Healthier living, one day at a time!

Fighting Off Cold and Flu Naturally

winter snowman pexelBefore we know it the flu season will be upon us again. Last flu season (2017-2018) was one of the worst on record and there is no way of knowing exactly what this year will bring.  


According to the Center for Disease Control and Preventions, also known as the CDC, the increase in flu cases is likely to begin in October and November. It usually peaks between December and February, and can last as late as May.  


The CDC advises we get our flu shots at least two weeks before the season starts since it can take that amount of time for the body to form the necessary antibodies to fight the flu virus. 


That means, if you do plan to get a flu shot, now is the time to do it.


But getting a vaccination is not the only way to protect yourself from getting sick this cold and flu season.  Let’s take a look at some of the other preventative measures that we can take to stay healthy.


Practice Good Hygiene and Be a Bit Anti-Social at Times


One of the most obvious ways to keep from getting sick, is to avoid contact with the virus.  The CDC recommends staying away from sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs.  Regular hand washing goes a long way when it comes to preventing colds and flu. And you don’t need antibacterial soap; just regular soap will do the trick. You also want to avoid transferring the virus directly into your body by rubbing your eyes and nose.

And if you do get sick, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading flu to others.  Hopefully others will be following the same advice, and not getting you sick!  


Sometimes this is easier said than done though.


So what other precautions can you follow?  Since I am a firm believer in following a holistic approach to health, I try to follow some simple lifestyle rules to prevent from getting sick. They are no guarantee, but they do help.


Tips for Staying Healthy Naturally


1. Stay hydrated


Increasing the amount of fluids you drink every day helps keep the mucous membranes in your eyes and nose moist. Dry membranes are less effective at trapping and eliminating viruses before they make us sick. The best drink for this is plain-old water. 


If you need to increase your water intake (the recommended amount is about ½ your body weight in ounces, or about eight 8-oz. glasses a day,)  try drinking it warm or add a bit of lemon juice to give it flavor.


2. Get enough sleep


While you are sleeping your body isn’t just resting, it is actively healing and helping repair your body. This important  “activity” allows your body to regenerate and keeps your immune system humming.  This can be very important in fighting off any attacks from a flu virus.  Knowing that you could be compromising your health might help you avoid the impulse to skip a bit of shuteye in order to get “one more thing done.”


3. Consider a Supplement in Your Diet


Even though I try to eat a healthy whole food diet, I take a multi-vitamin as insurance, just in case I am not getting enough of an essential vitamin or mineral. But sometimes, maybe that isn't enough.


During the winter months, days are shorter and we tend to stay indoors more.  That means we are not getting the sunlight necessary for us to produce Vitamin D hormones.  Even if you don’t normally take Vitamin D supplements, you might want to consider doing so during the winter months.  While there is no concensus as to whether vitamin D supplements can help prevent the flu, there is a correlation between the seasonal decline in vitamin D levels and the incidence of flu, and it is true that many of us are deficient in this important vitamin that plays a critical role in immune function. If you are taking a Vitamin D supplement, try to get one with Vitamin K2 added, as this helps with the proper absorption of Vitamin D.


Vitamin C is also a great antioxidant that helps boost the immune system.  2000 mg/day taken in divided doses is a good minimum level.


If you are looking to fortify your body with herbal supplements astragalus is an excellent one to try.  Essential oil of oregano is another way to prevent remove viruses from your environment before they are able to enter your body.


4. Keep Active


Don’t let the cold weather slow you down.  When you exercise, you increase the blood circulation throughout your body. Since the cells of the immune system circulate in the blood, they have a better chance of attacking an illness before it spreads.  So button up those running jackets or don your exercise clothes, and get active!


5. Eat Seasonal Immune-boosting Foods


Did you know that what you eat can help protect you from getting sick?  Of course, just having a healthy diet and lifestyle will help you with this.  If you are following my 5 Key Elements to Maintaining Healthy Weight and Energy Levels you are already probably staying healthy and are less likely to get sick.  But did you know that there are several foods that have antiviral properties and can help fight off viruses for the common cold and flu?  I’m not saying that this will guarantee you won’t get sick, but it will help your body fight off infection and disease so you have a better chance of staying healthy this winter.

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6 Antiviral Foods You Should Be Eating

1. Mushrooms

According to Dr. Josesph Mercola in his article “Eat Mushrooms During Winter to Radically Reduce Your Risk of Cold and Flu,” mushrooms contain potent immunosupportive agents that are able to kill viruses, bacteria and even yeast.  They can destroy cancer cells and help regenerate nerves.

Shitake mushrooms in particular have strong antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.  Reishi mushrooms, used medicinally in Asia for centuries, can now be found in health food stores in the States.  They reportedly have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties as well.  As with most foods, eating a variety of mushrooms is key because different species provide different health benefits.

2. Coconut oil

The presence of lauric acid in coconut oil provides antiviral protection to the body.  Some studies have shown that this acid prevents the virus from reaching maturity (Hornung et al 1994).  Other studies indicate that coconut oil is involved in enhancing the immune system in general.  Coconut oil, with its medium chain fatty acids is an important component of a healthy diet.  It has a relatively high smoke point so it is good for cooking.  It can also be used in baking and eaten as a butter substitute.  In addition, it makes a wonderful natural moisturizer for the skin.  If you don’t like the smell or taste of coconut oil, no problem.  You can buy a refined version which has little to no odor or taste.  Be sure to always buy organic though.

3. Fermented foods

This is actually a category of foods! Lacto-fermented foods are a wonderful way to protect your gut from viral invasion.  Lacto-fermentation helps preserve foods and, in the process, produces beneficial enzymes, vitamins and beneficial probiotics.  These help us absorb the nutrients in our food better and keep us healthy by balancing the microflora in our gut.  A healthy microflora is a hostile environment for invading microbes that would otherwise make us sick.

You can incorporate fermented foods in your diet by eating sauerkraut, pickles, or fermented vegetables.  Sauerkraut is simple to make and tastes much better than store bought.  (Be careful about buying shelf stable sauerkraut and pickles in jars.  Theseare heated and the live beneficial probiotics have been killed.  Instead, look for live cultures in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.)

You can also drink your probiotics in the form of water kefir and kombucha.  They are easy to make if you have a starter culture.  You can order them at Cultures for Health.  

4. Garlic

Garlic has long been known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties (as well as its strong odor!).  It is this strong odor, from a compound known as allicin, that gives garlic its strongest antiviral fighting power.  Laboratory tests have shown garlic extracts are able to kill viruses of the common cold, various flu strains and herpes simplex types I and II, but clinical trials have yet to be conducted. 

On his website, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests cutting a garlic clove into chunks and swallowing it whole like a pill to ward off infection! He also suggests chewing some fresh parsley following this to minimize the odor.  

5. Green Tea

Green tea (Camellia sinensis) has been used medicinally in China for over 4000 years and recent study supports its many health benefits.  Its antiviral properties can be attributed to the group of flavonoids called catechins that appear to inhibit viral infections by binding to the influenza virus, preventing it from entering our cells. So far, no clinical studies have been carried out to determine if green tea might be an effective treatment for influenza, but why not enjoy a soothing hot cup of tea while they are working on it.  It certainly can’t hurt!

Pau d'Arco is another tea that has demonstrated virus killing and immune boosting abilities.  It comes from the bark of a tree from the rainforests of South America.  Reportedly, its antiviral action is enhanced when combined with another tea, yerbamate.  I enjoy this tea everyday mixed with green tea - double antiviral support!

6. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, primarily due to the presence of malic and acetic acids.   Earth Clinic  recommends drinking this Organic Apple Cider Vinegar tonic to remedy a lingering virus: 2 tsp. of vinegar in a glass of water, honey optional. (BTW, they also recommend coconut oil!)

There are many more foods that contain antiviral activity and help support your health during the winter months.  Check out the Harvest Your Natural Energy Cookbook for 30 immune-boosting recipes using some of these ingredients plus other seasonal foods designed to boost your metabolism and immune system.


I hope this helps you and your family stay healthy and happy during this flu season.  Stay warm and eat healthy! I would love to hear what changes you make in your diet! 

Yours in Health,




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