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What A Functional Medicine Expert Does To Stop A Cold From Coming On

November 6, 2017

No matter how awesome our immune systems are, inevitably, we all get sick at some point. Eating clean and exercising will give your immune system a natural boost, but sometimes your body just gets caught off guard. Next thing you know you are waking up with that ever-so-slight tickle in the back of your throat, and you’re a little more tired than usual. You know right then that there are two options: Either you fight off this cold successfully, or the mucus monster takes over.

Since I see patients every day, the last thing I want to do is walk into a consultation with a stuffed-up nose to tell other people how to be healthy. Because of this, every time I feel a cold coming on, I have a specific regimen that usually kicks my immunity into high gear and allows me to avoid the cold completely—or at least greatly reduce it to only a couple of days of mild symptoms. Here's exactly what I do when I need to kick a cold in the butt!

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1. I incorporate superfoods.

Because I want to give my immune system the most optimal environment to thrive, when I'm feeling sick, I bring in foods that can support my body's natural detoxification process like parsley, cilantro, blueberries, and dandelion tea.

I’ll switch out a few cups of my green tea throughout the day and replace it with dandelion tea. It’s filled with B vitamins designed to amp up my detoxing methylation pathways. I add blueberries, cilantro, and parsley to my morning smoothie, and I end up eating a few more handfuls of blueberries throughout the day as a snack.

2. I go adaptogenic.

Adaptogens are always my go-to when I'm feeling a little sluggish. These natural plants and herbs are all designed to bring balance to whatever system you're targeting. No matter what symptoms you are dealing with, chances are there’s an adaptogen for that. Here are three of my favorites:

  • Maca: Packed with vitamin C
  • Ashwagandha: Traditionally used to boost the immune system after being sick
  • Astragalus: May have antiviral and antibacterial properties
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3. I target my vitamins and supplements.

On a regular basis, I use food as my medicine and eat a clean diet filled with organic grass-fed and wild-caught meat, lots of healthy fats, and a wide range of vegetables with some fruit. But when my immune system is fighting an uphill battle, I bring in supplements.

  • Echinacea: This herb has been shown1 to reduce the duration and severity of the common cold.
  • Vitamin C: This immune supporter has been found2 to reduce symptoms by up to 30 percent. Take anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 mg per day.
  • Zinc: This nutrient's main role is to increase white blood cells and fight off infection, and it can actually increase vitamin C’s immune-boosting properties when taken together. About 75 mg per day has been shown3 to help your body fight off a cold faster.
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4. I up my immune-boosting foods.

When I get that scratch in my throat, I go straight for the Manuka honey. This honey from New Zealand has even higher nutritional content than regular raw honey and has antimicrobial properties. I’ll add a little to my dandelion tea throughout the day.

Chaga is also one of my favorites, as it works as an immune-balancer4 and an antiviral against viruses like the flu. Turkey tail is another intense immune booster, as it has been successfully used to boost the immune systems of cancer patients. I like to sauté these and eat them as a side dish with my meals. Or, if you aren’t a fungus lover, you can get mushroom powders to add into smoothies.

5. I gargle with salt water.

Sea salt is a great anti-inflammatory5, and when dissolved in warm water, it can be a fantastic easy way to ease a sore throat because of its ability to loosen mucus and rid the throat of bacteria and other irritants. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, people who gargled with salt water had a 40 percent decrease6 in upper respiratory infections. I like to mix 1 teaspoon of sea salt with 8 ounces of warm water and gargle for at least 30 seconds.

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6. I reach for essential oils.

These concentrated liquids have been used for thousands of years due to their intensive healing abilities. These are three of my favorites that I diffuse these in my home and office when I start feeling under the weather:

  • Tea Tree: This oil is antimicrobial, antiviral, and has antifungal properties7.
  • Eucalyptus: This amazing-smelling oil is antimicrobial8 and an amazing decongestant. If I am really battling congestion, I will place a little eucalyptus oil on my chest.
  • Frankincense and myrrh: The synergistic antimicrobial benefits9 of these two oils are second to none. I put this goodness all over face, neck, and arms even on a good day.
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7. I drink bone broth.

There’s a reason why grandma’s chicken noodle soup became such a famous cold and flu remedy, and it's especially helpful if you are fighting off a stomach virus. Bone broth contains gelatin, glucosamine, glycine, and minerals that help heal your gut from the inside out. According to functional medicine beliefs, the root of all disease begins in your gut, so feeding your digestive system with this food medicine will help you get you back to 100 percent.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before trying essential oils or supplements. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what treatment is right for you.
William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.

Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He has holds a level 2 Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) certification. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Cole specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is also the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and bestselling author of Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, and the New York Times bestseller Intuitive Fasting.

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