When I feel a cold or flu coming on, its no secret. Its the tell-tale tightness in my throat or the tingling in my sinuses that indicate some nasty virus has managed to sneak into my body and make itself at home as a most unwelcome guest. I feel it in the loss of energy and fogginess in my head, the aching in joints and muscles and my craving for oranges and anything citrus.
But having a cold, or worse, the flu doesn't have to equal staying in bed for days on end curled up in a fetal position clinging to your favourite blankie. Keeping your immune system in check is the most important factor in avoiding these ailments altogether. Viruses are abundant and floating around us all the time so to say that someone gave you a cold is actually a misnomer. The reality is you acquire the virus due to your weakened immune system. The first question to ask yourself is this: How have I been treating myself?
Have I been getting sufficient restorative sleep, enough exercise? Am I stressed, overworked? Am I eating well? Am I taking enough time out for myself to indulge in activities I enjoy?
The key in reducing the severity of a cold or flu is in treating it at the onset. Those of you who know me will understand my reasons for avoiding over the counter cold and flu remedies. These products do absolutely nothing to cure the virus, but instead assist in keeping it holed up inside where it sets up camp with no plans to vacate any time soon.
Think about it, the reason our noses run like a leaky faucet is to facilitate the expression of the virus, its just like washing and detailing a car. Our bodies are smart - you wouldn't invite an Ogre into your home and host him for weeks while he takes over your bed, eats all the food in your fridge taking you hostage. Our tendency here is to keep sniffling to avoid that dreaded drippy nose or stifle that vigorous cough. However, this exacerbates the problem, keeping the virus in that moist warm environment where it can proliferate into a major infection...Ugh!
The best thing you can do for that drippy nose is a saline rinse. I recommend using a Neti pot. You'll feel like Aladdin rubbing his lamp - and yeah - go ahead make a wish for that cold to go away - it will! OK, I know getting anything up your nose is not pleasant, but using the Neti pot will help cleanse your sinuses and more efficiently get rid of those ugly bacteria. Blow your nose - frequently! Yes, stock up on the tissues and go to town - every drip, every twinge of an oncoming sneeze - blow! Aha - but now you've managed to chafe that area to the point of looking like one of the seven dwarves. I know.
Here are my top tips for surviving a cold naturally:
1. Keep your immune system in check. Vitamin D, also known as the 'sunshine vitamin' is your greatest ally. Take it every single day. The recommended dosage is 1000iu/day, but as we live in the Northern hemisphere and don't get a lot of sun - I double that amount, especially in the winter months. Eat plenty of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. Drink lots of water - at least 8 glasses. Get lots of restorative sleep as well as exercise. Reduce stress by engaging in Yoga and meditation. Take time out for fun activities.
2. Get rid of that virus! Stay away from over the counter cold remedies. They just temporarily alleviate the symptoms, but don't assist your body in eliminating the virus and its by-products. Oil of Oregano is a potent immune booster as well as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. I take two to three drops under my tongue at the onset of a cold and hold it there under I can no longer stand it - then I flush it down with a few sips of warm water. I repeat this 4-6 times a day. For the faint of heart, you can also dilute it in warm water and drink it. If your head is congested use a Neti Pot to flush out that nasty green stuff. If you don't have a Neti Pot, you can irrigate your sinuses by inserting a mixture of sea salt and warm water into your nose using a nasal bulb syringe. For the saline solution mix the ingredients below together in a clean container. Follow instructions on the nasal bulb syringe or Neti pot for proper use.
- ½ to 1 teaspoon non-iodized sea salt (Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt is ideal)
- Pinch of baking soda (to prevent burning – can increase the amount as needed)
- 1 cup of warm water (filtered or previously boiled water)
3. Garlic is a great immune booster and has anti-viral properties. I recommend eating it raw, in its most potent state. Yes I know...but you're staying at home anyway, so why not smell like a stinking rose? And the vampires won't come near you either...!
4. Coconut Oil is an amazing remedy which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. My son treated his Mononucleosis symptoms quite successfully with coconut oil. For a sore throat slowly swallow a tablespoon of coconut oil letting it coat the back of your throat. Gently apply coconut oil around your nose and on your lips to get relief from the chafing. Not only does it taste good, it is very good for you - great for dieters...(coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids which essentially are processed by our bodies as pure energy and at the same time it helps speed up our metabolism, making it less likely to store in that 'cute' little feminine pouch around our middle). Cool. Right?
5. I like to make myself a cup of hot lemon, ginger and honey when I have a cold. Ginger has been used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) for thousands of years. The Chinese believe that ginger has strong yang energy and warms the stomach and lungs. As your body heats up from the ginger, tuck yourself into bed or bundle up in a scarf and hat and sweat out the cold, old fashioned style.
6. Get lots of rest!! Taking the day off on the first day of your cold or flu and resting will give your immune system a better chance of fighting off that Ogre...and you can stock up on some chick flicks to get you through the day in bed (or on the couch). Some of my favourite food-related movies are Julie and Julia, Chocolat, No Reservations, Ratatouille...or how about Eat, Pray, Love or The Bridges of Madison County?
When I have a cold, I tend to lean more towards spicy foods and drink, to help clear up congestion. Check out some of my favourite recipes I have created for the days when I am suffering from a cold or flu:
Lemon Ginger Elixir
1-2 Tbsp liquid unpasteurized honey
To the lemon juice, add grated ginger. Fill mug with boiling water. Add honey to taste and stir until dissolved. Drink as hot as you can take it.
Easy Garlicky Guacamole
3 avocados, 2 mashed 1 still somewhat chunky (save pits)
juice of one lime
4 small cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 small Roma tomato, chopped fine
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cumin
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro
Dash tabasco sauce
Pinch red chili flakes
Blend all ingredients together. Leave the pits in the guacamole to help prevent discoloration. Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or fresh veggies.
Creamy Carrot Soup with Ginger and Curry
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup raw long-grain rice
1 Tbsp best quality curry power
1 tsp green curry paste
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
10 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Dash of tabasco sauce
1 can coconut milk
Grated zest of one orange
Fresh chopped mint for garnish
1. Heat oil in large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onion is wilted, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and curries and cook for 1 minute, stirring well.
2. Add the carrots, chicken stock, orange juice concentrate, and tabasco sauce. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the carrots and rice are tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Let the soup cool slightly, then purée in a blender in small batches. Return the soup to the pot. Stir in coconut milk and orange zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat through. Serve with a garnish of freshly chopped mint.