It may be too late for you to keep yourself from getting sick in the first place, but the good news is that there’s plenty you can do to shorten the duration of a cold or flu and alleviate the symptoms while you’re waiting to recover. Here are my top four tips for sending the sniffles packing.
1. Triple your vitamin D for three days
Low levels of vitamin D are common in people who live in northern climates. When we start heading indoors to get away from the cooler temperatures, the subsequent decrease in vitamin D — which our body produces when sunshine hits our skin — leaves us more susceptible to viruses.
The immune system’s front-line soldiers are the T-cells, which are dormant until they’re activated to detect and kill infections from viruses and bacteria. A Danish study found that the first stage of T-cell activation involves vitamin D — when a T-cell is exposed to a virus or bacteria, it sends a signal to search for vitamin D in the blood. Without vitamin D, T-cell activation is stopped in its tracks.
Bottom line: At the first sign of a cold or flu I recommend taking 25,000 to 30,000 IU of vitamin D a day for three consecutive days only. After that, drop your dose down to 4,000 to 5,000 IU, taken daily for long-term health. Children may take 1000 IU for three days, then decrease to 200 to 400 IU per day. As always, discuss new supplement use with your health practitioner.
2. Top up your vitamin C
When it comes to stifling the symptoms of your cold, much like with vitamin D, you need vitamin C to boost your defences. Vitamin C influences your ability to fight off infections by stimulating white blood cells and increasing the rate at which they travel to the site of infection. Scientists from the University of Texas Health Science Center studied the white blood cells of 12 patients before and after each patient took one gram of vitamin C daily for two weeks and found that their disease-killing white blood cells became much more active with the increase in vitamin C supplementation.
Bottom line: I recommend taking four to 12 grams of vitamin C, spread throughout the day, at the first sign of a cold. If you develop loose stools reduce the dose.
3. Put on wet socks and hit snooze
It may not sound appealing, but this natural remedy can stop a cold, flu, or fever in its tracks by stimulating the immune system and improving circulation. Best of all, you only need a few simple ingredients: a pair of cotton socks, thick wool socks and a towel.
First, soak the cotton socks in cold water. Wring them out slightly and place them on your feet. Then take a pair of thick dry wool socks and put them over the wet socks. If desired, you can set a towel under your feet — then immediately go to sleep. Do this for two or three nights, or until you feel your illness has passed.
4. Pump up your bacteria intake
Everyone can benefit from the use of probiotics for healthy digestion, regular bowel function and immunity. When your immune system is under attack, however, you need to increase the dosage. Clinical trials show that probiotics (and prebiotics) may decrease the incidence of respiratory tract infections.
One Italian study found that, “regular, long-term intake of various synbiotics [a combination of pro and prebiotics] may improve health by reducing the incidence and severity of respiratory diseases during the cold season.”
Bottom line: Look for a supplement with 10 to 15 billion cells per capsule. Take two upon rising and before bed, on an empty stomach. For maintenance (once your cold and flu has dissipated), drop to one or two pills just in the morning.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.