Although winter is drawing to a close here in the Southern hemisphere, there is still no shortage of people feeling a little worse for wear. Almost daily I have someone come into work and ask what juice/smoothie/hot drink is best for getting over a cold (FYI: Defender, Detoxify Me & Turmeric or Shroom Latte), and in the past few weeks I’ve had several friends contact me wondering how to naturally shorten the duration of their cold and speed up their recovery.
Before I go on, I must emphasise that this is not to say that you should never take any medications for colds, or that the natural way is the only way. But generally when you get sick it is a sign that your body is really just in need of some RnR and a little immunity boost, rather than a whole truckload of antibiotics.
So next time you feel a cold coming on, try out some of these remedies for a quick and complete recovery.
As hard as it can be to do, the first and most important thing to do when you are starting to get sick is to rest. I know that in reality things still need to be done and it can feel impossible to take a day off, so even if you can’t take a legitimate sick day, try going to bed earlier and clearing your schedule of anything that doesn’t absolutely need to be done. Be honest with yourself about what is absolutely essential. You might have organised a dinner with friends, but I am sure they will understand if you cancel to spend the night in. Plus you are doing them the favour of not spreading your germs and giving them the half-full version of yourself. Sleep is an absolute magical time for the body to heal, rejuvenate and fight off infection, so its power in cold recovery cannot be underestimated. Sleep more and take naps, you need it! If you can take a full day or two off then by all means go ahead and do it.
I am fortunate enough to have a mother who has access to some supplements that work wonders on colds, but even if you don’t have a similar contact there are still great supplements that can help to boost your immune system and help ward of infections. My go-to supps for cold recovery are:
+ Vitamin C: this is where the old wive’s tale of eating oranges for immunity comes from. Vitamin C is the absolute key nutrient for immunity and overall good health. Vitamin C powder can easily be purchased at the chemist (it may also be labelled as ascorbic acid), or in tablet form. What is great about Vitamin C is that it is water soluble, so you cannot effectively ‘overdose’ on it. When I am sick I take a strong Vitamin C powder 3 times per day for the duration of the cold, but you can also take one dose daily as a preventative measure. Do note that unbuffered Vitamin C can be corroding to teeth, so avoid excessive chewing on tablets and always drink some water and brush your teeth after you take it. It can also irritate the stomach a little, so if you find any discomfort occurring simply discontinue use or reduce the dosage. Maximum dosage for your body will be (so pleasantly) signalled by diarrhoea…
+ Zinc: along with Vitamin C, zinc is a key mineral that the immune system requires to fight colds. As I have pyroluria I take a zinc supplement daily, but when I am feeling sick I always up the dose. Often you can find supplements that are relatively affordable that have a combination of zinc and Vitamin C, which is definitely a great combo! When searching for zinc supplements there are several different kinds, but go for the one with the highest amount of zinc. Also be aware of the different forms in which zinc can come. I am not an expert in this area, but I found this Dr. Mercola article which explains which forms of zinc are most easily absorbed by the body and how to use zinc in fighting colds.
+ Magnesium: magnesium is an essential mineral that is great for muscle relaxation and aiding sleep, two things which definitely become compromised when you get sick. It is also an electrolyte which is lost quickly when you are sick, so it is important to replenish your magnesium levels. You can once again buy a magnesium powder supplement at any good chemist or health food store. Another great way to get magnesium is by taking an Epsom salt bath. It will soothe those sore, achy muscles and joints and allow the magnesium to be absorbed through the skin.
+ Super Mushrooms: this Metagenics supplement has to be one of my absolute favourite supplements of all time – the combination of medicinal mushrooms packs one serious cold-killing punch! You can get this specific complex from any Metagenics practioner, although you will probably need an appointment and it is on the more expensive side of supplements. I did a quick search of iHerb and found this range of medicinal mushrooms for immunity. As always, consult a health care practitioner before commencing usage of such supplements and always use as directed.
It might seem rather obvious, but when you are sick your cells are often severly dehydrated. Making sure you keep up adequate fluid intake is very important in ensuring a speedy recovery. It is also a great option to add some electrolytes to your fluids, I personally think magnesium is a great option, but avoid the sugary sports drinks that will only dehydrate you more. Sipping on filtered water, coconut water and herbal teas (especially lemon and ginger) is a great way to keep your cells hydrated whilst you overcome whatever illness has afflicted you.
- Nourishing Foods
Everyone is different, but when I am sick I crave wholesome, hearty foods that are light and easy to digest. Soup and bone broth is perfect for this purpose, as it is warming and you can load up on tonnes of veggies with minimal digestive power being required to absorb it. If your Mum used to make you chicken soup when you were sick, there was a reason for that! Some foods that are stand out for colds are lemons, ginger, turmeric, raw honey (great in tea to soothe sore throats) and high Vitamin C fruit such as kiwi fruit, oranges and strawberries. If you are brave and want the ultimate tonic then try blending raw ginger root (1-2 inches), lemon and turmeric (powdered or raw root) with a little bit of water and drinking it. I cannot promise it is pleasant for the taste buds, but it definitely gives you the best hit of antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and immune boosting foods in one (powerful) shot. In terms of food to steer clear of, the usual applies: gluten, dairy, sugar and refined foods only congest you more, suppress your immune function and prolong the cold.Now I am going to go out on a limb and say something that might seem a bit weird, but sometimes when you are sick the best thing to do is actually not to eat… You see, there is an evolutionary reason why we lose our appetites when we are sick, and that is because digestion takes an awful lot of energy. When we are sick our body tries to redirect that energy into building up the immune system and proliferating our cold-fighting immune cells, but it can only do that by taking energy from another system – in this case the digestive system. So if you really aren’t hungry then don’t feel like you have to eat, fasting is actually fairly natural when we are sick. Of course it is equally important that you stay nourished, hence why soup and bone broth are great options, as they are nutrient-dense and require little energy to digest.
- Gentle Exercise
Regular exercise is incredibly important in maintaining optimum immune function, as explored in a great Catalyst episode, so keeping fit really is an important preventative measure. However when you do fall ill, gentle exercise can often aid to speed up recovery. If you are bed-ridden, of course, then just focus on step 1 until you are feeling ready for some movement. When I am sick I like to take long walks outside to get some fresh air and sunshine, or practice some gentle restorative yoga. You can even try these yoga poses for when you are sick.
On that note, I hope this post finds you all in good health. These recommendations aren’t just for getting rid of a cold but also work wonderfully for boosting immunity and preventing any infections taking hold.
Love Erica x