A nutrient-dense, Paleo diet can go a long way in helping to boost your immune system and prevent you from getting a cold or flu. But sometimes, no matter how squeaky clean your diet is, you may find that you have succumbed to the latest virus that is making its rounds in your community. If you do find yourself under the weather during this cold and flu season, these holistic remedies can help you to recover faster while maintaining an all-natural approach.
1) Sleep & Rest
Getting extra sleep and rest is probably the most important thing that you can do to strengthen and support your immune system as it is actively fighting an infection. There is a complex relationship between sleep and the immune system, with certain disease-fighting substances being created or released only during sleep. Most people feel a greater need to sleep during times of illness, but taking non-drowsy, over-the-counter cold and flu medications can suppress this innate urge. It may be tempting to push through it and honor your work and family commitments when you aren’t feeling well, but this only helps to spread the virus and it prevents a quicker recovery.
2) Bone Broth & Water
This is another simple, but critical remedy for cold and flu viruses. The human body is comprised of approximately 65% water, which is vital to every system in the body. When the immune system is fighting an infection, the metabolism increases and so does the body’s need for fluids. At the same time, you may be losing more fluids in the form of increased sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory secretions. Replacing this fluid loss is important to helping you feel better faster. Bone broth is rich in easily absorbable minerals, which also likely need to be replaced due to fluid loss from cold and flu symptoms. The minerals found in bone broth also help to support the immune system and fight the infection. Bare Bones Broth is a great Certified Paleo company that sells grass-fed and pastured bone broths.
3) Elderberry Syrup
Elderberry syrup is a time-honored herbal remedy that is has been proven effective against cold and flu viruses. Studies have demonstrated that elderberry syrup has potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and it significantly reduces the duration of viral illness. You can find elderberry syrup in natural health food stores or online and it is easy to make it yourself if you have access to elderberries.
4) Fermented Cod Liver Oil
When our parents and grandparents were children, chances are they were given an extra tablespoon of fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) when they became ill. Known to be a traditional superfood, FCLO provides a proper balance of the fat soluble vitamins A and D, both of which are essential to the immune system. FCLO is also a source of bioavailable omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to reduce inflammation. In the United States, Green Pasture is the only widely known manufacturer of traditionally-prepared FCLO.
5) Ginger, Lemon, and Honey Tea
Ginger, lemon, and honey all have antimicrobial properties. Ginger is known to be soothing to the digestive system and can help with nausea. Lemon is a good source of Vitamin C, which can help to boost the immune system, and honey can be soothing to the throat. To prepare this tea, boil some freshly grated ginger in hot water, strain, and add fresh-squeezed lemon and honey. (Don’t forget that honey should never be given to children under one-year of age.)
Zinc is a mineral that is critical for proper immune system function. Research has shown that zinc supplementation is effective at reducing the duration and severity of cold viruses, but it is most beneficial if taken within 24 hours of the onset of a cold. The best food sources of zinc include seafood, red meats, liver, and egg yolks.
7) Nasal Irrigation
If you have a runny or stuffy nose that is accompanying a cold or flu, nasal irrigation can help. The use of a neti pot for nasal irrigation comes from the ancient practice of Ayurveda and it involves using a small ceramic pot filled with a salt water solution in conjunction with head positioning and gravity to flush the sinus cavities (this is easier and much less traumatizing than it may sound). You can find a neti pot in most health food stores or online. If the thought of a neti pot intimidates you, most pharmacies carry nasal irrigation devices that some people may find easier to use. Some studies have found that nasal irrigation can shorten the duration of a cold and prevent complications.
8) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a hormone precursor that plays an important role in modulating the immune system. Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels can help to prevent colds and flu and the evidence suggests that the antimicrobial properties of Vitamin D can also be useful during times of acute illness. Some practitioners recommend mega doses of vitamin D for a few days at the onset of a viral infection, but it is best to work closely with a practitioner to determine the right dose for you. In general, it is always best to get your vitamin D from sun exposure, so soaking up some extra rays if you are feeling under the weather can be therapeutic. Oily fish, liver, egg yolks, butter, and FCLO are good food sources of vitamin D.
Monolaurin is a fatty acid derived from coconut oil that has powerful antiviral properties. Monolaurin can act to modulate and strengthen the immune system. Research suggests that monolaurin works by binding to the lipid-protein envelope of a virus, thereby killing the virus and preventing replication. The body does convert the lauric acid found in coconut oil and coconut milk into monolaurin and there are definite benefits to consuming these foods if you have a cold or flu. However, a monolaurin supplement does not require conversion by the body and it is easier to obtain a higher dose without consuming large amounts of coconut oil or coconut milk.
10) Steaming with Essential Oils
Steaming can help to loosen mucous secretions and reduce congestion. If you add essential oils, they can provide additional respiratory support and they also have antimicrobial properties that can strengthen the immune system and reduce the duration of a cold or flu. To steam, simply boil water and then pour it into a large bowl. Eucalyptus, tea tree oil, peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and lemon are essential oils that you can add to the water to increase the effectiveness of steaming and to alleviate symptoms of congestion and upper respiratory discomfort. Place a towel over your head to create a steam tent. Close your eyes and slowly inhale the aroma for 5-10 minutes. As an alternative, you can also draw a hot bath and add a few drops of essential oils into the bath water.
11) Probiotics/Fermented Foods
As modern science continues to discover the importance of the gut to health of the entire body, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that supporting the gut flora would increase the ability of the immune system to fight a cold or flu virus. Probiotic supplementation has been demonstrated to reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu viruses. If you are feeling ill, make sure to increase your consumption of fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kombucha, or fermented vegetables, or take a high-quality probiotic supplement.
12) Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaf extract is an herbal compound that is a potent, broad-spectrum antiviral agent. It has the ability to prevent viral replication and it also has a direct virucidal impact on viruses. Olive leaf extract can also stimulate the immune system and enhance the body’s natural abilities to fight a viral infection. Studies have indicated that olive leaf extract is effective in treating cold and flu viruses.
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