10 surprising ways to prevent the common cold
Why not take action in advance this year to prevent those colds & flus? Unfortunately, getting the flu is often mistakenly linked to taking antibiotics. Antibiotics work by killing unwanted bacteria, but not viruses, which are the root of most colds & flus. Overconsumption of antibiotics – especially if no probiotics are taken on the side – can lead to gut leakiness (intestinal permeability), a condition that can lead to asthma, allergies, food intolerances, eczema, skin issues, headaches, chronic fatigue, lowered mood and so on.
Here are some simple steps that you can follow to stay healthy this winter:
1. Beneficial vs. harmful bacteria
Contradictory as it may sound, one of the best ways to boost our immune system is by introducing “good” bacteria! The best way to support our gut microbiome is by taking a quality probiotic blend, that contains L. rhamnosus GG and L. acidophilus NCFM, the two most researched strains for immunity.
Make sure you also add some fermented products in your diet to get those bugs in! (water or coconut kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha etc).
2. Inflammatory food is your enemy!
Eliminate white sugar, processed white carbs, alcohol and high-fat junk food as much as possible to give a boost to your immune system. Excessive fatty foods can congest the lymphatic system, limiting the body’s ability to clear an infection. Make sure you slowly wean-off yourself from caffeine or processed gluten-ous carbohydrates to avoid any withdrawal symptoms.
3. Don’t forget your nutrients!
Perhaps the most important part of prevention is a balanced, nutritious, wholesome diet. Vegetable and fruits are amongst the most nutrient-dense sources of your diet. Make sure you eat a minimum of 5 portions per day (ideally seven for women and nine for men). Don’t exceed 2 portions of fruit per day, as they can be high in sugar. Choose low-sugar fruits like frozen berries and apples.
Buy organic when possible, to avoid an extra burden to your liver. Don’t forget to eat some healthy protein with all your meals and snacks (grass-fed poultry, pasture-raised omega 3 eggs, wild oily fish, legumes, nuts & seeds).
There is no better way to suppress your immune system than being chronically stressed. Some easy techniques that can be adapted to your daily routines include 10min daily meditation using smartphone apps or YouTube guided videos, yoga (at home or gym class) and brisk walks in nature.
Don’t forget to get some “me” time every so often and enjoy a warm Epsom Salt bath, read a good book, listen to your favourite music or keep a gratefulness journal.
5. Prioritise sleep
Studies have shown that we need 7-9 hours of sleep per night for body regeneration, repair and detoxification. Chronic sleep deprivation can significantly reduce your immune function.
6. Enjoy the benefits of nature
Not only does nature has the magic capacity of de-stressing us, but also a Sunday walk in the woods (especially if it’s sunny) increases our vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D is the most researched nutrient of our immune system, as it has the ability to recognise pathogens and initiate a response against them. It has been well-researched for influenza (flu) and respiratory tract infections.
7. Move your body!
Exercise promotes good immunity in multiple ways, including increasing circulation and lowering stress. With increased circulation, immune compartments can travel through the blood faster, rendering it easier to fight off an infection.
Fun Fact: rebounding (trampoline) encourages the flow of your lymphatic system, giving a boost to your immune system!
8. Water, water and... water
I can’t highlight enough how good hydration is important for protecting yourself against pathogens. We need about 1L of filtered water for every 22kg of body weight. Drink some herbal teas with ginger, elderberry, turmeric and clove to boost your immune system further and up your water intake. Alternatively, you can add some citrus fruit, ginger, cucumber, mint and/or berries to your water bottle to make it more delicious. Coffee, tea and alcohol do not count towards your goal as they have a diuretic effect. Try to minimise those as much as possible.
9. Wash your hands – clear the air
Basic knowledge as it may sound, washing your hands frequently and thoroughly should not be forgotten, especially before cooking or touching your face. Choose a chemical-free soap to avoid any additives that can be an extra burden to your immune system. Saline rinses with a neti pot can also be helpful while the flu season is underway to keep the respiratory passages clear. For maximal protection, you can use a negative ion generator in your house or office, to decrease unwanted particles in the air that surrounds you.
10. Take an immune-booster
If you know that you are sensitive to colds & flus, it might be a good idea to start supplementing before it’s too late. Look for one with high levels of bioavailable vitamin A/beta-carotenes, vitamin D, zinc, vitamin C. flavonoids, fish oils (omega 3), elderberry, echinacea, medicinal mushrooms, garlic, olive leaf and sage are also amazing anti-virals and immune boosters. Ask your practitioner which one is better for you.
What to do if you get sick?
It’s easy to reach for painkillers and over the counter pills, however, these can further lower your immune system longterm and do not prevent a second flu coming. A much better idea would be support your body naturally by resting and having plenty of fluids and nutrients. Some of the best immune-boosting foods:
Natural anti-microbial – garlic, ginger, turmeric, sage, coconut oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice with warm water and Manuka honey (locally sourced and raw if possible), berries, dark leafy greens, orange vegetables.
Bone broths – use organic chicken, beef or lamb carcass, add a mixture of vegetables such as carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, celery, sweet potato/pumpkin, bay leaves and apple cider vinegar. Cover with water and gently simmer for a few hours. Strain and drink the broth daily or add chicken and leave in the veggies and enjoy a delish warm soup.
Vegetable juices – if you have a low appetite, fresh vegetable juices can be a great source of nutrients and antioxidants.
Essential fats –wild oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, wild salmon, anchovies, and herring, seeds such as flax, chia, hemp seeds and walnuts.
Coconut water – for hydration and replenishing electrolyte stores. Drink in moderation, as it contains sugars.
It’s normal for most people to get a cold once or twice a year, but by keeping up with the basics, the frequency, intensity, and duration of the illness is likely to be less.
Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Olianna Gourli
Olianna Gourli is a qualified Naturopath & Nutritional Therapist, with a background in Science and Research (BSc Hons., mBANT, rCNHC). She has great expertise in Gastrointestinal issues, such as IBS, Hormonal Imbalances and Women's Health, Stress and Chronic fatigue. She sees clients in her clinics in London, Athens and through Skype.