5 Evidence Based Natural Cold and Flu Remedies
When you get sick 75% of the time it is result of a viral infection and not a bacteria. This means that taking all the antibiotics in the world, will not help you much. The normal coarse of these viral infections in humans is about 5-7 days. Most people being to feel better around day 5, but what if there was a way to shorten that to 2-3 days or even 24hrs? Is there something you can do to prevent getting sick altogether?
The answer is yes and there is even research supporting this too. Before we go into each remedy, we need to discuess the most basic aspects of immune function and the needs of your body. Without these basic foundational items in place, the natural cold and flu remedies will not work well.
The effects of exercise on immune function
A review in Physiology on the effects of exercise point out that when compared to those with sedentary lifestyles, those that exercise moderately are 29% less likely to get an upper respiratory tract infection. It should be noted that long periods (more than 2 hrs) of exercise can have a temporary negative impact on immune function too. It will temporarily suppress your immune function and then increase above average days later. So if you are looking to improve immune function, regular moderate exercise is an important component.
The effects of diet on immune function
Excess sugar is the most well knowing dietary source of immune suppression. The study that illustrated this was published in The American Society of Clinical Nutrition in 1973. What they found was that after eating 100 grams of sugar the ability of our white blood cells to defend against invaders was significantly reduced and stayed that way for 5 or more hours. This was in comparison to complex carbohydrates which did not do this. So you should avoid eating sugars on a regular basis and if you feel yourself getting sick, definitely steer clear. A more interesting point these researches found was on the effects of fasting. Those people that did not ingest anything (fasting) for 36-60 hrs had a significantly higher white blood cell activity.
Many people don't feel hungry when they are sick but they eat anyway. This is not recommended. Your body needs to rest and use energy for fighting off the virus, so eating small meals or nothing at all will go a long way to get you healthy quicker.
The effects of poor sleep on immune function
Poor sleep increases cortisol which directly decreases immune function but poor sleep has other immune suppressing activities outside of cortisol. Many studies have shown this effect so make 8 hrs of sleep a priority during cold an flu season and specifically if you get sick or are prone to getting a cold and flu.
Lets look at some of the most well researched natural cold and flu remedies.
Evidence Based Natural Cold and Flu Remedies
- Mushrooms - Blends of mushrooms seem to be better than individual mushrooms because they each have different antimicrobial and immune stimulating properties. The mushrooms you see in the grocery store can be added to meals for mild immune stimulating effects. More potent immune stimulating and antimicrobial mushrooms are Shiitake and Reshi.
- Shiitake mushrooms also demonstrate antiviral (including HIV, hepatitis, and the "common cold"), antibacterial, and anti fungal effects.
- Reshi mushrooms also have antibacterial and antiviral effects, along with immune system up regulation.
- Elderberry- Also known a Sambucus, Studies show this herb can reduce the duration of a cold virus by over 50%. It can also reduce the symptoms of a cold. Taking about 4 teaspoons daily of Sambucus extract syrup is the recommended dose to get over cold and flu.
- Zinc- A 2011 review on oral zinc in relation to colds, found it was helpful at reducing cold duration and severity. The studies pooled together included over 1300 people, adding more weight to the conclusion. The caveat is that the zinc must be taken within 24 of symptoms starting and should be continued during the symptoms. You should know that you can overdose on Zinc which would cause gastrointestinal symptoms and copper deficiency. A safe upper limit for Zinc is 40 mg/day.
- Garlic- Garlic is readily available and been shown to have antibacterial, and antiviral effects. Its most potent antimicrobial effects come from the raw crushed form. The active component is called allicin and when coked this compound rapidly oxidizes. Using fresh crushed garlic can be a great addition to many dishes such as pastas, salads, and more. The cooked form will have some activity but not nearly as much as the raw. There are several studies validating its use in cold and flu but it is weaker evidence than the above referenced.
- Vitamin C- Vitamin C has mixed results in its ability to reduce cold and flu duration and severity. Despite this when given through IV nutrient therapy we find it extremely helpful at helping get over cold and flu. IV vitamin C seems to be especially helpful for getting over a lingering cold or flu and preventing one form coming on. It is likely more helpful than oral vitamin C for several reasons
- Higher rates of absorption
- Additional fluids
- Additional vitamins and minerals like B12 and Zinc.
Armed with the above natural cold and flu remedies you should be better equipped to deal with a cold or flu should it arise. It is always important to seek medical attention when an illness lingers or seems to keep coming back.Others may need to consult their physician is they are taking medications that will interact with the above. In Phoenix, naturopathic doctors can assess you for a bacterial infection and make additional recommendations on how to get over the illness quicker.
To visit a with a phoenix naturopathic doctor or for more information on natural cold and flu remedies, post a comment below or come in for a free consult.