5 Ways to Manage a Cold Naturally

Spring may be just around the corner, but we aren't out of cold & flu season yet! Today I'm sharing some tried and true methods to manage a cold naturally. 

1. Hydrate 

It's important to stay hydrated even when healthy, but your fluid needs go up even more when you're sick. This is especially true if you have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting. Hydration also plays a role in mucous {snot} consistency. Increasing fluid intake can thin out those thick secretions, making it easier to cough/blow them out.

The 8 8-oz glasses of water per day is a good guideline, but it's always smart to listen to your body. Try to drink small amounts consistently through the day // avoid chugging in larger amounts, especially with stomach ailments. Be aware of your urine color as a great indicator of if you need to drink more water. 

Feel free to mix up your beverages. 100% coconut water is a great source of electrolytes like sodium and potassium and doesn't contain the added sugar and dyes of many sports drinks. Herbal teas are also hydrating, plus warm beverages provide moisture to dry mucous membranes and soothe sore throats. 

I'm sharing a bonus recipe at the bottom on this post --> Hot ACV Tonic! 

Apple Cider Vinegar  contains probiotics and supports a healthy gut and immune system - it also aids in blood sugar management! 

Apple Cider Vinegar contains probiotics and supports a healthy gut and immune system - it also aids in blood sugar management! 

2. Wash 

We've heard it a million times: wash your hands. But the method can be more tricky to nail down these days. Hand sanitizers or soap and water? What about antibacterial products? Research has consistently shown that a thorough scrub with good old soap (it doesn't need to be antibacterial soap) and water is more effective against disease-causing bacteria and virus' than hand sanitizer. 

There is such a thing as too much washing, especially with alcohol based hand sanitizers. This is especially true in children. The prime way the human immune system becomes stronger is through exposure. A sterile environment, or staying home too often, isn't really helping kids in the long run. So - to the mom who's daughter just licked the slide at the playground, take a breath, it's all in the name of building that immune system! ;) With that being said, it's always a good idea to wash hands {with soap and water} when you get home from work/school/the grocery store, after you use the restroom, and before you eat! 

A clean environment is also an important part of staying healthy:

  • Wipe down counters in the kitchen and bathroom daily (my favorite all-purpose cleaner is simply equal parts white vinegar and water in an empty spray bottle)
  • Wash bed linens every 1-2 weeks and after illness
  • Change out your toothbrush or toothbrush head every 3 months and after illness
  • Dust/vacuum regularly to promote respiratory health/removal of allergens. 

Final note on this: one of the only times I personally use bleach-based wipes (clorox, lysol, etc.) or disinfectants is when someone in my household actively has a cold/flu/virus. Another reason to use these products may be if you're immune system is compromised due to another illness or condition. Research has indicated that many natural options like vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, etc. may not be effective at killing cold and flu viruses. But regular use of products that kill both good and bad bacteria is a contributor to antibiotic resistant "super bugs" so I don't recommend using antibacterial products on the reg. Just my personal opinion (plus here's another evidence-based article). 

3. Nourish

Nourishing your body with real, whole foods provides your body with the tools it needs to heal. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake is key: leafy greens, carrots, peppers, squash, citrus fruits, apples, bananas, berries, etc. Eat a variety of colors and make sure these are a part of each meal. Not feeling like cooking? Ask your partner, phone a friend or choose a healthier take out option! 

Sick Day Meal Plan:

Breakfast: Banana Chia Chocolate Oatmeal with fresh berries and banana 

Lunch: Energizing Quinoa Power Bowl

Dinner: Thai Carrot Ginger Soup

4. Rest

I've come to find that when I get sick, I can usually pinpoint a few things going on in my life as potential causes. They usually revolve around: nutrition, sleep, and stress. Sleep seems to be the most common offender. It can be hard to control sleep schedules with work, kids, travel, etc. But whether we like it or not, sleep plays an important role in our immune system. In fact, a 2009 study showed that even when directly exposed to a virus, individuals who got adequate sleep were 5x more likely to stay healthy. 

If you deal with insomnia or issues falling asleep, you may find value in a bedtime routine. Avoiding screens (phones, tv, computer, iPad) in the 1-2 hours before bed, a warm bath, evening yoga routine, or meditation before bed, quiet environment or white noise machine, humidifier, and/or comfortable mattress, pillows, and sleep temperature can all help to promote a restful night.

I wrote about rest/sleep during my 12 days of wellness. Find the link here. 

5. Supplement 

I'm not an advocate for regular supplementation, especially in mega doses. I do think quality multivitamins are beneficial for most individuals as it can be a challenge to meet nutritional requirements with a western diet, but aside from this, supplements and vitamins can be very personal and specific to the needs of the individual. If you find yourself sick often, or simply feeling tired or run down for weeks on end, I highly recommend visiting your doctor for blood work to rule out vitamin/mineral deficiency or hormone imbalance/dysfunction.

I'm sharing a few supplements that may help shorten the duration and severity of a cold, with minimal risk:

  • Many individuals deal with Vitamin D deficiency in the winter months. The only quality source of vitamin D, aside from supplements and fortified foods, is the sun. We all see a lot less sunshine on our skin when it's cold outside. You can read more on Vitamin D recommendations here
  • Vitamin C may shorten the duration of the common cold, although research is slim to support this. It's best to consume foods high in Vitamin C, like citrus fruits and leafy greens. 
  • Echinacea is a natural favorite, commonly in the form of tea. It can support immune function and reduce the length of the common cold. It's important to check with your physician if you take any medications, however, because echinacea does have many drug interactions.
  • Garlic is rich in antioxidants. Regular consumption strengthens the immune system, has antiviral properties - may prevent or shorten duration of common cold.
  • Ginger aids in digestion, prevents and treats nausea, used in Asian countries to treat cold, flu, and headaches!
  • Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant, has antiviral and antibacterial properties, used in treatment of many gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Elderberry is another antioxidant that shows promising results in managing both cold and flu viruses. It may help relieve congestion and other respiratory symptoms. I recently made my own elderberry syrup using this recipe. 
Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

I hope you enjoyed these tips. What are your go-to remedies when you have a cold? I'd love to hear more from you! Stay healthy, friends! 

Hot ACV Tonic 

Serves: 1

Total Time: 5 minutes

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*If you do not consume honey, you can omit this ingredient or swap for an alternate sweetener. I do support local honey and beekeeping, I'll plan to post more on this in the future. 

Disclaimer: A final reminder that this information is general and not specific in nature. Use your best judgement on when to see your physician when ill. If you have a consistent fever above 100 degrees or worsening symptoms lasting longer than 7-10 days, be sure to consult with your physician. I also always recommend speaking with your doctor before taking any new supplement or medication. More information on influenza recommendations here