5 Natural Ways to Avoid the Cold and Flu

Since there are not any known cures for colds, flu, or other viral infections, it’s important to take a proactive approach to protecting yourself. One of the best things you can do is make healthy lifestyle choices.

Flu shots still remain the most effective way to protect yourself against the flu, but there are other strategies you can use to avoid the cold and flu naturally.

Here are five to adopt:

1. Use Good Hygiene to Prevent Spreading Germss

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, turn off  faucets with a disposable towel, and always consider using hand sanitizer throughout the day
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow
  • Wash your hands before and after you touch your eyes, mouth or nose
  • Disinfect cell phones, door knobs, keyboards, and other surfaces that frequently get touched

2. Strengthen Your Body’s Immune System

  • Sleep eight hours a night. People who averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night were found to be three times more likely to get sick than those who averaged at least eight hours
  • Exercise daily for at least 15-30 minutes. People who exercised daily had fewer colds and flu
  • Meditate regularly to reduce stress. People who meditated were found to have an improved immune response to the flu vaccine
  • Eat nourishing, all natural foods:
    • Avoid sugar, processed foods, and limit alcohol
    • Emphasize whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetables – preferably organic (read about the Dirty Dozen conventionally grown foods to avoid) – and quality proteins and fats
    • Increase zinc-rich foods like beef, chicken, pumpkin seeds and cashews, beans (legumes), spinach and chocolate/cocoa
    • Eat fish and other food rich in omega-3 fatty acids
    • Hydrate with pure water,  green or herbal tea

3. Take Essential Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamin C:  Helps cells rejuvenate and keeps the body strong and healthy
  • Vitamin D 3: Strengthens the whole immune system (some children with low levels had half as many colds after taking supplements)
  • Fish oil/omega 3: Fortifies the immune system and reduces inflammation that can block immune function
  • Zinc: Interferes with rhinoviruses that cause respiratory infections (don’t take doses over 50mg for more than a few days)

4. Consider Other Supplements and Oils

  • Astragalus, an herb, helps stimulate production of white blood cells that fight infection. Taken daily, it may reduce the risk of catching a cold or the flu (caution if you are immunosuppressed)
  • Essential oils such as clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and rosemary have been used for centuries to fight off bacteria, fungus and airborne viruses while helping boost the immune system
    • Diffuse your bedroom, common areas or office space with oils labeled “cold and flu”

5. Act Fast If You Start Showing Symptoms of the Flu

  • Go to bed and sleep
  • Drink lots of fluids, but avoid sugar and dairy products (they stimulate mucus production)
  • Check out Oscillococcinum®, a dilute natural substance that relieves body aches, headache, chills and fever (here’s more information about homeopathic treatments)
  • Watch your symptoms. If they get worse or don’t get better after a week, or if you have a fever lasting more than 3 days, it’s a good idea to see your doctor

BONUS READING: Read our blog post on Super Foods That Boost Your Immune System

Meet the Author

Kristen H. Reynolds, MD is the Medical Director at Aurora Wiselives Center for Wellbeing and the Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Aurora UW Academic Medical Group in Wauwatosa, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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