Catching a cold or flu can require days or weeks of recovery, even with antibiotics. In working with thousands of patients over the years, I’ve developed a set of cold remedies to help you recover faster, boost your immune function, and prevent viral infections so you won’t need antibiotics.
Before I lay this out for you, I’ll remind you that it is always important to have awareness for your body and to individualize your approach based on your unique needs and dosage requirements. What works well for another person may not work well for you. It is a matter of trying products and learning from your experience to fine-tune and find your best cold/flu prevention strategy.
And – very important – do not use these guidelines as a substitute for professional support. I encourage you to contact your health care provider as soon as you realize that you have caught a cold, flu, or other respiratory infection. This way they can provide you with specific dosages and support based on your individual situation. It is especially important to contact your health care provider if you (or your child) have a fever over 102 degrees, yellow phlegm, shortness of breath, and/or symptoms that last more than a few days.
Let’s get started. Obviously, the best strategy is to try to prevent getting sick in the first place.
Cold and Flu Prevention:
Have you noticed that you are much more likely to catch a cold after staying out late at a concert and eating sugar-filled treats?
- Avoid or minimize sugar and alcohol consumption as they both lower your ability to fight off viruses.
- Get 7.5–9 hours of sleep every night as that is when your body gets to rest and recover.
- Take Triple Flu Defense weekly. If your immune system requires additional support, take Genoma Security, ARA, and/or EHB daily (which contains immune-boosting herbs* and nutrients). See info about these products below under Natural Medicine Cabinet.
- Take Vitamin D, especially if your levels are low. During the winter it is known that vitamin D levels tend to be depleted due to less exposure to sunlight. Take 1,000 to 5,000 iu daily as a liquid or capsule.
Fighting the Flu: Boosting Your Resiliency
Stress lowers your immune function. If you are under chronic, daily stress, you may need to give your immune system extra help every day. For many years of my life – while in naturopathic medical school (up late studying) and while my daughter Ella was young (being woken through the night) – my immune system required extra support. From that experience, I learned what it takes to stay well and recover quickly.
5 steps to boost your ability to fight off infections:
- Avoid IgG/A food allergens. By avoiding the foods that trigger inflammation, you will boost immune function. Learn more about IgG/A food reactions and whether the foods you are eating are making you sick here.
- Take probiotics like Klaire Detox, Women’s Formula or Complete. Research shows that taking probiotics improves immune function and decreases susceptibility to infections.
- Support stress recovery with herbs.* Andrographis, Schisandra and Eleutherococcus are herbs that help your body recover from stress and support healthy defenses against viruses. Genoma Security is an example product containing these herbs.
- Take antioxidants, such as glutathione, vitamin A*, vitamin C and zinc. These nutrients help your body to recover from stress and toxic exposures and to be ready to fight of infections. Liposomal formulas allow for increased absorption of glutathione and vitamin C. Here are example products that I recommend: Liposomal Glutathione, Lipsomal Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Zinc.
- Take daily immune support which both supports healthy bacteria in the digestive tract and supports immune function.
To this day, in addition, to avoid my food allergens, I take liposomal Vitamin C, stress recovery herbs and probiotics on a regular basis. When I take a flight or am exposed to others who may be sick, I take vitamin A and/or EHB (see info below).
*Be sure to check with me before taking vitamin A in high doses—while it is a very effective anti-viral, it is important not to use it long term or if there is a chance that you might be pregnant.
For a deeper dive on cold and flu prevention strategies, read my post on How to Avoid Colds, Flu, and Other Infections This Winter.
Cold and Flu Recovery:
Sometime you can’t avoid it – you get hit with a cold or flu. Now your strategy has to change a bit. So here’s what to do when you catch a cold/flu.
First thing: When you get sick, the key is to act fast! If you delay even 12 hours, you are prolonging the time that you will be sick. Be aware of how you are feeling, and as soon as you notice a scratchy throat, sniffles, feverish-ness, or the achy fatigue that a virus causes, immediately start supporting your body to fight off that virus.
Over the years I experimented on myself to figure out what helped me recover faster, and now I’m sharing that info with you! Viruses come in first. Then, with a compromised system (busy fighting a virus), and all the liquid that a virus causes, it is the perfect environment for bacteria to have a happy home – in your sinuses or lungs. Your goal has to be to get your immune system working at its best and to prevent a bacterial infection in your sinuses or lungs.
An important tip: Frequent dosing makes all the difference: Herbs and nutrients require more frequent doses to be effective. For acute infection support, you’ll see the best results when you take the nutrients, herbs, and homeopathic cold remedies that support immune function every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day.
Boost your immune function:
- Avoid sugar, alcohol and dairy products (anything made from cow milk). If you weren’t already avoiding sugar, alcohol, and dairy, now is the time! They will only make it harder for your body to recover.
- Stimulate an immune response. One of the cold remedies that patients & parents have reported the most success with over the years is what I refer to as MAGIC SOCKS (cold, wet socks). Really, I know it is hard to believe, but yes: putting ice-cold socks on your feet (or your child’s feet), followed by dry socks, and bundling yourself up for 15 minutes while your body warms up your feet, actually does stimulate your immune system and helps your body fight off viruses.
- Take Bromelain, which is an enzyme that digests inflammation when taken away from food.
Kill the flu virus:
- Use heat. For example, take a hot shower or bath and then bundle yourself up, including a hat, and jump into a warm bed. A fever is a good thing up to 102 degrees. Avoid Tylenol if you can. Keep hydrated to prevent your fever from going to high.
- Take antiviral nutrients and herbs. I recommend EHB because it has several ingredients all in one formula including vitamin A, vitamin C, echinacea, goldenseal, garlic, and more. Frequent dosing is important – Take 1 or 2 capsules of EHB every 3-4 hours.
- Take Triple Flu Defense more often. Triple Flu Defense is a homeopathic remedy that both boosts your body’s ability to attack viruses and helps to address the symptoms that a virus causes.
- Take Berberine, an herb that kills both bacteria and yeast, so we can use it during a cold to prevent it from becoming bronchitis or bacterial pneumonia, and (unlike antibiotics) it also fights off yeast.
Decrease and help move phlegm:
- Use salt. Gargle and do a nasal rinse (careful to use distilled water). I don’t recommend using a filled neti pot. All you need is about 1 teaspoon of saltwater for a quick rinse through your sinuses to help thin the phlegm and keep it moving out.
- Take HMC, which is a natural anti-histamine. It reduces the amount of liquid that is pouring out of your nose when you catch a virus. Remember, bacteria love liquid, so when we reduce the liquid, we decrease the chances of a bacteria hanging out and causing trouble.
- Take NAC (N-acetylcysteine) a nutrient that helps to thin phlegm and is especially helpful if you find that the phlegm is not moving, if you have sinus congestion or a cough that is not productive.
Calm the cough:
- Take Respiguard and an herbal cough syrup. Respiguard contains herbs that boost immune function, kill bacteria, and soothe a sore throat. Herbal cough syrups contain herbs that help to HEAL a cough (not just suppress it). Liquid formulas are especially good for children (or adults) who don’t swallow pills.
- Drink “Throat Coat” tea (by Traditional Medicinals) to soothe a sore throat. May add raw honey.
If you have gluten sensitivity, and especially if you recently started avoiding gluten (within the past year), then you are likely to be more susceptible to viruses and other infections. It also means that it could take extra time and support for you to recover. Avoiding gluten and taking daily immune support is going to be your best bet to avoid getting sick.
Dr. Doni’s Natural Cold Medicine Cabinet
I want to make it easy to prepare your medicine cabinet with these natural solutions, so I’ve created a Natural Cold Medicine Cabinet for adults, for kids, and for those who need continued immune support.
- Natural Medicine Cabinet: EHB and HMC
- Kid’s Natural Medicine Cabinet: Respiguard and Herbal Cough Syrup
- Immune Boost: Triple Flu Defense and Genoma Security
- Extra Immune Boost: ARA, Vitamin A, and Zinc
There are many cold remedies out there. These are the ones that I’ve found to be most effective for myself and for patients over the years. I encourage you to have these cold remedies always on hand because as I mentioned, the best way to beat a virus is to start addressing it immediately. You should then find that you start to feel better within 1 to 4 days.
If you find yourself sick and not recovering, or if you don’t have these items in stock, reach out to my office right away so that I can help you, or send you the remedies you need, so that we can get you up and well – the sooner the better.
Here is a more complete list of natural cold remedies if you wish to go further: 17 Cold Remedies You’ve Never Heard Of.
Don’t wait too long! If days go by and you keep coughing or feeling congested, then we have more work to do, but it’s still possible to help your body recover. Even then, sometimes antibiotics, prednisone, and/or inhalers are necessary—especially when you are stressed or if you are eating foods to which you are reacting to (or just recently eliminated them).
You see, when your body is busy creating an immune response to your food, it can’t do a good job fighting off viruses. Plus the inflammation created by food (especially dairy and gluten) and leaky gut, creates an environment where it is easy for a virus or bacteria to take hold and difficult for your body to keep up.
If you do need to take antibiotics, then make sure that you also take a probiotic* in order to prevent a backward turn in your health once the infection is gone. The most likely cause of a cold is having just had a cold. So as soon as the cold is over, it is important to keep up your immune support, good sleep, avoiding sugar and alcohol, and dealing with food sensitivities, so that you are less likely to catch another infection back to back.
I find that when I can support patients through recovering from one infection without antibiotics, then they are significantly less likely to need antibiotics during the next infection.
From then on, the likelihood of bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses decreases over time. Especially when we address leaky gut, blood sugar imbalances and cortisol issues.
Stay Healthy this Season!
I wish you all the best in avoiding the flu this season. A couple more things to help you: First, many people ask me about whether or not to get the flu vaccine. Here’s an article that does a good job summarizing the potential risks. Either way, I recommend that you use Triple Flu Defense and follow my guidelines above to support your body to fight off viruses on its own.
Also, I conducted a couple of Facebook Live sessions on this topic. If you want to tune into the next Facebook Live session, please “Like” my page: https://facebook.com/drdoniwilson. Here are the two sessions in one convenient playlist:
Lastly, download Dr. Doni’s Cold and Flu Tips so you can save them and have them on hand when you need them:
Let’s get you through the cold/flu season. Again, please reach out to my office if you need particular help – or if you need a rush on any of the above items.
Empowering Your Wellness – Naturally,
17th October 2019
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.