Functional Medicine

Cold & Flu Remedies

When it comes to the prevention and treatment of colds and flus, you want to bring your ‘A’ game.  Here, you will find 10 tips for preventing and treating whatever comes your way this winter. Let’s get protected….

1. Take a Winter Break from Dairy

If  you do this, you will have a healthier winter…hands down.  This isn’t well researched, and it would be very difficult to conduct a truly accurate study because there are many variables at play.  So, you’re going to need to trust me here. This made the #1 spot on my list for a reason. Why? Because I have personally experienced the difference and have seen this be the case for many patients over the past 15 years.  When dairy was avoided throughout the winter months, there was a decline in the frequency of illness, a decrease in the severity of symptoms (especially respiratory/congestion related), and an increase in the speed of recovery.  When it comes to children and ear infections, if dairy is eliminated from a child’s diet, you will DEFINITELY see a significant shift…in many cases to ZERO ear infections. Dairy is very difficult to digest. After all milk, is intended to be digested by a ruminant animal with four stomachs.  Many people are also sensitive or allergic to dairy. Consequently, inflammation (especially in the gut) often follows dairy consumption, negatively impacting the immune system. There are many possible mechanisms that can cause dairy to wreak havoc. So, give it a try and do your own case study this winter by going dairy free!      

2. Reduce Your Sugar Intake

I promise this is the last food I will pick on here, but I have to share this with you.  Bacteria, viruses, yeast (all the bad bugs) love sugar. Do we want to feed them, NO! We want to starve them and send them packing.  I know avoiding sugar can be difficult. Sugar is addictive, which means the more you eat, the more you crave. Unfortunately, it is stealthily hidden in foods you wouldn’t expect, such as salad dressings and other seemingly healthy foods.  Keeping your eyes wide open, reading labels carefully, and sticking to the outside of the grocery store will all go a long way. 

Sugar also is one of the most inflammatory foods on the planet.  It will break down your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections. If you get sick, it will slow down your healing and exacerbate your unwanted symptoms.  VIP, at the first sign of an illness..sore throat..etc, ditch the sugar completely! This will help you heal more quickly and get back to business.  

3. Pucker Up and Take Apple Cider Vinegar

This home remedy has been around for ages.  Taking raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar as either a preventative, or at the first sign of a cold or flu, can be extremely beneficial.  Why is that?   

Here are a few reasons:  

  •  The acidity may help kill off pathogens such as bacteria or viruses
  •  ACV thins and loosens mucus in the throat, helping to move it out of your respiratory system more quickly
  • Supports proper digestion, which is often sluggish during illness, leading to decreased appetite and nausea
  • Since it’s fermented, ACV provides probiotics to support your immune system in fighting infections

A minimal dose to try would be 1 tablespoon of ACV mixed with 4 tablespoons of warm or room temperature water, once per day.  This mixture can be safely taken 3 times per day. Feel free to increase the dose to 2 tablespoons of ACV with 4 tablespoons of water, 3 times per day, as needed.

4.  MIraculous Herbal Throat Spray 

This is my absolute favorite throat spray because it really does work miracles!  MediHerb’s Herbal Throat Spray not only soothes even the worst sore throat, it actually helps heal your throat, and boost your immune system!  I keep this throat spray in my purse all year long, but especially wouldn’t be without it in the winter.  Going on a plane? Is the person in the next cubicle coughing all day? Volunteering at your child’s school?  Take a few sprays, every few hours to protect yourself!

5.  Bone Broth

As a child, my Mom used to make a big pot of chicken soup when I got sick.  Apparently, I called broth, “breath”, and would ask for it if I didn’t feel well 🙂  Even though a lot has changed since then, I still make “breath” my go-to at the first sign of illness for myself and my family.  Bone broth can also be used as a preventative measure throughout the winter, providing protection against colds, viruses, and the flu.  This nutritional powerhouse is very hydrating and has a multitude of easily digested & absorbed, vitamins and minerals. The collagen in bone broth is truly healing for your gut, which is your second immune system.  Lastly, eating warm soups enhance what chinese medicine refers to as ‘Qi’, or vial life force. So, during cold months, always reach for warm foods and drinks, as they will support your energy system better than cold ones.

6. Ultra Vir-X

Watch out viruses, you’re on your way out!  I can’t tell you how much I love this product from Biotics.  It goes to work immediately, and people start to feel better fast!  Whether you have a cold, virus, or the flu, this supplement will have a positive impact. I always have this on hand at my house, and do recommend to have it at yours for the winter.  Furthermore, Ultra Vir-X has shown effectiveness in cases with acute and chronic Epstein Barr (aka Mono), as well as Shingles. Not only is this supplement great at eradicating viruses and pathogens,  it also contains herbs that support the immune system. Therefore, it can be used preventatively or at the onset of sickness.  

7. Sea Salt

I took sugar and dairy away, but I’m telling you to eat salt…yay!  The benefits of sea salt will surprise you. Beware though, regular table salt will not have the same effect. Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Crystals are packed with an abundance of health improving minerals including, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.  Therefore, it is a natural electrolyte! So instead of reaching for a sugar layden electrolyte drink, eat a little salt. I often recommend sucking on about 3 crystals, 3 times per day. That is a good baseline, but the dose will depend upon your individual needs.  Having proper electrolyte balance is important for having a healthy body…period. When you’re sick, adequate electrolytes are critical and will prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Not only will the salt make you thirsty, causing you to drink more, the minerals will allow for proper fluid balance inside and outside of your cells.  Oh, and don’t be surprised if you get a boost of energy from the salt…bonus!


8. Epsom Salt 

Another favorite salt of mine is Epsom Salt.  Epsom salt is simply magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a critical mineral that is used for over 300 reactions in the body.  When magnesium stores are low, people will often experience muscle cramping, poor stress management, sleep disturbances, and the list can indefinitely continue.    Stress and poor sleep will cause your immune system to breakdown much more quickly. So, treating yourself to an Epsom salt bath or foot bath shouldn’t be viewed as a luxury, but rather a necessity for preventing illness.  On the other hand, if you do get sick, an Epsom salt bath or foot soak can be very helpful in decreasing muscle cramps and helping you sleep better. Epsom salt is cheap and it works…win-win!

9.  Natural Vapor Rub & Essential Oil Diffusers

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like using toxic topical products on myself or my family.  So, I’m going to head for the natural products every time. Not only do I feel good about the fact that they are safe, they usually work better too!  A prime example of this is using herbal or essential oil infused, vapor rubs. They provide ingredients that help open up airways, allowing for easier breathing.  Additionally, diffusers moisten the air, while specific essential oils can be custom tailored to your needs and assist with issues such as cough reduction, stress, immune boosting, etc.  I find both of these to be very valuable tools for the whole family. Preventatively, essential oils such as “Thieves’ can act as a natural disinfectant when diffused, sprayed, or added to hand soap.  Why not give them a try? At the very least, you and your home will smell good 🙂 

10.  Oscillococcinum

Oh no, you think you or your child is getting the FLU!  At the first sign of body aches, fever, chills, etc….TAKE THIS!  Often times people feel like they have no options and are powerless against the flu.  However, this is a good way to give your body a fighting chance. Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic remedy that has been safely used for over 65 years.  I’ve used it, recommended it, and seen it work! It is especially great for kids because of it’s easy delivery system. The tiny pellets dissolve quickly and kids actually find them fun to take.  Adults on medications are also candidates, as there are no known drug interactions. I recommend adding it to your personal dispensary because it is absolutely worth having on hand in case the flu strikes.  

I hope that this has helped you feel more equipped to take the winter head-on.   Utilizing these tips, it is possible, and even probable, that you can have your healthiest cold and flu season yet!  


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