Along with the dropping temperatures and darker days of the winter months comes the coughing, sniffling, and sneezing of the common cold. Following a Paleo lifestyle means avoiding many of the over-the-counter remedies as much as possible. Luckily, there are no shortage of health tips and special recipes and concoctions to deal with these symptoms, but among the huge amount of information available it can be challenging to separate the myths from the realities. Everyone has their own anecdotal evidence proving or disproving home remedies, and miracle treatments but it is tough to tell which strategies are actually the most effective at dealing with the common cold.
To begin with, as the cliché states, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ This relates to illness prevention by giving the body what it needs and keeping a constant supply of nutrients which will help ensure that the body can resist any pathogen it encounters.
Prioritizing a nutrient-dense diet
Avoiding inflammatory foods such as grains and sugars, along with highly processed, nutrient poor convenience products ensures that the body is functioning at peak immunity should it encounter a virus or bacteria.
Optimizing Vitamin D levels
Studies show that optimizing vitamin D goes a long way to preventing and shortening the duration of illness.
Getting enough sleep is also crucial to preventing illness. Even one or two nights of interrupted or insufficient sleep can leave the body worn down and unable to resist illness.
Exercising and moving the body regularly has also been shown to reduce the number of times a person gets ill per year and the duration.
If You Do Catch A Cold
Of course, it is still possible to be following all these principles and still come down with a cold, although it certainly won’t happen as often and you will recover quicker. If this does happen, there are natural ways to support healing and recovery:
Plenty of Rest
It's one of the first pieces of advice you get when you are sick, and it is worth emphasizing again: give your body time to fight off the illness, and do you best not to waste that energy elsewhere. Studies have found that sleep deprivation results in compromised immune function. Not only do good sleep habits help you fight off a cold, but, as previously mentioned, they will even increase your resistance to catching one in the first place. Sleep has a strong regulatory influence on your immune system and promotes the correct cellular and immune system regulating responses necessary for your body to fight infections.
When you are ill, (and when you are well too) aim for about eight hours of sleep a night and plenty of rest during the day.
Salt Water Gargle
Gargling with salt water is one of the most popular ‘old wives tales’ when it comes to treating a cold. Studies have shown it is actually an effective at-home treatment! Not only does it alleviate throat pain and loosen irritating mucous, but it can even help prevent colds.
Mix about ¼ to ½ of a teaspoon of high-quality salt into an 8-ounce glass of warm water, and stir until all of the salt is dissolved before gargling. Gargle for a few seconds before spitting the solution out.
If you are experiencing nasal congestion, one of the best ways to find relief is to rinse it out at the source using a saline nasal spray, or other similar irrigation technique. It has been found to significantly reduce the severity of congestion, as well as downregulate infection.
While you can buy many such nasal sprays over-the-counter, you can also make your own at home by mixing a quarter teaspoon salt, a quarter teaspoon baking soda, and 8 ounces of warm water. This solution is then either sprayed it into your nose using a bulb syringe, or alternately you could use a tool like the neti pot to clear your nasal passageway. Although the sound of it may be a little daunting, this procedure is effective and comes with little or no side effects.
Chicken Soup and Bone Broth
Although the biological basis for using chicken soup is unknown, there is evidence that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that could prevent the side effects of a cold.
A good home-made broth is nourishment from the inside out. The next time you make a pot of chicken soup, make some extra to store in the freezer. That way you can pull some out when you feeling under the weather and not up to cooking.
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Another popular home remedy with some strong evidence behind it is raw, unpasteurized honey. Honey has natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. One would have to consume extremely large amounts in order to achieve the effect of treating the virus in your body.
However, if you suffer from a sore throat with your cold, raw honey is as effective as cough syrup or cough drops.
It is important to remember that honey is a natural sugar and consumed in large amounts will adversely affect your insulin and leptin levels.
Coconut oil has both antibacterial and antiviral properties, making it a good addition to your treatment and prevention of colds. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid and is thought to dissolve the lipid coating around some viruses and make them more susceptible to attack by the immune system. Rub coconut oil over your skin. It is easily absorbed and, as an added benefit, will soften and moisturize your skin too. Add coconut oil to your coffee or tea when you have a cold and cook with coconut oil wherever possible.
The common cold is a collection of different viruses and the response of the immune system results in inflamed nasal passage and lining of the sinuses. This, in turn, causes sneezing, runny nose and sore eyes. One of the best ways to b begin to reduce this inflammation is to keep the nasal passages clear. Steam is wonderful at achieving this.
Put a towel over your head and inhale steam from a bowl of boiling water, ideally using drops of a plant oil such as eucalyptus oil for added relief. You could also try a nice hot shower with plenty of steam or sit in a really steamy bathroom, which is particularly good for children.
You could also try...
- Blowing your nose regularly rather than sniffing the mucus back down your throat. Ideally, press a finger over one nostril while you blow gently to clear the other.
- Sleeping with an extra pillow will further help with the drainage of nasal passages.
Supplements To Support Recovering From a Cold
When dietary and lifestyle interventions are not as effective as you would like, or you simply need some extra recovery support and symptom relief, a few naturally occurring herbs and supplements that could be used include:
Zinc is nutritionally essential for immune function and can shorten the length of your cold if you are deficient. Along with taking a high quality supplement, foods rich in zinc include lobster, oysters, beef, crab, pork, cashews, chickpeas, chicken and Swiss cheese
There is evidence that this powerful antioxidant will shorten the life of your cold. People with higher blood levels also have a lower risk of death from all causes. Increase your dosage for the duration of your illness.
This vitamin, which is actually a precursor to many hormones, is finally getting recognition as a necessary nutrient for health. Optimizing vitamin D levels can help prevent illness in the first place, and taking several thousand IUs a day while sick can help speed recovery.
Olive Leaf Extract
Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of olive leaf extract at reducing the infectivity of the cold virus and reducing the inflammatory response in the body
Oregano oil is a potent natural antibiotic and antiviral. It can be used in infusers, applied directly onto the skin and taken sublingually (as long as the product is food grade).
Note: Pregnant women and small children should not use oregano oil.
This powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial kills bacteria and viruses without creating resistance or immunity in the organisms that are killed by it. Studies have found it to be effective in both preventing and treating cold and flu symptoms.
The evidence seems to support the use of some home remedies used for generations for both treating and preventing illness. If you come down with a cold, following the nutrition and lifestyle principles of your Paleo protocol are actually remarkably useful While the final decision is up to you, you already have everything you need at home to effectively treat that cold.
This article is for information purposes only. We are unable to treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose any illness. If you have concerns about any sickness, talk to your health care practitioner. Do your own research on natural remedies to ensure that you think they are safe.