“It’s cold and flu season. I guess it’s inevitable: I will get sick.”
“I’m just the type of person that gets sick all the time.”
“When I get the cold or the flu, it takes me longer to recover. It must be my genes.”
Does this sound familiar? I see patients all the time with these complaints.
But guess what? Cold and flu season doesn’t mean you have to get sick. You certainly shouldn’t be catching a respiratory infection every month, nor should you be struggling with recovery for weeks on end.
Though we are all born with a set of genes, your genes are not your destiny. You can support your body and change the outcome of your health. You can activate your body to be its own pharmacy.
With the right dietary and lifestyle strategies, supplementation, and activators (yes! Activators) you can support your body to produce its own antioxidants and pharmacy to stay healthy. As a bonus, you can support your immune system with an array of nutrients to reduce your risk of illness and improve your recovery if you do get sick.
Lifestyle Strategies for Cold and Flu Season
Before we get into specific nutrients and supplementation, I want to explore some dietary and lifestyle strategies for cold and flu seasons. These practices may help to support your immune system, strengthen your body to reduce your risk of getting sick, and support your recovery from illness this cold and flu season.
Hydrate Your Body
First and foremost, you need to hydrate your body well. Drink plenty of water needed to get cells the nutrients and get rid of the waste from your body. Water also helps macrophages and the immune system to get to the infection (1, 2).
On a regular day, I recommend at least 10 glasses of purified water (minimum of 80 ounces). If you are sick, exercising, using your sauna regularly, it’s hot outside, have a physical job, or simply feeling dehydrated, drink more. Adding some lemon or lime juice, a few slices of cucumber, some berries, mint, or other herbs is not only a great idea for taste but adds bonus nutrients.
In addition to water, I recommend eating lots of hydrating vegetables and fruits. Green smoothies and green juices may also boost hydration and add immune-supporting nutrients to your diet. Remember to eat your fruit, not just juice your fruit! The whole fruit is full of fiber that supports your digestion and reduces the risk of blood sugar spikes.
Try Bone Broth
Bone broth is liquid made from boiling animal bones and connective tissue of beef, poultry, or fish. Bone broth is loaded with salt and other electrolytes to reduce dehydration. It is also a fantastic source of protein and other nutrients to fuel your body and may help to reduce inflammation (3). Moreover, drinking warm bone broth may be incredibly soothing when you are sick with a respiratory infection.
Follow a Nutrient-Dense Diet
Nutrition is key to your immune health. I recommend focusing on a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, and immune-supporting diet. This means lots of greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, fruits, healthy fats, and clean animal protein. Remove inflammatory foods, such as refined sugar, refined oil, overly processed foods, and junk food, from your diet (4).
Limit Your Sugar Intake
Limiting your sugar intake should be part of your immune-supporting diet this cold and flu season (and outside of it!). Sugar, especially refined sugar, can feed the bad guys in your body. What do I mean by this?
Sugar may feed and increase harmful bacteria in your gut and increase microbiome imbalance. Consequently, it may increase chronic inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, compromised immunity, vulnerability to getting sick, and chronic health issues. Too much sugar may increase inflammation and compromise your immune health (5, 6). You don’t want this!
I recommend reducing your overall sugar intake. Remove refined sugar, including candy, sugary drinks, cakes, pastries, and so on from your diet. Remember that breads, rice, and pasta also are forms of carbohydrates that are sugars. Yes, this includes the gluten-free ones. So let’s reduce those as well!
Get your carbs from fruits, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables. However, I don’t recommend making these a main focus of your diet. Low-glycemic index fruits, such as berries, are lower in sugar. Within vegetables, bell peppers and sugar snap peas are lower in sugar than tubers, like sweet potatoes or beets. Balance these healthy carbs with plenty of healthy fats, such as avocados, olives, and coconut oil, and healthy protein, such as grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, and wild-caught fish.
Get Enough Sleep
Whether you are sick or not, rest is incredibly important. Sleeping helps to rejuvenate your cells, repair any damage to your daily life, and energize your body for your day. Rest is even more important when you are down with a cold or other illness. You need to be gentle and kind to your body and allow it to repair and recover (7).
I recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of restorative sleep each night. If you are sick, you may need more and add some extra naps during the day. Listen to your body and honor it with rest.
Moving your body and exercising helps to support your immune system and overall body (8). However, if you are sick, you need to slow down a bit. It is not time to do hard workouts or push your body hard. Light stretches, moving around at an easy pace, or even a slow walk can be very beneficial for your recovery if you can do it. But listen to your body.
Rest is the most important. If you need to spend most of your day lying down and resting, do that. Changes position regularly, gets up occasionally to move around a bit, and do some very light stretches too.
Grounding, also known as earthing, is a therapeutic practice that may help to realign your electrical energy by reconnecting your body to the earth (9). You can practice grounding by walking, standing, or even sitting barefoot on the ground (e.g., soil, sand, grass, etc) or submerging in open water. You can also use grounding mats or sheets in your home.
Try Red Light Therapy and Sauna
Finally, you may also try using red light therapy and an infrared sauna if you have access to them. They are both great for reducing inflammation and strengthening immunity (10, 11). Infrared sauna therapy is also a great way to detoxify your body through sweat. However, if you have a fever, avoid using any saunas.
Nutrients and Supplements for Cold and Flu Season
Now let’s move on to specific nutrients and supplements that may support your immune health this cold and flu season.
Protandim helps to turn on the NRF2 pathways, which helps to neutralize free radicals, decrease oxidative stress. The ingredients of Protandim, including ashwagandha, green tea, milk thistle, bacopa, and turmeric, are powerful on their own.
Turmeric, for example, is great for decreasing inflammation (12). Green tea is loaded with antioxidants (13). Ashwagandha is great for sleep and hormonal health (14). Milk thistle may support detoxification (15). Bacopa supports your body’s cellular defenses (16). Taking these ingredients may help to achieve an 18-fold increase in antioxidant potential (17). I talk more about this supplement in this video.
It is a powerful plant flavonol with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits (18). Quercetin is found in many foods, including grapes, blueberries, black plums, chokeberries, red onions, bell pepper, snap peas, asparagus, kale, lettuce, various herbs, and olive oil. I also recommend adding a quercetin supplement to your regimen for an antioxidant boost. It is a great supplement to use if you’ve been exposed to sick people or feel like something is coming on.
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant made by your body naturally. It may help to reduce cellular damage while also protecting your brain and cardiovascular health. Supplementing with coenzyme Q10 may also help to support your immune system (19).
Alpha-lipoic acid, or ALA is another important antioxidant compound your body makes to support vital functions at the cellular levels. It may help to reduce inflammatory cytokine TNF alpha production, regulate normal inflammatory response, reduce inflammation, and support your immune health (20).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, healthy fats that help to reduce inflammation in your body (21). They may allow cell communication to work properly as they insulate the cells and nervous system. Using omega-3 fatty acids is critical every day of the year, not only when you are sick. Eating wild-caught fish and seafood is a great way to boost your omega-3 levels naturally. However, I also recommend a daily omega-3 fish oil supplement. The brand is very important for Omega 3 supplements. I recommend checking out LifeVantage Omega+! These don’t smell or taste fishy which is a sign of a poor quality omega.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics work together. However, prebiotics are fibers that feed probiotics. Think about your gut microbiome as a forest. You may imagine prebiotics as the soil, sun, and rain the plants need to grow. The plants needed, in this case, are probiotics. Together in symbiosis, prebiotics and probiotics create a healthy microbiome.
A healthy microbiome helps to keep inflammation levels down and your immune system healthy. But if your microbiome is out of balance, it may increase inflammation, compromise your immune health, and make you more vulnerable to illness (22). Using prebiotics and probiotics can significantly improve your gut microbiome balance. If you are taking antibiotics, it’s particularly important to take probiotics. There are certain kinds that are not killed by antibiotics, so it’s important to pick the right probiotics. Antibiotics not only the bad bugs, but also the good guys. Recreating balance is critical (23).
Prebiotic-rich foods include Jerusalem artichokes, onion, garlic, leek, jicama, apples, and bananas. Probiotic-rich foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables, yogurt, and kombucha. In addition to food, I recommend a daily prebiotic and probiotics supplement.
Vitamin C is possibly the most well-known vitamin for immune health. Chances are, growing up, your mother told you to eat some oranges or gave you some vitamin C when you were sick. Vitamin C may help to reduce your symptoms and decrease the length of a cold (24, 25). It is a fantastic supplement to use if you’ve been exposed to sick people or feel like something is coming on.
Lysine is an essential amino acid. This means your body needs it but cannot make it on its own. You need to meet your needs through food and supplementation. It may help to improve your body’s antioxidant response and support your body’s cellular defenses (26). It is another great supplement to try if you feel like you are getting sick or have spent time around sick people.
Zinc is a critical mineral for over 300 enzymes in your body. It also supports your immune health. It may help to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms of a cold (27). You may benefit from eating zinc-rich foods like turkey, beef, pork, lentils, shiitake mushrooms, and pumpkin seeds, and taking a potent zinc supplement if you are sick.
Glutathione is another powerful antioxidant. It may increase antioxidant activity, reduce cellular damage, and lower inflammation, among other health benefits. Glutathione may help to reduce oxidative stress and help your body to fight infection (28).
I recommend using glutathione supplements if you are dealing with a respiratory infection. It may be particularly beneficial if you have COVID-19, as some studies found that glutathione deficiency may play a role in a severe response associated with the virus (29). Note that glutathione will not prevent or cure COVID-19, it may simply support your body’s defenses and recovery.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is also a prohormone that your body can convert into a hormone. It is critical for immune health, cellular function, bone health, brain health, and other areas of your health. The best source of vitamin D is sunshine. Food sources include fatty fish, liver, and egg yolk.
However, due to our indoor lifestyle and colder climates, most people need to supplement with vitamin D. Vitamin D may help to reduce the risk, symptoms, and length of respiratory infections (30, 31). Supplementation is particularly important if you have a deficiency.
IV Nutrient Therapy
IV nutrient therapy is a form of alternative treatment used for a variety of health issues, including dehydration, immune support, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, chronic pain, energy, mental health, and hangovers. This therapy may be particularly helpful if you are dehydrated (32, 33).
There are many options for IV nutrient therapy. The Myers cocktail is a popular mix used for immune health. You can use a high-dose vitamin C IV therapy for immune support. There are also glutathione and zinc IV nutrient therapy available. Practitioners at IV drip centers should be able to guide you according to your symptoms and goals.
Follow these recommendations during this cold and flu season to keep your body healthy and energized. If you are looking for ways to improve your immune health or overcome chronic health issues, I invite you to a consultation with us. Together, we can uncover the root causes of your condition and create a personalized treatment plan to regain your health and energy naturally. Schedule your free consultation today here.
Protandim NRF2 (Anti-aging)
Daily Wellness (Daily vitamin)
ProBio (Digestive health)
PhysIQ™ Prebiotic (Digestive health)