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Michelle Warner

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Conquering a Cold

Posted on January 17th, 2011

Monday Morsel

sometimes random.
sometimes deep.
just a little something
to begin your week.

Jared and I received many wonderful and generous gifts over the holidays…including the not-so-welcomed-or-appreciated head cold for each of us! However, I wasn’t surprised we each came down with colds considering our amount of travel and activity over Christmas and New Year’s.

I know you are all too well aware that catching a cold during the winter season is not fun in the slightest, and can be quite a disruption in your schedule. After much research, below are several natural remedies to try when you catch a cold. The first set of tips falls under strengthening your immune system while the second set addresses how to shorten a cold’s life.

1. Strengthen your immune system.

The obvious first step in preventing a cold (or any sickness) is to strengthen your immune system. Oftentimes if you have a particularly strong immune system, you may come in contact with someone who has a cold and yet not catch it because your strong immune system wards it off. That is my goal! In order for this to happen, I am working on adding these suggestions to my everyday life:

*Eat your fruits and vegetables!

Your mom actually was right! Eating vegetables and fruit give your body the vitamin and minerals needed to fend off sickness. This truth has meant much more to me after recovering from cancer; eating well plays a huge part in your health—much more than I ever realized. One way to ensure I eat 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is to also take Juice Plus. Juice Plus consists of high quality fruits and vegetables that are juiced and then concentrated into powders. I have been taking this product for a year and highly recommend it.

*Avoid dairy and sugar.

Dairy and sugar suppress your immune system, so when you are fighting an illness you should try to avoid them. Additionally, dairy helps foster mucus in your body, which makes dealing with a cold all the more miserable.

*Take a probiotic supplement.

Research shows that 80% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. Thus, taking a probiotic once a day that is rich in good bacteria will aid digestion and nutrient absorption. Two words of caution: First, it is important to order a probiotic (and a multivitamin) from a high quality source to ensure it effectively works; I order mine from Douglas Labs. Second, make sure you look extra closely at the ingredients if you choose to eat the yogurt with probiotics; many contain artificial sweeteners.

*Take a Vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin D seems to be the most popular vitamin these days, but for good reason. When I had my blood level checked for Vitamin D, I was surprised how low it was (though let’s remember: I do live in Chicago!). Not only do researchers say that Vitamin D helps in cancer prevention, but it also strengthens your immune system to ward off infection and illness. I order a liquid form of Vitamin D from Douglas Labs, and my husband and I both take it daily. Granted, in the summer time, hopefully we can absorb some Vitamin D through the sunshine but for now we must resort to what my sister-in-law calls “liquid sunshine.”

*Wash your hands.

I grew up in a family where we had two rituals when we walked in the front door: take off our shoes and wash our hands. This advice was given to my mom by our allergist when we were young to eliminate sickness and germs.  It is second-nature for me, so now I’m implementing this ritual with my husband, much to his delight. (Grin!)

2. Shorten a cold’s life.

So what do you do if a cold has taken hold? Below are several steps to help fight a cold and send to the curb quickly!

*Rest, rest, and rest.

After Jared and I returned home from our holiday trips, our mission for the next several days was to sleep our colds away. We logged many hours sleeping, and I think it was a great plan of action. Not much can replace the power of  a restorative night sleep and the joy when you wake up feeling refreshed (and healthier!). So if you’re feeling a cold come on, take the time to recuperate; it’s worth it to rejuvenate your immune system with sleep!

*Lightly exercise.

Research says that moderate exercise builds up your immune system and helps fight off the bacteria causing the sickness. After a couple of days of lying around with our colds, Jared and I left the house to exercise; jumping on the elliptical machine for some heart-pumping exercise definitely seemed to assist in hastening our recoveries.

*Drink Emergen-C or Airbourne.

When either Jared or I feel the first scratchy-throat symptom, we drink a glass of these vitamin-packed drinks. At our house in the past, we have always used Airbourne, but when I visited Whole Foods recently, I noticed they carried Emergen-C and not Airbourne. Upon further research, I believe this is because Airbourne is sweetened artificially (much to my surprise!). Since you know about my feelings about artificial sweeteners, I plan to buy Emergen-C when I restock our medicine cabinet. As an aside, I also read that drinking Jamba Juice’s “Coldbuster” smoothie has helped people fight a cold, but I have yet to try it myself.

*Take Zinc, Echinacea, and Vitamin C supplements.

When I was doing research for this post, I kept reading over and over that researchers say zinc greatly shortens a cold’s life. I have never tried zinc, but if you’re like me when you have a cold, you’re willing to try about anything, and from what I found, zinc should be on your list. One way to increase the zinc in your diet is to eat zinc-rich foods like oysters, shellfish, brewer’s yeast (which I make in my smoothies), pine nuts, pecans, and pumpkin seeds. Echinacea is also known to support the immune system, but make sure that you only take it for a week at a time because it becomes inactive in your body if taken for sustained periods of time. We all know Vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system, and it is among the first items Jared and I both run to it when we feel sick. The easiest way to ensure your Vitamin C intake is high is to eat Vitamin C-rich foods such as broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries, lemons, oranges, pineapples, tomatoes, limes, sweet potatoes, etc.

*Eat raw garlic.

I know, I know: you think I’m crazy for listing this recommendation! But allicin, the strong ingredient in garlic, contains antibacterial properties— just what your immune system needs in its arsenal to fight a cold. Studies show that you should chop up the raw garlic and either eat it or steep it in a “tea” of sorts. Full disclosure: I haven’t tried this but I plan to keep it in mind the next time one of my colds gets out of hand.

*Stay hydrated and especially drink hot liquids.

An essential way to fight a cold is to make sure you stay hydrated. This means drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Another suggestion is to drink hot tea as this helps relieve the congestion and loosen the mucus. (Doesn’t sound pretty, but that’s a high priority when you are down and out with a cold!) Adding lemon and raw honey to your hot tea is also proven to help kick start your immune system.

*Use the neti pot.

The neti pot is used to irrigate your nasal passages with salt water. I was skeptical to try this remedy last year when I came down with a cold, but decided I was willing to try. Although mastering the technique needed for the solution to travel through my nasal passage was a bit of a process, I think it was effective as I felt much better within several days. I now try this whenever I feel the least bit congested. Neti pots are widely available; I bought my neti pot at Walgreens.

*Use peppermint oil.

One of peppermint oil’s main ingredients, menthol, works to reduce sinus and chest congestion. You can use peppermint oil either by placing a few drops in boiling water and breathing the steam (this also works when taking a hot shower), or rubbing a few drops under your nose. (If you have sensitive skin, you can mix the oil with jojoba oil.) You can also drink peppermint tea, though it is not recommended to use the essential oil in the tea. The green, peppermint tea I use is from Trader Joe’s and the peppermint oil of choice is from Whole Foods.

Here’s to hoping you never catch a cold, but if you do, I hope some of these natural remedies work for you. If you endorse any natural remedies either on the list above or ones that I did not mention, I would love for you to share them in the comments section below. Stay well!

One Comment on “Conquering a Cold”

  • Kelly B. says:

    Michelle, great thoughts and advice. I have found that by altering my diet, I hardly ever get sick. My diet is high in Vitamin C and I am pretty sure this has been warding off any of those nasty germs that are trying to come after me this winter. Thanks for sharing your MM. -Kel

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