By Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
First, let’s be clear. Despite the fact that there are about seven gazillion over-the-counter “cold remedies” that promise symptom elimination, the truth is that nothing’s going to cure or prevent colds.
But did you ever notice when “something’s going around” some people get sidelined and others seem to be unaffected?
I think it’s a lot like hurricanes and houses. You can have a nasty tropical storm, but if your house is built like a brick you-know-what, it’s probably going to stay standing while if your house is built of balsa wood, it’s not. If our “house”—our body, our immune system, our general health—is robust, it’s going to be much more likely to be able to withstand the effects of any “bug” that’s going around, whereas if you’re run down and nutritionally depleted to begin with, that bug’s going to come get you and put you on the sidelines for up to a week!
“No fun!” as they say in the Twitter-sphere.
So here are my top things to do to keep cold season from sidelining you, or—if it happens to get you—to shorten the length of time you’re out of commission.
- Eat real food. Fast food, processed carbs, vegetable oils—all create inflammation, a promoter of every disease we know of. Inflammation—like stress– weakens everything and makes you more vulnerable to “what’s going around”. Real food fortifies you. It makes a big difference!
- Manage your stress. Although meditation is the best proven technique for lowering blood pressure and stress, all kinds of things will work. Take a walk (preferably around greenery). Take a relaxing magnesium bath (my favorite for this is Natural Calm Bath). Read a Danielle Steele novel. Sit quietly for a few minutes and take deep breaths- 7 counts in, hold, exhale for 4. Any or all of these techniques will help keep stress at (hopefully) manageable levels. Remember, stress makes everything worse—it can bring on episodes of diseases, make existing ones worse, make recovery slower, and generally screw you up hormonally. So pay attention to it!
- Take the basic vitamins. Micronutrient deficiency weakens the structure of your “house” and makes you even more susceptible. A high-quality multiple vitamin like the men’s or women’s multi in the Rainbow Light Vibrance premium line will cover all the basics. I’d also recommend omega-3, magnesium, and vitamin D.
- Zinc: Your cells need this mineral to fight bacteria and viruses. Your body has no specific storage sites for zinc, so take it on a daily basis. If you do get sick, zinc might help shorten the length of your illness. I recommend 15mg a day during “regular” times and 50mg a day at the first sign of a cold or “coming down with something”.
- Black Elderberry: One of the most powerful berries in the world is black elderberry. And they’re phenomenal for the immune system. But unfortunately, you won’t find them at the grocery store. (They’re impossible to find and taste horrible.) What you will find is a tasty and effective extract of black elderberry sold over-the-counter as Sambucol. It can reduce the severity of symptoms– and shorten their duration—by up to four days. The gummies are great for kids because they contain no artificial flavors or colors.
- Vitamin A: It’s an immune system booster like almost nothing else, even though few people outside the health professions know this. I recommend 50,000 IUs for three days in a row if you start to feel something coming on.
- Olive Leaf Extract: This stuff is really good—there’s good research showing it’s effective against a wide range of microbes. I take it all during “sick season”—it’s a great immunity booster. My favorite is Barlean’s Olive Leaf Complex.
- You want the olive leaf complex (not the extract) because it contains so many synergistic compounds.
- Coconut oil. Coconut oil—as opposed to MCT oil, with which it’s often confused—contains a high amount of lauric acid, a fatty acid which is known for its immune boosting, anti-microbial activity.
- Garlic. It’s the original medicinal food, and a ton of research shows it has multiple health benefits. It’s antiseptic, anti-fungal, and a well-known immunity booster. You get the most benefit when you chop it up and add it to the pan right before you finish cooking.
And here’s a bonus for you—ginger tea. Ginger isn’t as well known an immunity booster as some of the others on the list, but ginger has a multitude of effects—and it’s anti-inflammatory. You can make a tea out of it or add it to freshly pressed juice, which is what I do almost every day when I make juice with my Hurom slow juicer. Or you can infuse your water with lemon and ginger. And- it goes without saying—don’t forget your vitamin C, at least 500-1000 mg a day!
Johnny Bowden, PhD, CNS, also known as "The Nutrition Myth Buster" is a board-certified nutritionist with a master's degree in psychology and the best-selling author of thirteen books including "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth", "Living Low Carb", and "The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth." He studied at Julliard, finishing at NYU with a degree in music. He holds a master’s degree in psychology. Later in life he found his life’s passion, becoming a certified trainer and obtained a PhD in holistic nutrition. He has appeared on dozens of television shows, and lectured around the world. You can reach him at: www.jonnybowden.com or follow him on Twitter: @jonnybowden or become a fan on Facebook: @dr.jonnybowden