Cold and Flu

Colds and the flu are similar but differ depending on what specific virus has caused the illness. You’re probably familiar with the symptoms of body ache, headache, dry or sore throat, respiratory symptoms and fever accompanied with coughing, sneezing, sore or scratchy throat, congestion, runny nose, postnasal drip, and watery eyes. Some years are worse than others, but there is a flu outbreak every year. That’s why it’s important to learn what to do before you get a cold or flu and while you have the cold or flu to prevent it or find relieve and end it quickly.


Of course, there is not yet a vaccine to prevent the common cold, however controversy about the flu shot affects the statistics of cold and flu cases reported. In an effort to target a specific anticipated flu strain, what goes into a flu shot changes from year to year. The vaccines are manufactured about six months prior to the upcoming influenza season by injecting the formula into a fertilized hen egg, harvesting it, and then inactivating the live virus with chemicals. To preserve the vaccine in vials for shipment to doctors and pharmacies, it is stored in chemicals like thimerosal, polysorbate 80, formaldehyde, or octoxinol-10. Single-dose syringes contain less or no thimerosal, and the sprays claim to contain none. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative and was removed from most other vaccines that are intended for use with children. Polysorbate 80 has been linked to infertility, and octoxinol-10 is often used as a spermicide. Formaldehyde has been noted to be a carcinogen.

With the concern of what ingredients may be in the vaccine, it’s interesting to note that the controversy over the flu vaccine is actually more about questions of its effectiveness than it is about potential toxins. Some studies have shown that the vaccine may be not any more effective on preventing the flu than a placebo. Other studies have compared the chance of acquiring the flu with those vaccinated and those not with results indicating that approximately one out of 100 people vaccinated went on to contract the flu virus while only two out of 100 people non-vaccinated experienced the same.

Foods to Avoid

Sugar and high saturated or trans-fat foods are always good food items to avoid at all times but especially when you are ill with the cold or flu. Sugar may actually make it more difficult for your body to rid itself of congestion as it encourages the mucous to linger. Milk is a liquid food that has a similar effect on mucus. Since animal fat may slow down your body’s immune system’s germ-killing action, avoid meat for a few days.

Foods that Help

Prevention of the flu is the best option, but if you come down with it, there are natural remedies that work. Obviously, the best thing to do is to avoid getting the flu in the first place. Some common-sense measures to take include avoiding crowds or close contact with those who are sick. When you are sick, especially if you have a fever, stay home. Wash your hands often, and cough or sneeze by covering your mouth. Since germs often spread and enter the body through eyes, nose or mouths, it’s important to get in a habit of keeping your hands away from your face. Boost your immunity naturally by eating a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, at least 20 minutes of exercise a day and adequate amounts of vitamin D. Whenever possible, stay away from antibiotics or antibacterial hand sanitizers.

Building and maintaining a healthy immune system is the key to either not getting the flu in the first place or to recovering well and not completely succumbing to the illness if you do find yourself with symptoms. One of the safest and most affordable ways to address the flu is to turn to your home medicine cabinet or pantry for remedies and relief without the harmful side effects that often accompany prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Natural remedies help to boost the immune system and shorten the symptoms if they do start to come on you. Pull out herbs, spices, garlic, raw honey, and essential oils to address the flu. Some of these natural remedies include:

Water – Let’s start with the basics. Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated will help fight the fever and eventually help to flush out the virus. Keep a container of 16 to 32 oz. of water next to your bedside and sip on it all day refreshing when necessary. If you want more flavor, add a squirt of lemon. Herbal teas are also a great way to take in plenty of water with the added benefits of the herbs. My favorite tea that I drink when I have a cold is chamomile tea with raw honey, garlic, thyme and lemon. I drink this 5 to 6 times a day. For added taste and even more sore throat soothing benefits, add fresh lemon juice or ginger to the water.

Steam – Boil water in a big pot on the stove top and then remove it from the heat. Add a couple teaspoons of thyme, rosemary and oregano essential oils or fresh herbs and breathe in the steam for about 15 minutes at a time to help soothe the sinuses and throat and loosen congestion.

Soup – You’ve heard the old family grandma’s recipe of chicken noodle or lentil soup is good for anything that ails you. There is some truth in this depending on the soup. Make your own bone broth or chicken soup for added benefits. Mix apple cider vinegar with honey and lemon and top off with cinnamon for what will feel like you’ve sipped on a miracle in a cup.

Garlic – Raw garlic minced and mixed with water is one way to take it. If you prefer, bake whole garlic cloves with a touch of olive oil until the garlic clove is soft. To make it more palatable for a child, mix it with honey. Do not give honey to a child younger than a year old.

Lemon+garlic+thyme+honey tea – Blend all together to create a tea, or make your own cough syrup that works without any harmful side effects. Mix fresh thyme sprigs or dry leaves with water and equal parts honey and chopped lemon. Place lemon in a pint jar and cover it with honey. The honey will begin to draw the liquids out of the lemon. While the honey and lemon are mixing, add thyme leaves and water to a sauce pan and simmer until it is reduced by half, making about a cup of the thyme water tea. After the thyme tea has cooled, strain the leaves, and pour liquid into the jar. Shake the thyme tea, lemon and honey together in the jar. Store in the fridge, and it will last about one month to use as needed.

Elderberry – Elderberry comes in many forms, and all are beneficial for boosting the immune system. Make your own elderberry syrup, or use dried elderberries.

Brewers Yeast – Rich in B vitamins, protein and chromium, brewer’s yeast helps with cold and flu to address respiratory tract infections by stimulating intestinal enzymes that helps fight bacteria in the intestines to boost immunity.

Emotional Component

When you are physically ill, you probably feel more depressed than on a typical day. You may find yourself being short-tempered, overly tired or fatigued and with an overall negative attitude. You will probably even feel like withdrawing socially, which on the bright side may keep you from spreading the cold or flu to others but is definitely an emotional component that is real. There is a physiological reason for this. Cold and flu illnesses activate an immune response and create inflammation in your body. Our psychological emotional, neurological, and immune systems work together very closely. Whenever they find a foreign invader in the body, like the flu virus, the cells begin to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines, non-antibody proteins that activate and trigger a response from your immune system. Once the chemical proteins begin to circulate through your bloodstream and into the brain, your brain will activate fever, fatigue, lack of energy, suppressed appetite, lack of motivation, poor concentration, disturbance in sleep, and even depression.

Herbs and Vitamins that Help

Vitamin C and D – Studies have proven that Vitamin C with its antioxidant properties is a great way to tackle illness. When you feel the cold or flu coming on, up your daily dosage to 1000 mg of vitamin C three to four times a day and 2000 IU daily of vitamin D.

Echinacea – Echinacea extract seems to have a positive effect on the immune system. Studies have shown it to increase the number of white blood cells which are used in fighting infections. One study published in 2014 revealed that Echinacea could play a part in preventing colds.

Astragalus root – Astragalus is beneficial in boosting the immune system and comes head on with the flu virus and doesn’t flinch with its antiviral properties. It helps to promote health, stamina and immunity to the flu virus.

Silver – Colloidal Silver is a safe and effective immunity booster and helps in fighting infections.

Zinc supports healthy immune function and offers an antiviral effect. The best time to take the zinc is at the first signs of cold or flu. Just don’t overdo it on the zinc since too much is not good for you. Take about 50 to 100 milligrams a day.

Digestion Effect

Technically, cold and flu have to do with the respiratory system but that doesn’t mean it won’t cause discomfort to the digestion system as well. One symptom of colds and flu is a lack of appetite on top of the potential obstacles to eating that a sore throat or lack of the ability to smell or taste bring on. Also, nausea may result from post-nasal drip. Research has also shown that certain probiotics work in the gut to produce a healthy immune response in preventing or fighting cold and flu. Bifidobacterium bifidum B., for instance, may be very helpful specifically for cold and flu symptoms. As a whole, probiotics and a healthy gut seem to be a great first line of defense against cold and flu.

Essential Oils that May Help

While the fever itself is not usually a worry, since the immune system is doing its job, it does make you feel miserable. Of course, if fever starts to peak at high temps, it’s a good idea to safely bring it down or consult with a family doctor.
Peppermint oil can help to bring down a fever, and its antimicrobial and antiviral properties will prove to be beneficial in fighting the flu.

Oregano oil – Diffuse oregano oil with its antiviral effects that have shown in studies to be more effective on pneumonia than antibiotics. You can also mix the oregano oil with some coconut oil and apply it topically to the chest or feet.

Frankincense oil – Diffuse or apply to your neck or bottom of your feet to help support your immune system.

Clove oil – Not only will it make everything around you smell amazing and help to prevent the cold or flu in the first place, close oil may also help to speed your recovery.

Stress Effect

Being sick with the cold or flu is stressful enough, but stress may have actually contributed to your coming down with the sickness in the first place. The amount of stress you experience has a major influence on how well your immune system functions. Studies have shown that when you are stressed you are twice as likely to become ill, and if you do become ill, you are more likely to have lingering or worsening symptoms.

Hormones That Are Affected

Cortisol – Inflammation in your body is partially regulated by a hormone called cortisol. When something interferes with cortisol’s function, this inflammation creates a problem. Cortisol is produced to prepare your body for a fight or flight reaction during a stressful event to make your heart rate increase, your lungs take in more oxygen, your blood flow increases and parts of your immune system becomes temporarily suppressed, reducing the inflammatory response to pathogens. When your immune system is under chronic stress, it will become de-sensitized to cortisol and will increase the inflammatory response. This response is what makes you more vulnerable to becoming ill in the first place, and ultimately causes symptoms like coughing or sneezing.

Estrogen and Testosterone – While cortisol is a big determiner of who will get sick and how soon you will recover, researchers have also discovered that the hormone estrogen may reduce flu virus replication in females but not in male cells. In studies, estrogens exerted an antiviral effect through an estrogen receptor. In fact, studies have also been conducted comparing men and women’s response to the flu vaccine to find that testosterone tends to cause a poor response.


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