sick (up to 170,000 IU’s/day – the RDA is 600 IU!), so taking double or triple your normal vitamin D dose should be good. If you want to try more than that, up to you! This is the brand I use: Pure Encapsulations.
Echinacea is an herb that has been used for centuries, and shown to enhance the immune system and protect the body against viral activity, like that from the flu. Research has show that echinacea can bind to the surfaces of White Blood Cells that activates these cells, and can also increase the number of immune cells. I like to get mine in Traditional Medicinals Echinacea tea throughout the day when I’m sick.
Elderberry Extract has been used for years as a natural anti-viral remedy, and can reduce both the severity and duration of symptoms for colds and the flu. According to studies, elderberry (also called Sambucol or Sambucus nigra L.) is a powerful antioxidant that stimulates the immune system by increasing production of disease-fighting lymphocytes. I like Gaia’s Black Elderberry Syrup.
Probiotics: you need a lot of good bugs to fight the bad bugs! A lot of times we get sick because our systems are “down”, we’re too stressed, have too much going on, and haven’t been taking care of ourselves. We need more of the good stuff to fight the bad – and that means more good gut bugs to fight off the stuff we don’t want to be there. Get them in supplement form, but add in some probiotic-rich foods like Kombucha and Kraut too! I take an extra capsule of my normal probiotic or two when I’m feeling sick. Prescript Assist is a great soil-based probiotic and prebiotic if you’re looking for one.
Zinc: can help reduce the severity and duration of colds/the flu! It’s also a coenzyme or cofactor for 300+ enzymatic reactions in your body (meaning you NEED zinc for all those things – umm yeah, it’s that important!), and a ton of those involve the functioning of your immune system. So basically, you NEED zinc to keep you from getting sick and to get well! Here’s a good option: Perque Zinc Throat Losenges and Double Zinc Guard.
Gaia Herbs Quick Defense is a product that contains high levels of both Echinacea and Elderberry, and can be super useful to take if you feel a cold coming on!
Saline rinse (Neti-pot) for a suuuper stuffed up nose. Yeah, it’s gross, but yeah, it totally works!
Gargle warm water & sea salt for a sore throat. Try about 1/4 tsp salt in 1/2 cup warm water, gargle it for a few seconds in the back of your throat, spit it out, and repeat. The salt helps draw the water in your swollen throat glands out, so you won’t feel like wincing and/or crying every time you try to swallow something.
Take a steam bath for your face. My mom always used to do this for us when we were sick – stick your face over a bowl of steaming hot soup or water (or take a hot shower!) with a towel draped over your head. The steam will help shrink the mucus membranes in your throat and nose, and will help clear you out by draining the mucus to ease your stuffy nose!
And the best “prescription” of all: Netflix & sleeeeep, ya big dummy.
What NOT to do:
Kick your body while it’s down by eating a ton of sh*tty junk and processed food. Yes, this includes ramen. Oh, and unless you really feel like clogging up your sinuses for the next couple days, avoid cheese and all kinds of dairy. That means you, yogurt and ice cream!
Antibiotics DO NOT WORK against colds and the flu. These are VIRUSES, and antibiotics fight BACTERIAL INFECTIONS. Two totally different things!!
And obviously, the better you take care of yourself, the faster you’ll get better. Don’t be a dummy and try to push yourself through it unless you just want to prolong feeling like crap.
Disclaimer: this post is not meant to diagnose or take the place of medical treatment. If you’re really sick, GO TO THE DOCTOR. If you just have a cold, follow these tips and you should be good to go in a couple days! Always make sure to check the ingredients on your vitamins and supplements, and use a trusted, verified brand (Check Emerson Ecologics for ratings!)
Want to learn more? Check out these resources!
the Bare Bones Broth Cookbook, Katherine and Ryan Harvey
The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine, Joseph Pizzorno, Michael Murray & Herb Joiner-Bey
Gleeson, Michael. “Immunological Aspects of Sport Nutrition.” Immunology and Cell Biology 94, no. 2 (February 2016): 117–23. doi:10.1038/icb.2015.109.
Gleeson, M., G. I. Lancaster, and N. C. Bishop. “Nutritional Strategies to Minimise Exercise-Induced Immunosuppression in Athletes.” Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology = Revue Canadienne De Physiologie Appliquee 26 Suppl (2001): S23-35.
“Natural Treatments for Cold and Flu.” Dr. David Williams. Accessed February 20, 2017. http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/natural-cold-and-flu-treatments/
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Phyllis A. Balch
Tiralongo, Evelin, Shirley S. Wee, and Rodney A. Lea. “Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” Nutrients 8, no. 4 (March 24, 2016): 182. doi:10.3390/nu8040182.