Cold? Flu? What to do?

December 4 2013

by alex

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1) Make sure that you are not deficient in Vitamin D.
Get your blood level tested (25 OH Vitamin D target = 40 – 60 ng/mL) and/or take a supplement.

2) Avoid being deficient in zinc, important for immune function.
Eat nuts 2-3 times per week or take a multivitamin with about 15 mg of zinc.
Do not use Zicam nasal; you can lose your sense of smell permanently.

3) Eat a nutrient-rich diet with plenty of produce and healthy fats.  Include raw garlic.
(see Garlic Oxymel recipe)

4) Remember to wash your hands frequently and clean frequently-touched surfaces.

5) Get enough rest.  Sleep deprivation impairs immune function.

6) Manage your stress levels.  Too much stress impairs immune function.

7) Regular exercise, as long as it isn’t excessive, improves immune function.

8) Vitamin C 500 mg 1 – 2 x daily reduces the incidence of URI / flu slightly.

9) There are some supplements that can reduce your risk of getting colds & flu with regular use:
(specific products* have clinical trial data)

ColdFX* – Canadian product – Panax quinquefolius (North American ginseng)

Astragalus – limited research, but long traditional use; Andrew Weil, MD uses it himself for prevention
(Nature’s Way purple top standardized is a good brand)

Probiotics – one specific blend reduces duration and severity of colds when taken preventatively:
Lactobaccillus GG + Bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactic BB-12
(sold as Pronutrients Probiotic* by Centrum)


What to do if you DO get a cold or influenza…


There are some things beyond medications that can ease your symptoms:

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and loosen mucous

Warm / hot beverages do help with some symptoms temporarily
(see Lemon Ginger Tea with Honey recipe)

Honey reduces cough (not safe for infants / children under 18 months of age)

Slippery elm (Thayer’s lozenges) – reduces cough, soothes sore throat

Licorice root – reduces cough, soothes sore throat (careful if you have high BP)


There are some things that can reduce the duration and severity:
(specific products with * have good clinical trial data showing safety and efficacy)

Get extra rest to help your immune system to do its job

Vitamin C – 1 g 2 – 4 x daily can reduce the duration of a cold (flu not studied);
antihistamine-like effect at higher dosages also reduces nasal congestion

Echinacea, various species – data is strongest for E. purpurea  (avoid if you have autoimmune disorder)
Echinaforce* by Bioforce USA used in several clinical trials

Garlic – antibicrobial effect best if raw (or see Garlic Oxymel recipe)

Ginger – expectorant and antimicrobial, can include in teas, foods
(see Lemon Ginger Tea w Honey recipe)

Swedish Herbal Institute Kan Jang* – Andrographis paniculata + Eleutherococcus senticosus
[Kan Jang Plus adds Sambucus nigra]

Nature’s Way Umka Cold Care*– Pelargonium sidoides

Sambucol* syrup – Sambucus nigra (kids like this)

ColdFX* – (Canadian) Panax quinquefolius (North American ginseng)


Note: This is not intended be to a comprehensive list. It focusses on lifestyle interventions and readily available products that have good evidence behind them.
In addition to foods, I keep on hand:
Vitamin C
Thayer’s Slippery Elm lozenges
Kan Jang Plus
Nature’s Way Cold Care
Garlic Oxymel