Cold season is here. The late fall through early spring is typically the peak period for the most commonly-occurring upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold and sometimes you will get sick. It happens to most people. Even though in our current environment, there are many worse illnesses than the ‘common cold’, it is an unpleasant experience nevertheless. Although it can be annoying and downright inconvenient to have a cold, it can also be your body’s way of telling you something important about your health.
Sneezing and coughing, along with a runny nose and watery eyes can be the body’s way of releasing toxins, including waste build-up from a year or more of accumulation. This natural process plays an important role in releasing an overburdened body of toxic load.
Although it is true that often you simply have to allow a cold to run its course, there are home remedies, foods, vitamins, and supplements that have been proven to shorten the duration of a cold, ease the severity of symptoms, and offer some comfort while you recover.
Following a Paleo lifestyle and avoiding inflammatory foods such as grains and sugars, along with highly processed, nutrient poor convenience products will help ensure that your body is functioning at peak immunity should you encounter a virus or bacteria.
Foods To Support Healing
Bone Broth & Chicken Soup
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. Research does suggest that eating a hot bowl of chicken soup can slow the movement of neutrophils, infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout your body. When they’re moving slowly, neutrophils can concentrate and work more effectively to heal those areas of your body that need it.
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In addition to soothing the throat when eaten or dissolved in tea or hot water, raw honey has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to help your body fight infection. It can also be used as a gentle cough.
Note: Avoid giving honey to a child younger than 1 year old, as it can contain botulinum which dangerous to babies whose immune systems are not yet fully developed
Garlic also contains infection-fighting antimicrobial properties, which can speed up healing and reduce the severity of cold symptoms. Some believe it is more effective in preventing you from getting sick.
Spicy foods like chili and cayenne pepper, mustard and horseradish, and ginger can open a blocked nose and sinuses, and help break up mucus in the airways and lungs. These spices can also help deal with the nausea and loss of appetite that can accompany a cold.
Berries are a good source of vitamin C, which can help support the immune system and contain polyphenols, which have antiviral properties that may help fight the viruses and bacteria associated with a cold. Research has shown that elderberries and cranberries in particular can reduce symptoms and support immune function.
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 making them more susceptible to attack by the immune system.
Further Support For Healing
Along with adding in healing and nourishing foods, there are many things you can do to support your body in healing, and staying more comfortable while it does.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is give your body the rest it needs to fight infection and heal. Stay home, make sure you are warm and comfortable and take time to relax. Curl up with a good book, watch a movie, or series you’ve been meaning to catch up on or take a nap.
Drinking water, tea, bone broth, or warm lemon water with honey prevents dehydration from a fever and also helps to dilute congestion and supports the body in removing it. Stay away from alcohol, coffee, and sodas, which can be dehydrating.
Humid air and keeping your environment moist with a humidifier can help loosen congestion and soothe a sore throat and nose. It also creates an inhospitable environment for cold causing bugs, which prefer a dry climate. For an extra benefit, try adding a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to the water to stimulate breathing and clear your sinuses. Water used in humidifiers should be changed daily to avoid mold and fungi from growing. If you don’t have a humidifier you can try a hot shower to moisturize your dry air passages and ease any muscular aches. If you feel weak or dizzy, you can even simply sit in the bathroom and as a steamy shower runs.
Gargling half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in eight ounces of warm water several times a day can help relieve a sore or scratchy throat. You can also gargle with honey dissolved in warm water or some honey and lemon for a soothing treat.
Blow Your Nose
Although this might seem obvious, it is important! Mucus is produced to help move germs out of the body, and blowing your nose regularly rather than sniffling mucus back supports this elimination process. To avoid causing an earache by blowing too hard, try covering one nostril with a finger while gently blowing the other one. Same thing goes for not suppressing a sneeze - let it go!
A warm bath can soothe the body aches that can accompany the seasonal cold. Baths also promote relaxation and induce drowsiness to help you get that good night’s sleep that is so important to your immune system. You can try adding Epsom salt and baking soda to your bath or a few drops of tea tree, juniper, rosemary, thyme, orange, lavender, or eucalyptus essential oils to clear nasal passages and for a soothing effect.
Elevate Your Head
Sleeping with an extra pillow under your head while you’re congested will help to clear nasal passages by encouraging mucus to drain down. It can help you cough and sniffle less throughout the night.
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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:
Oregano contains the compounds thymol and carvacrol, which can fight infection. Oregano oil can be taken internally or rubbed on the chest or temples to relieve headaches and coughing.
Echinacea contains flavonoids, which boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. Echinacea root through capsule, tincture, or tea may also reduce the length of a cold once you have it.
Taking vitamin C, whether as a supplement or by eating lots of citrus fruits, leafy greens, and berries, as soon as you notice cold symptoms may shorten the cold’s duration.
Zinc lozenges have been shown to shorten the length of a cold, especially when taken within 24 hours of onset. Foods rich in zinc include lobster, oysters, beef, crab, pork, cashews, chickpeas, chicken and Swiss cheese
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
Prevention – Better Than A Cure
It’s nearly impossible to avoid all germs, but by following a Paleo lifestyle you can keep your immune system in the best shape to ward off a seasonal cold when you are exposed.
Read more on the how your Paleo lifestyle supports your immune system here
A few further tips to help you avoid catching a cold are:
- Wash your hands:
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise and move your body regularly
- Avoid sharing personal items
- Have some fun and de-stress
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
- Eat nutrient rich green vegetables
- Get some sunshine daily or take Vitamin D
When To Seek Medical Advice
If your cold symptoms last for longer than two weeks or become more severe, let your health provider know. You should also notify your doctor if, in addition to cold symptoms, you experience:
- Temperature higher than 102° F (38.9°C) in children and adults, or higher than 100.4° F (38°C) in infants
- Earache or drainage from your ear
- Pain upon swallowing
- Stiffness in your neck
More immediate medical attention is needed if you experience:
- Trouble breathing
- Shortness of breath or chest pain
The evidence seems to support the use of some home remedies used for generations for both treating and preventing illness. If you catch a cold, following the diet and lifestyle principles of your Paleo protocol can actually be very helpful in supporting your recovery 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.