- Take elderberry syrup. Studies have demonstrated that elderberry can lessen both the duration and severity of both cold and flu symptoms. In fact, in a double-blind, placebo controlled study, the participants taking elderberry experienced a reduction in the duration of flu symptoms by 3-4 days! In another study conducted in vitro (aka in a Petri dish), elderberry extract actually prevented the influenza A virus from infecting host cells. In previous years I have purchased elderberry lozenges to take as soon as I felt a cold coming on. However, this year I decided to take the extra step and make my own syrup using this kit! This was not only much cheaper ($20 for 18 oz compared to $19 for 8oz), but it eliminated my intake of any unwanted additives and fillers and tasted awesome! You can also purchase a bag of dried elderberries in bulk to make it even cheaper. I personally take 1 tsp daily for maintenance and will double or triple that during illness. This remedy is also safe for kids, but I recommend talking to a naturopathic doctor or family physician for more personalized recommendations.
2. Limit sugar. This probably sounds impossible as the holidays approach, but limiting
sweets and refined carbohydrates, such as breads, sodas, and pastries, as much as possible will make all the difference as these foods are highly inflammatory and contain little to no nutritional value. Evidence also suggests that intake of processed sugar reduces white blood cell phagocytosis, or their ability to ingest and kill harmful foreign objects such as bacteria.
3. Feed your gut. About 70-80% of our immune system is located in our gastrointestinal tract so keeping our gut healthy during this season is extra important. Refer to my last post, The What and Why on Probiotics, for ways to optimize your gut health and digestion.
4. Get enough sleep. Optimizing both the quantity and quality of your sleep is crucial in preventing illness. In a study involving 153 healthy men and women, the quantity and quality of each individuals sleep was assessed before administering nasal drops containing rhinovirus to each individual. The results were as follows:
“Participants with less than 7 hours of sleep were 2.94 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep. The association with sleep efficiency was also graded: participants with less than 92% efficiency were 5.50 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 98% or more efficiency.”
5. Exercise. Regular moderate-intensity exercise has been shown to significantly reduce our risk of contracting the common cold and flu. In a 12 month study involving 115 overweight and obese postmenopausal women, the effects of 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days per week significantly decreased their risk of a cold compared to the control group. The positive effects were even more apparent in the final 3 months of the study when the risk of colds was more than threefold less in those who exercised. This suggests that sticking to exercise long-term provides the most benefit.
What natural methods do you use to help avoid or beat the cold and flu? Share below!