Ah, January has arrived, and with it, the height of cold season. While there’s no “cure” for the common cold, there are ways to reduce the chances of catching one, and increase your body’s ability to fight back if you do.
My winter battle plan includes a full arsenal of cold-fighters, starting with prevention, and finishing with a few key vitamins and supplements to help send colds packing. Here’s how I do it:
Avoid Sugar and Processed foods
Sugar decreases immune function.
Sleep. A lot.
Sleep: It’s free, it’s easy and it’s a key building block of total health, so make an effort to get some zzzz for 7- 8 hours. Think you can’t squeeze another hour out of your busy day? Well, consider the time lost when a cold takes hold, and then commit to going to bed just 15 – to – 30 minutes earlier every night. The more time you allow your body to repair itself with restorative sleep, the stronger your body will be.
Clean up your act.
Think about where your hands go in the course of a day: subway poles, escalator handrails, ATM’s, office phones, computer keyboards, restroom doorknobs, copy machines, communal coffee pot at the office, etc. – all fantastic sources of germs. To keep them at bay:
- Around town, hold bus and subway poles with gloved hands, or use a bit of coat sleeve as an impromptu mitten.
- At the office, wash hands with hot water and soap frequently, and wipe down your phone, desk and keyboard daily.
- In-between washes, remove surface grime with portable packs of hand-wipes. Look for natural wipes with little or no alcohol. I like Herban Essentials lemon-scented towelettes, not only because they smell like summer, but they’re also naturally antibacterial and antiseptic.
Avoid antibacterial soap because of the risk of creating resistant bacteria.
Water your nose.
With heaters cranked up in the winter, nasal passages get dried out and crack, making the nose an easy entry point for germs. Clean out your sinuses and keep nasal passages moist with a neti pot (sea salt and water) or Saltaire available from Duane Reade or simple saline mist treatment, every day.
Another tip? To add moisture without the hassle of a humidifier, try putting a pan of water on the radiator before bed, leave the bathroom door open when showering, or consider skipping the dry cycle on the dishwasher, open it to air-dry and release steam into the kitchen.
Know your alphabet.
A is for Andrographis, one of my favorite ways to stimulate the immune system. This is my preferred herb for preventing and treating colds. For prevention take 2-3 grams a day and for treatment of acute colds use up to 6-9 grams a day.
B is for Bacteria, that is good bacteria or probiotics. Take a probiotic daily (look for one with 10-20 billion organisms). A strong immune system relies heavily on having a strong foundation in the gut.
C is for Vitamin C, the classic immunity booster that can often help to fend off more serious infections. But you need high doses. So if you are willing, take at least 2 grams 3-4 times a day.
D is for Vitamin D, the best immune system regulator that can help arm your body to fight colds. Probably the most important thing you can do to prevent colds is to optimize your Vitamin D level. Most people need at least 2,000 units a day in the winter and usually more, but please have your blood level measured and take the appropriate dose.
E is for Echinacea. Although recent studies have suggested that it is not as effective as originally thought, it can sometimes be helpful.