There’s nothing worse than coming down with a cold, and at this time of year almost every other person seems to be battling some kind of cough, sniffle, or nasty mix of both. When it comes to seasonal bugs, prevention is always better than cure.
Supercharge your immune system if you want to avoid being stricken by a cold. A daily dose of probiotics (kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi) will help your body to get ready to fight off any unwanted bug before it gets a chance to take hold. Thorough hand-washing will reduce your chances of catching the flu dramatically; flu germs can live for up two hours on any surface, so wash your hands with warm soapy water for up to twenty seconds each time, and dry with a paper towel if you can – especially when out in public. There’s no shame in keeping a gel hand sanitiser in your bag either.
Even in colder weather sipping water and staying hydrated throughout the day is a must, as is getting plenty of quality sleep and squeezing in those all-important immune-friendly nutrients at mealtimes (lean protein, with piles of brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables.)
With that in mind, no matter how hard you try to avoid them, catching the odd cold is sometimes inevitable, so what can you do to heal yourself once you’ve come down with a particularly vicious one?
First of all, rest, says Anne McIntyre, who is a holistic nutritionist and is based in Lewisham in the United Kingdom:
“Listen to your body when you are ill,” she tells Lumity. “If you feel tired, if you feel sleepy, then go to bed. There are no medals for soldiering on, you’ll just stay ill for longer.
“The more you rest, the quicker you’ll heal. We all seem to feel guilty about having duvet days but they really can cut a cold’s staying power down dramatically. If you’re resting, your immune system can go in and fight off whatever you’ve caught, without having to worry about looking after other parts of your body.”
Minimise all stress in your life the second you feel as though you’re coming down with a cold, McIntyre says:
“Chronic stress weakens your immune system over time,” she advises. “Try and find ways to cope. If I have a patient who is particularly worried about a certain situation I ask them what the worst possible outcome could be and what they would do to cope.
“Sometimes it throws up new, exciting options they hadn’t even thought of and that helps them problem solve whatever they’re dealing with and gives them clarity. But mostly it reassures them that what they’re worried about is almost always something that is temporary and the worst case scenario will never happen. When you’re ill, cut out all stress, forget arguments, and really see your health as your main priority – everything else can wait.”
McIntyre adds that if you turn your reaction to stress on its head, it can change your whole outlook on life, as well as being hugely beneficial to your physical health:
“If you’re the sort of person who drives through traffic swearing at every single red light, try instead being thankful for every time you’re forced to stop and sit there making a list of everything you have in your life that you love,” she suggests. “Try it for a day, then if that works try it the next day, soon not being stressed becomes a habit.”
Focus on consuming lots of fluids, including inflammation-fighting raw ginger, turmeric and honey tea, and drink lots of water to help your body flush out whatever is ailing you.
Eat small, easy-to-digest meals that bring you emotional comfort, as well as providing healing nutrients. Green juices, or chicken and chunky vegetable soups are ideal, or if you like spicy foods, aim for spicy Thai curries packed with anti-viral and anti-bacterial ginger, green vegetables, garlic, chilli, red peppers and coconut milk.
McIntyre says that sometimes having a cold is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and start focusing on your health: “The kind of people who catch colds frequently are almost always stressed-out types who spend their entire lives jet-lagged and sleep-deprived,” she explains.
“Our bodies need rest, they need nutrients and they need balance. Play is as important as work; too many people forget that and push themselves to the limit until they end up so ill they are forced to go to bed for a few days.”
McIntyre summarises that once your cold symptoms are in full-swing, healing yourself with natural remedies will get your mind focused on getting well, rather than dwelling on your symptoms and being ill, which in turn will help ease physical symptoms: “I am a big fan of steaming the sinuses over a sink full of hot water with a few drops of Eucalyptus essential oil. It is antiviral, antibacterial and decongestant,” she says.
“Gargling with a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water helps ease a cough, and you can’t beat a walk in the fresh air during the middle of the day. Even if in the back of your mind you think these things won’t work, it distracts you from feeling ill, so that’s not a bad thing.
“You probably won’t feel up to it, but if it happens to be a sunny winter day and you can face sitting or, better yet, walking around outside for twenty minutes then the vitamin D will give you an emotional lift, so try to force yourself out of bed in the middle of the day and you can always go back to bed in the afternoon if it’s too much.”
McIntyre adds: “The mind-body link is something to keep in mind when you have a nasty cold; if you sit around wailing that you’re dying then you will start to feel worse than ever physically as well as mentally, so try and keep your spirits up. Watch ‘feel good’ movies, meditate, dive into a good book and take long relaxing steamy baths, or showers.
“See your cold as a positive thing. Yes, they’re awful but they’re also a break from your usual routine where you can really get into the habit of looking after yourself. With a small taste of how miserable it is feeling unwell temporarily you may develop some healthy new routines that prevent you from getting ill again in future.”
What are your tips for fighting off colds? Let us know in the comments below…