This fall, and leading into winter, has been the ultimate test for what is working against the cold and flu. My fiancé is an elementary school teacher, and I have been spending a lot of time in the Stanford medical library. Together we have a combination of what seems to be an endless line of sick children sneezing and coughing on every square inch of her body, and stressed out, sleep deprived medical students that all seem to have tuberculosis or the plague.
This year I thought that if we could successfully fend off numerous viruses and bacteria in both of our environments, then perhaps I would have a recipe for success for others. Even with two different immune systems, susceptibilities and similar but different diets, there is a common foundation that has fought off illness each time for both of us.
Top 3 Cold and Flu Prevention Lifestyle Tips
1. Don’t stay up late and enough sleep: Getting to sleep early is one of the best and easiest ways to boost your immune system. If you think you are starting to get sick, go to bed by 9:30 or earlier. Adults need 7-8.5 hours, while teenagers and children need more.
A recent study took 164 healthy men and women with an average age of 30, infected them with the cold virus and quarantined everyone to see who got sick. Adults who averaged five or six hours nightly during the study were four times more likely to catch the cold than people who slept at least seven hours per night. Of those who slept more than six hours, only 18 percent got colds.
2. Don’t overtrain at the gym but get enough exercise: I can’t tell you how many times I use to get a cold from overtraining and being exposed to sick people at the gym. If you are starting to feel fatigued or achy, skip the gym. Missing one day is better than one week.
3. Don’t go overboard on sugar, flour based foods and alcohol: This one is more challenging during the holidays, but the fact is that this combination depletes B1, folate, B12, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and glutathione.
The Top Supplements for Colds and Flu for 2015/2016
This formula uses the root, seed, leaf and flower of the echinacea plant in a tincture form, thereby enhancing the immune building capabilities of each part instead of just the leaf or flower.
Echinacea Proven Effective Against the Common Cold
A meta-analysis has confirmed my own results with echinacea, finding that it decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58% and the duration of a cold by 1.4 days. This percentage is most likely influenced by other remedies being used, and the timing of use once exposed.
I have found that two droppers 2x a day for a week as needed to be the most effective approach. After this, take a break for 4-7 days of use because it becomes less effective.
In the old video game Super Mario Brothers, mushrooms would restore your health by getting an additional heart to your life meter. This is what mushrooms do in real life. I have always been a huge advocate of mushrooms – especially medical mushrooms like Cordyceps, Reishi, Maitake, Chaga and Coriolus. The heath benefits are a mile long, and research will continue to figure out how these alien fungi work.
Medicinal mushrooms are considered to be adaptogens. Adaptogens increase the body’s resistance to physical (heat, cold and exertion), chemical (toxins and heavy metals) and biological (bacteria and viruses) stressors. What makes them special is that they help modulate the body’s stress response so that it does not overreact to extreme physical, mental, emotional or chemical stress which depletes cells of vital energy.
Cordyceps May Be Protective Against the Flu
Cordyceps seem to be the best fit for people who are prone to stress, fatigue, chronic coughs and poor sleep. These are the people who push themselves too hard at work, in the gym and at home. Cordyceps help you adapt to these stressors that would normally decrease immunity. See the flu study link in the bullet list for evidence against the flu.
Studies have found that Cordyceps help the following:
- Auto-Immune Disorders
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fatty Liver
- Liver Damage
Like vitamin C, Cordyceps will not work well in small doses. The dose of 5-6 a day split into two doses on an empty stomach seems to work well, but Mushroom Science had told me you can go higher.
Reishi May Be Protective Against the Flu
Reishi has an impressive list of research that isn’t utilized enough in the US. In Asia, Reishi is highly revered and for good reason. It has been my experience that Reishi works best for those who are prone to allergies, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, bronchitis (Cordyceps as well) and general low immunity to begin with. Take a look at what it can do:
- Anti-allergy activity
- Bronchitis-preventative effect, inducing regeneration of bronchial epithelium
- Antibacterial against Staphloccoci, Streptococci and Baccillus pneumonia
- Antiviral against the flu
- Lowers blood pressure
- Enhances bone marrow nucleated cell proliferation
- Cardiotonic action, lowering serum cholesterol levels with no effect on triglycerides, enhancing myocardial metabolism and improving the coronary arteries
- Central depressant and perpheral anticholinergic actions on the automatic nervous system reduce the effects of caffeine and relax muscles
- Enhanced natural killer cells in mice
- Expectorant and antitussive properties in mice
- Anti-HIV activity
- Improved adrenocortical function
- Increased production of Interleukin-1 and Interleukin-2
- Liver-protective and detoxifying effects
- Protection against ionizing radiation
- Slight anti-ulcer activity
- Increase white blood cells and hematoglobin
Follow the instructions on the bottle for the Reishi tincture.
The Viking Solution to Illness
Cod liver oil is a superior product over fish oils due to the vitamin A and D content, as well as an often higher amount of DHA. Vitamin D has become well known for its ability to fight against illness. Individuals with lower vitamin D levels (<30 ng/ml) were more likely to self-report a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with sufficient levels. Cod liver oil has been found to reduce the incidence of viral respiratory infections, not only because of vitamin D but also because of vitamin A.
There are many cod liver oils on the market, some cheap and some expensive. This is one of those products where a cheap, heated, highly processed version that removes vitamins or adds synthetic ones back in cannot be substituted for a truly raw, pristine version that many of our ancestors used. While the Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil appears to be good, I have found that myself and others who are sensitive to high histamines do better with the Virgin Cod Liver Oil.
The companies in Norway are using the old Norse way of processing cod liver oil. Rosita discovered that cinnamon is actually pro-oxidant when added to cod liver oil and instead use high quality vitamin E and rosemary (Norse people used birch bark as an antioxidant). Both have been tested extensively for metals and contaminants, and the bottle is sent to you is fresh. You can see the small batch process here. I recommend using cod liver oil daily in the fall and winter, then using only once a week during the spring and summer while using vitamin D.
Since the early days of Linus Pauling, vitamin C has been on trial for its effectiveness against the common cold, even though it is considered one of the most well known anti-viral agents to influenza. Despite the controversy and disagreement of the medical world, the research and biochemistry of vitamin C shows a positive benefit time and time again when the dosage is appropriate. If you go through the literature, you will find that the studies that fail to show a positive benefit are below 500mg, but as soon as you go over that amount with multiple dosages in a day due to the half life of vitamin C, the results change.
In a study of 463 students that used 1,000 milligrams every hour for 6 hours, then 3 times daily after that, reported flu and cold symptoms in the test group decreased 85% compared with the control group after the administration of megadose Vitamin C.
When you go through the biochemistry, you find that vitamin C is involved in almost everything. Read my article on vitamin C to learn more and read more studies.
Preparing for the Battle Against the Cold and Flu
What we have been doing is using vitamin C in two doses of 1000-1500mg, 1/2 to 1 tsp. cod liver oil and one of the mushrooms 2x a day as a preventative. If you start to feel something coming on, or you are around a lot of sick people, start using the echinacea tincture for a week with 2 droppers in water 2x a day. Stop after a week and take a break for 4-7 days. You can also increase your vitamin C as needed on the hour.
This has worked consistently, and will be my go to protocol for our clinical practice this season.
*If you have found some products that you swear by, feel free to share in the comment section. The less people that are sick, the lower the probability that we all get sick! If you are taking any medications or have any health conditions, always run these recommendations by your doctor first.