Woman drinking tea to support her immune system

Naturally beat a cold and flu with these simple tips from an ND

Without fail, as the days get darker and the weather gets colder, in comes cold and flu season. The exact timing of cold and flu season varies year to year, but typically we see an increase in cases starting October, peaking from December to February, and lasting as late as May. 

But, it’s not actually the cold weather that will make you sick. Both the common cold and the flu are caused by viruses that are spread from person to person through “respiratory droplets” when people cough, sneeze or talk. A person may also become infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touch their own mouth or nose. We see such a sharp rise in colds and flues during the colder months for a few reasons:

  • These viruses may survive better in colder, drier climates, so they thrive during these months 
  • We spend the majority of our time indoors, especially children at school, making a virus more likely to spread between people
  • We get less sun exposure and thus, lower vitamin D levels which are protective against viral infections 

How to Stay Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

1. Sleep – get enough and stay on schedule

Sleep has a significant impact on regulating the immune system. Having a normal sleep-wake cycle and thus, a regular circadian rhythm, influences immune cell production and function. If you don’t sleep enough, your body makes less cytokines (an immune mediator that helps to fight infection). Chronic sleep loss has even shown to make the flu shot less effective! 

2. Reduce stress 

Chronic, high stress is a risk factor for the common cold. Stress is associated with changes in immune function and lessens the body’s ability to fight an infection. If you really don’t want to get sick this year, make daily habits to bring relaxation into your life.

3. Take your supplements

  • Vitamin D is very important for a healthy immune system. Studies show that daily supplementation with vitamin D reduces the risk of colds and flues. 
  •  Probiotics may reduce the incidence of colds and flues, specifically fever, cough and runny nose. Using probiotics during the winter months has also been found to reduce the use of antibiotics and decreased the duration of symptoms when individuals were already sick. 
  • Vitamin C plays a large role in the immune system. When taken daily, vitamin C reduces the risk of catching a cold. It may also decrease the days away from work or school if you’re already sick.  

4. Consume a low sugar diet

Eating or drinking too much refined sugar can interfere with your body’s ability to fight and infection – it basically paralyses the immune system, and can last hours after consumption! Be sure to eat lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Also, include garlic where you can, as it has been shown to reduce the frequency of colds and flues due to its ability to fight viruses and bacteria. 

What to Do When You’re Sick?

First things first, there is no cure for a cold, and symptoms usually resolve within 7-10 days. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, and they can actually make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you take them when they aren’t needed. So, instead of making your way to your doctor’s office, here are some things you can do to get your health back quickly: 

1. Stay home & REST

Your body is tired for a reason, it is busy fighting an infection. Listen to it, and take it easy!

2. Stock up on supplements

  •  Andrographis is a botanical medicine that has been shown to reduce the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections (like the common cold)
  • Zinc significantly reduces both the duration and severity of symptoms, but is best if taken within 24 hours of the first signs of an infection.
  • Vitamin D supplementation can be used for rapid relief of symptoms because it decreases the amount of virus in the body and promotes recovery.
  • L-Glutamine is used by the immune cells at high amounts during an infection. If there is not enough available in the blood, the immune cells will break down muscle tissue to liberate glutamine. If you are active and don’t want to risk losing muscle mass during an acute infection, consider supplementing with L-glutamine.  
  • Buckwheat Honey has been shown to be better than cough medicines at reducing the severity and duration of a cough associated with the common cold. Honey has antimicrobial activity to fight an infection and can help soothe a sore throat.

I know you don’t want anything slowing you down, so do your best to stay healthy during these upcoming months. But remember, a strong and healthy body is also a responsive body. Read more about the top 5 recommended supplements for women for a healthy body all year round. Having a cold is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that your immune system is able to fight off an infection adequately. Each time you get sick and support your body through healing, you are strengthening your immune system and training it for the next pathogen. It is estimated that every year adults have an average of 2-3 colds, so remember these tips to help your body heal quickly if a cold or flu gets you!

In health through cold & flu season,

Dr. Bronwyn


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Dr. Bronwyn is a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, Ontario with a clinical focus in Women's Health. She works with women transitioning off the oral contraceptive pill and those with specific fertility concerns, to reach a state of hormonal balance or in preparation for a healthy pregnancy. Dr. Bronwyn is passionate about empowering women to reclaim their hormonal health, to enable a full and vibrant life.