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Avoiding Cold and Flu this Winter

Cold and flu viruses are especially common at this time of year, and although there is still no cure for either, there are many ways of preventing it from happening and alleviating symptoms. The best way to protect ourselves against disease and infection is to maintain a strong healthy immune system. Our immune system guards us against germs such as virus, bacteria, and fungi. Colds and flus are caused by viruses that infect the upper respiratory system and are easily transmitted from one person to another. The danger of infection is especially high in air-conditioned and closed environments such as offices, restaurants, stadiums, buses and airplanes. The simple fact is that people catch colds and flus when the immune system is weak.

The immune system can be weakened by the following:

  • excessive sugar consumption,
  • physical, emotional, and mental stress,
  • alcohol, drug, and tobacco consumption,
  • allergies,
  • chemical exposure,
  • Poor nutrition and nutrient deficiency.
  • We recognize the cold by several common features:

  • runny nose,
  • sneezing,
  • stuffed up,
  • scratchy throat,
  • low grade fever,
  • dry cough,
  • swollen lymph glands,
  • feeling of tiredness,
  • Flus exhibit similar symptoms as above but are more severe than colds, causing

  • high fevers and chills,
  • achy muscles,
  • Total exhaustion and sometimes, nausea.

  • Colds and flus left to their own usually run about a 2-week course. They can be complicated by lower respiratory infections and bacterial infections.

    Alternative or natural medicine has a lot to offer in fighting the bacteria and viruses behind colds and flus. Naturopathic treatment of cold and flu is by strengthening the immune system with the use of nutrition, supplements, herbs, and various other modalities. If you catch a bug despite your best efforts, rely on some simple healing methods before reaching for chemical nose sprays and sugar-filled throat lozenges.

    With the approach of winter, cold and flu season is fast upon us. Here are a few tips to reduce your chances of catching a cold or flu this season:

    Washing Your Hands

    Washing our hands several times a day is one of the most powerful virus fighters. Most of the time you catch the virus by touching someone that has it and then rubbing your eyes, nose, or mouth and or someone sneezes or coughs and you breathe it in. Washing your hands on a regular basis is a very important preventative measures.

    Stay Sugar Free

    Sugar decreases both the antibody-producing activity and the number of white blood cells reducing their ability to protect us from infection. Therefore, it depresses the immune system.

    Drink Water

    The body is made up of approximately 75% water. So keeping the body hydrated is essential for optimal health and immunity. Our skin requires water to eliminate wastes and toxins and our digestive system needs it for the same reason. Disease can result if wastes remain in the body for too long. Drink 8-10 glasses of water, and do not drink soda, coffee, fruit juices or dairy. Herbal teas like, ginger will help keep your respiratory tract moist and relieve nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

    Breathe deep

    If you are suffering from a head or chest cold, you can try steam inhalation: add few drops of essential oils (eucalyptus, chamomile, thyme) all heal the nasal and bronchial passages. Breathe in the steam for about 15 minutes. Tea tree oil also helps clear nasal passages and blocked sinuses

    Eating healthy foods

    Eat lightly and let your bodyís energy go toward eliminating the virus instead of digesting food. Once you feel the need to eat solid food, stick to raw vegetables and fruits, as these will provide the body with the nutrients necessary to fight the infection. Foods containing potent antioxidants that boost immunity include, dark, leafy green vegetables, and yellow and orange fruits, and veggies. (broccoli, cantaloupe, green peppers, strawberries, kiwi fruit, spinach, and cabbage, just to name few)


    Rest as much as you can. Sleep bolsters immunity, and lack of sleep when the virus is in the air is one of the surest ways to contract a cold. Stress is another immune-compromising factor.


    Once a cold has taken hold, the following can be helpful in boosting the immune system:

  • Betacarotene-Take 15,000 IUs daily.
  • Garlic-Eat 3 cloves of garlic per day or take 2-3 capsules or tablets 3 times daily.
  • Vitamin A-Take 25,000 IUs daily (do not take more than 5000 IU daily if pregnant).
  • Vitamin C-Take 500-1000 mg every 2 hours.
  • Selenium-Take 200 mcg per day.
  • Zinc lozenges, with 3 mg copper, every few hours, up to 70 mg daily during a cold and 30 mg daily as a preventive.

  • Herbal Medicine

    (Herbal medicines rarely have significant side effects when used appropriately and if the suggested dosage is followed. As with all medications, more is not better and overdosing can lead to serious illness and death.) Herbs like Astragalus, Echinacea, Licorice, Oil of Oregano, and Elderberry Extract all have antiviral and antibacterial properties.

    Take Oscillococcinum

    This homeopathic remedy is a useful alternative for those who want to avoid taking a flu shot. It is made from the flu virus and can be taken once a month during flu season to prevent the flu and at the first signs of symptoms to reduce the severity of the flu.

    Maintaining a healthy immune system is generally considered to be the key to avoiding the cold and flu. Proper diet, along with nutritional supplements, contribute to enhanced immune functions. If treated at the onset, many of the remedies described above can stop the cold and flu in its tracks.

    Note: The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Do not stop your medications without the prior evaluation of your doctor. If you have questions, or symptoms are worse, please see your Naturopathic Doctor, Family Doctor or pharmacist.


    Oznoor Rahmaty B.Sc, ND
    Naturopathic Doctor
    Mississauga Wellness