How To Avoid The Common Cold

Do you have a cough you can’t get rid of? Blocked sinuses? Pounding headaches and congestion?Do you fall sick as soon as cold & flu season hits? Unfortunately, a lot of people are under the misconception that since the cold is a virus, they can’t really avoid getting it. Wrong.

Sure, the cold is a virus, but we can only catch it when we have a poor immune system. And if you have a tendency to catch a cold more than once or twice a year…your immune system could probably use some help!

Here are some things you can do:

Rest
I can’t stress this one enough. You may look at this and roll your eyes, because it’s so obvious, but apparently it’s not, because no one seems to get enough sleep! When we’re asleep, our body switches over from “sympathetic” mode to “parasympathetic”, which is when our body takes control over our bodily functions, and focuses on healing and repair. This can only take place during periods of rest, relaxation, meditation and sleep. In addition, potent immune-enhancing compounds are released during sleep.

Full disclosure: this cold & flu season I have taken absolutely no herbal or natural remedies, and I’ve been around sick people everyday at the health food store. The only thing I have stuck by is getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and taking Vitamin D and probiotics daily. Plus, I’ve noticed the trigger for customers and my clients falling sick is always overexertion and exhaustion catching up to them.

P.S. Rest is not just good for prevention, but for getting better asap too! When I have gotten sick in the past, I march into bed and don’t emerge for a few days. I will never understand why people try to push through their cold like a martyr, staying sick and unproductive at work for weeks, never giving their body the chance to heal itself. So if there’s one thing you take away from this post…GET ENOUGH SLEEP.

Liquids
Again, seemingly obvious, but people choose the wrong type of liquids again and again. First of all, we need liquids (like water and herbal teas) to keep the membranes of the respiratory tract moist, as this repels viruses and improves function of white blood cells. BUT studies have shown that consuming concentration sources of glucose, fructose, sucrose (i.e. honey, orange juice) greatly reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria. In a nutshell, you’re making your cold worse by drinking that Tropicana juice with 40g of sugar in it 🙂

Vitamin C
Clinical trials involving 11,350 study participants concluded that Vitamin C can be quite beneficial in reducing the risk of developing a cold in high-stress situations, and may also reduce duration of cold by a day or so. In a nutshell, Vitamin C is great for prevention, but once you’re sick it’s not going to do much aside from shorten the duration of your cold ever so slightly.

Vitamin D
I think by now all of us in North America know the importance of supplementing with Vitamin D in the winter to boost immune support and our mood. Here’s a cool stat: supplementation with vitamin D has been shown to reduce the incidence of the flu in schoolchildren by 42 percent when given at dosages of 1,200 IU per day. For adults, I would recommend upwards of 5000IU daily during the winter.

Probiotics
Most people know that probiotics are good for the gut, but they’re also key for a healthy immune system. Several controlled human trials have demonstrated that probiotics can reduce respiratory infections by up to 27 percent in infants, and decrease the incidence of common cold in adults, as well as reduce the severity and duration of symptoms in those who did become ill.

Astragalus
This is a root herb that is known as an adaptogen – a substance that increases the body’s resistance, and has an overall normalizing effect on the body. Unlike oil of oregano or echinacea, astragalus provides deep immune system support (enhances number and capability of white blood cells to fight off intruders) and can be used long-term. The best way to take this is in a tincture or in the immune combo “Deep Immune” by St. Francis.

Garlic
The antimicrobial/antibacterial/antiviral in garlic is called allicin. However, in order to be activated, two enzymes called allinase and aliin need to interact. In a regular garlic clove, these two enzymes are in separate parts of the clove, so only when you crush the garlic can allicin be released. But, in order to receive it’s therapeutic benefits you’d have to eat a lot of garlic! At the moment, I think the best option out there is a product called “Allimax” which provides 100% stabilized allicin at a therapeutic level.

Echinacea & Oil of Oregano
These are two herbs that have become popularized for their antiviral activity and for the ability to shorten the duration of a cold. A study done by the Journal of Applied Science in 2012 found that while both had strong antiviral properties, echinacea purpurea outperformed oregano, and was less cytotoxic to the cells as well. If you decide to use these herbs, aim to use them for 10 days – 2 weeks at a time, as it isn’t recommended to take these long-term. For example, while oil of oregano is excellent at killing off bacteria, it also kills off good bacteria as well!

Note: all research in this article has been sourced from The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Third Edition by Michael T. Murray, N.D., & Joseph Pissorno, N.D. 

About Alina

I'm a Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and my official title is Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). I received my diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I'm a coach and an educator. Follow Alina on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.
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    1. Hey there! There’s a lot of good brands out there. I personally love Progressive, Genestra and Flora. Make sure the probiotic lists the individual CFU (colony forming units) count, that they guarantee the number of viable bacteria at time of expiry and have multiple strains with acidophilus & bifidus as two of the main ones. Hope that helps!

  1. I want to know why you don’t recommend echinacea and oregano? Also I am looking to boost my four year olds immune system as he seems susceptible to the cold running a slight fever and runny nose at a frequency of about once in 2 months. What specific recommendations would you make for this age group?

    1. Hi Reema! Thanks for pointing this out, I updated the blog post to clarify a bit further on echinacea and oregano. I definitely recommend using them, however I would avoid using them long-term (more than 10 days or 2 weeks) as they are more suited for short-term use. For your son, I cannot recommend the product Deep Immune by St. Francis enough! (no affiliation, I just used to work at a health food store and saw what mothers loved). It’s a combination of medicinal mushrooms (very safe for children and excellent for the immune system) and astragals. Here is a link to the product: http://amzn.to/2exMT50

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