The majority of adults come down with about three colds every year and summer colds are not at all unusual. Consider that each of the colds you contract take from one to two weeks to get over and that’s a lot of down time each year. If you get more than three colds a year, you possibly need to take some boosting immune system steps. Even if you get less than three colds each year, your immune system can benefit from some of these tips to avoid colds.
Preventing Colds and Reducing Down Time
The best solutions to summer colds are to avoid them in the first place and that means keeping the germs that cause them from getting into your body. Hand washing and keeping kitchen and bath surfaces clean are a good place to start with this. Too much handwashing however can cause skin to dry out and even crack leaving an extra way for germs to enter your system. Integrative and functional medicine physician Frank Lipman, MD, offers a great solution for this – carry some lavender essential oil with you. It can help with sanitizing and soothe cracked, dry skin naturally. You can also cut down on your chances of getting colds or shorten the duration of colds using meditation, exercise and Qigong. A study from the University of Wisconsin in 2012 reported meditation can reduce the likelihood of contracting colds by as much as 50%, practicing Qigong was found in a study from the University of Virginia to reduce respiratory infections by 70%, and a study at Appalachian State University reported exercising at least 5 days weekly allowed participants to reduce down time with upper respiratory infections by 43 days.
Many experts including professor of exercise biochemistry at Loughborough University in England, Mike Gleeson, PhD and founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, Frank Lipman, MD, recommend probiotics for boosting immune system function. One study supporting the use of probiotics to avoid colds is from 2011 that reported participants taking probiotics had a 42% reduced chance of getting colds. You possibly know that probiotics help support digestion, but you may not know that they also play a role in regulation of metabolism and immune system function. In fact, at least 70% of your immune system is in the gut. Knowing that it makes sense that a healthy gut equals a healthy immune system.
Immune Boosting Foods
According to Anita Mirchandani, MS, RD, CDN, and other experts there are immune boosting foods that can help you reduce cold symptoms and feel better quicker.
Leafy Greens – Full of vitamin C, foods like spinach, kale, Swiss chard and arugula can help you fight off and reduce the duration of colds. The darker green your leafy green vegetables, the better. Vitamin C not only boosts immune system function especially neutrophils and macrophages cells, but also has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Some doctors advise taking as much as 1000 to 2000 mg. of a vitamin C supplement three times daily at the first sign of cold symptoms can help fight it off. You should of course check with your healthcare provider to make sure taking these high doses is safe for your particular situation. Others like Dr. Richard Nahas, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, who reviewed multiple studies report that 1 gram daily can help reduce cold symptoms by 8% which equals a day or two less of being sick.
Chicken Soup – No this isn’t just an old wives’ tale; chicken soup actually can help you get over colds faster for many reasons. First hot soup can make your scratchy or sore throat feel better. Second, being a liquid, chicken soup adds to your hydration and being hot liquid increases your body and airway temperatures which loosens up mucus according to Alissa Rumsey, RD, CDN, CNSC, CSCS and gives you cysteine, an amino acid, from cooked chicken containing similar properties to a bronchitis treatment drug.
Garlic – Dr. Rumsey also finds garlic useful in reducing cold symptoms as it has allicin with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Garlic also helps boost probiotics giving you that extra immune support edge. Many experts believe supplements of garlic can do as much good as eating garlic. In fact one British study found participants taking garlic supplements for 12 weeks were 63% less likely to catch a cold. Like with any alternative treatments, be sure to consult your healthcare provider before taking garlic supplements especially if you are on blood thinners.
Beef – If you eat meat, beef is an excellent source of zinc needed to build white blood cells that are part of the immune system. It also gives you extra protein to help your body build antibodies. If you are vegetarian or vegan, zinc is available in lozenge form or can be found in pumpkin seeds, spinach, nuts, and beans.
Herbs and Spices – There are several herbs and spices found to relieve cold symptoms. Turmeric, commonly found in curry, is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties and has been found to reduce the chances of colds, coughs and congestion. According to Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, member of Prevention’s advisory board, oregano, thyme, and mustard are also great at boosting immune system function.
Algae – AFA bluegreen algae is loaded with many of the nutrients we’ve talked about here and more. It’s a great source for antioxidant vitamins C, A, and E, amino acids, and other nutrients that protect immune cells, help produce more antiviral thymus helper cells, increase their activity, increase their circulation and increase B-cell activity that gives us more antibodies like IgA. For added immune system support, this mushroom algae supplement also has 6 of the most extensively researched mushrooms that show positive immune system support and that are useful in killing off bacteria, viruses, and yeast: reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake, Turkey Tail, and Agaricus blazei as well as astragalus, and beta glucan also known for their immune system support abilities.
Don’t let a cold ruin your summer plans. Be prepared with starting some of these lifestyle changes now to beef up your immune system and prevent colds in the first place and stock up on some of these immune system boosting foods to be ready to relieve cold symptoms if you do catch a cold. Less sick time, less suffering…. sounds good to me.
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