Colds and Coughs and Flu, Oh My!

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a particularly gnarly strain of flu going around this season, but contrary to popular belief you don't automatically become more susceptible to colds, coughs and flu when the weather cools.

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That said, when our immune systems are compromised, we’re far more susceptible to catching dreaded lurgy germs. What compromises an otherwise healthy person's immune system? Well, as the weather cools, we have a tendency to hibernate more. We hang out indoors more, eat more "comfort food", drink more alcohol, stress more (holidays, year-end, new year) and exercise less. All of these things can lead to a weakened immune system. And let's not forget that we're suddenly surrounded by people who are suddenly sick because... yup, you guessed it - they all do the above too and then they cough and sneeze on you or on the things you touch. It's vicious!!

Stress is also a huge contributor to a weakened immune system. Here in Santa Barbara, we are 7 weeks into one of the most catastrophic and devastating periods of our history. First we had the Thomas Fire which saw thousands of us evacuated for weeks on end only to return for a few days before being hit with the otherworldly destructive and fatal mudslides. We’re reeling. We’re emotionally spent. We feel helpless. We’re helping so much we’re not taking care of ourselves. We’re consoling those around us who have lost homes, friends, family members. We’re running on empty. This is when we get hit.


So, how do we avoid getting hit?

In short, we protect ourselves. We make sure our bodies are as strong and as healthy as they can possibly be. There are simple things we can do, which are good all year round....

  • eat less sugary and processed crap
  • drink more water and herbal teas
  • eat more vitamin and nutrient-filled fruits, veggies and whole foods
  • wash your hands with warm water & soap
  • get proper sleep
  • if you don't already, omit dairy, which produces excess phlegm making our bodies job more difficult
  • and consider adding a few immune boosting supplements to your daily regimen.

Start with warm lemon water every morning. That morning boost of vitamin C, paired with warm water helps flush toxins and aids in digestion. When our body is working well it's better equipped to fight off a sniffle or a sore throat before it grows into something more significant. It is said that if you can catch a bug within the first 6 hours of symptoms you have a 90% chance of killing it. Pro Tip: use a reusable straw and/or rinse your mouth out with water after drinking. Do not brush your teeth for at least 20 minutes after drinking - you’ll literally grind in the acid. Acidic foods attack your teeth’s enamel and will destroy your teeth over time.

 

When we need a little more help, here are a handful of boosters I swear by. My general approach is to throw everything I have at it!!! I can’t afford to get sick and I certainly don’t want to bring my family down with me.

 

The moment that tickle presents itself in my throat, I do an old-school salt water gargle. Don’t underestimate the power of this. You know how salty ocean water heals cuts and scratches, well it’s basically doing the same thing in your throat, calming the inflammation and supporting our body in doing its job.

 

Then, I start taking my mushrooms. If you don’t have medicinal mushrooms in your house, get some. Mushrooms have insane medicinal qualities. They are in fact one of the most researched natural medicines in the world. Mushrooms have been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years and many strains are known to be anti-inflammatory, immune boosting and some even fight cancer. Whilst single strains can be very potent for certain ailments. I love a good immune boosting blend. Host Defense MyCoMmunity - Comprehensive Immune Support is my absolute go to.

 

Additionally, I start adding ginger and garlic to everything I cook and just slice it up and drop it in a mug with hot water to sip on throughout the day. Both ginger and garlic are anti-inflammatory and immune boosting powerhouses. They also support the circulatory and cardiovascular systems easing pressure throughout our bodies. Add it to soups, sauces, smoothies. So easy. So good for you!

 

If I haven’t kicked it by this point (12-24 hours max), what typically happens next is that I start getting the crazy sore throat in the evening and my chest starts to feel heavy…. This is my last chance before I succumb, time to bring out the big guns.

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Olive Leaf Complex with a Manuka Honey (UMF 10+) chaser spritzed with Singer's Saving Grace.

The olive leaf, as a medicine, has been traced back to the ancient Egyptians. The health benefits of this leaf are truly remarkable. Not just anti-inflammatory and immune boosting, it also has anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant powers. In short, it is a germ-fighting powerhouse. Barleans makes a great one with a little minty flavor, even my 8-year-old is cool with it, especially with the manuka chaser….

At $40-$60 a bottle, Manuka Honey isn’t for everyday toast or tea. Mine is clearly marked “for medicinal use only” in black Sharpie!! Made by bees in New Zealand who feed off the indigenous Manuka plant, this is one potent honey. Honey is a great healer in general, however, the Manuka shrub contains methylglyoxal (mgo) which when excreted by bees in the form of honey, creates a potent anti-bacterial, anti-viral superfood. It has been known to treat everything from acne, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (sibo), staph infections, flesh wounds, burns, allergies, eczema, sore throats and the common cold. Pro Tip: Make certain the honey comes from a reputable source and is UMF rated 10+ or higher (10+ is good. 16+ is even better). There are some fakey blends out there so do your research. If the UMF rating is below 10+ it’s basically only as good as regular honey and Manuka only comes from New Zealand.

I fill a teaspoon with Manuka Honey and pump 1-3 sprays of Singer’s Saving Grace on it and slowly consume. Allow it to fully coat your throat over a few “bites”. This combo is our before we leave the house and before we go to bed, sucker punch. Singer’s Saving Grace “Fortifies and protects throat tissues, increasing resilience and resistance. Increases throat circulation. Thins, loosens, and clears thick mucus.” I can attest to the efficacy of this. I always have a bottle on my bedside table and give a little spray whenever my throat feels a little battered.

Oregano Oil is not for the faint of heart. In liquid form it’s brutal. One drop is all you need. It’s crazy potent and honestly pretty gnarly tasting. I put one drop onto a spoon (to make sure I get only one drop) then mix that into a glass of water. Some health-care professionals regard Oregano Oil as far superior to antibiotics, without any of the side effects. It is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiallergenic, it aids in digestion and is a powerful immunity booster. I warn you though, this shit is strong!!! Pro Tip: one of my favorite ways to use oregano oil is to put two-three drops into a large pot of soup. Be careful, too many drops will ruin your soup. Drop onto a spoon first. A little goes a long way!!! You can buy in pill form too but this is mixed with other ingredients and is not as potent - I do like Gaia Herbs Liquid-Phyto Capsules as an alternative.

Zinc & Elderberry Lozenges These are a tasty cold & flu fighting treat to have on hand. Zinc is known to support the immune system and elderberries are high in flavonoids which support the body in fighting off infections, swelling, inflammation, fatigue and a host of other cold and flu symptoms.

Yin Chiao One of my first ever jobs was working in a Chinese medicinal herb shop in London. From a young age, I have valued and turned to the powers of Chinese herbs and acupuncture as they truly support the root causes of issues. Yin Chiao supports all body systems to help deal with imbalances brought on by the changing seasons. The combination of herbs in this formula has been fighting off colds and coughs for hundreds of years.   

Well, there you have it, my cold/cough and flu medicine cabinet. Take care of yourself, get proper sleep, drink lots of water and warm herbal teas, add garlic and ginger (turmeric too if it’s not already part of your daily regimen), and always have olive leaf, oregano oil and manuka honey on hand. These are the vital components of my medicine cabinet and come into play for a whole host of other ailments too.

This is what works for me - I don’t want to jinx it but I can’t think of the last time I was down for more than one afternoon with a dreaded lurgy. Do you have a secret germ-fighting weapon that I should know about?? Please share it with us!!!