There's nothing common about a common cold. Everyone hates it—you feel crappy and it always happens at the most inconvenient time. It's one of the most common reasons patients come see me during the winter months, but it doesn't need to be. Here are my tips to keep your immune system strong all winter long:
Get more zzz's.
If you haven't figured it out, sleep is incredibly important and actually helps prevent cold and flu. I know personally I'm more susceptible to a virus if I've been on the go and sacrificed a few hours of good sleep. In fact, studies show that less sleep increases your chances of getting a cold. So what better way to prevent it than by sleeping more?
Fast a little.
Cold and flu season is offset by the holiday season. It makes sense, considering the number of people splurging on sugar, dairy, and alcohol.
Sugar, dairy, and alcohol actually decrease your immune system during this time, so limiting the consumption of these culprits is beneficial for preventing a cold.
I encourage you to take it a step further and try fasting between 13 and 36 hours to try to rebuild your immune system. While you are doing this, drink herbal teas with ginger, echinacea, or reishi mushrooms, all of which build your immune system to help your body start fighting a cold. Many cultures have been doing this for years—resting their digestive systems while improving their immune system. This is a technique we encourage our cancer patients to incorporate since studies show that fasting can also starve the cancer and improve the immune system.
Feed your gut.
Ensuring your gut is healthy during this season is super important. It also goes back to what you're eating and letting your gut rest. Adding a probiotics supplement is crucial for prevention of the common cold. Numerous studies show that the probiotics decrease the risk of cold despite exposure in children and adults.
For adults, I encourage probiotics with more than five strains of bacteria and more than 20 billion colony forming units (CFU), and for children, two to three strains of bacteria and less than 5 billion CFU depending on age.
The more diverse the bacteria, the better including lactobacillus, bifidum bacterium, and saccharomyces spp.
Try incorporating fermented foods like kimchee, sauerkraut, coconut kefir, and kombucha into your diet to get additional probiotics, and be sure to learn how prebiotics help probiotics. I don't usually recommend yogurt or regular kefir since it's dairy-based and can be a mucogenic (increasing mucus production) during this time.
Bring on the broth.
Bone broth is the new "superfood," and it's especially helpful during the cold and flu season. The high sodium content is actually beneficial and helps during colds as you are often weaker and more fatigued during this time and usually dehydrated. The warm soup is also comforting to your throat, and adding a hint of spice can help clear out your sinuses. It's easy to make, and the collagen, glycine, and lysine are all immune boosters helping you get better faster!
Stress actually increases your risk of a cold. So remaining stress-free during the cold and flu season is key (easier said than done). Make sure you are making time for yourself and taking time to relax and meditate. I highly encourage self-care, so do whatever brings you joy, and that will instantly decrease your stress response, making it less likely you'll get sick this season.