See the bottom of this article for a quick guide but come back up and read it all! Okay, here is your down and dirty cheat sheet on how to make yourself get better fast! These are the methods and exact supplements that many naturopathic physicians use. First off, make sure you have an upper respiratory infection, cold or flu and not something more dangerous such as a kidney infection showing symptoms similar to the flu such as fever and aches.
Speaking of fever, let me touch on that a bit. Fever is the body’s natural response to infection. It aids in the immune response. Too many people are quick to beat it down when logically they should be supporting it and helping the body bring on the fever to better kill the pathogens invading your body. So, before you pop that Advil or Tylenol, remember that a fever is a good and natural response! Just keep an eye on it and don’t let it get out of control. Here is a guide for treating fever from the Mayo Clinic. For adults, they say it’s safe to let it ride until it is consistently over 103, children and infants- up to 102. Read the link and use your best judgement. A warm bath or a nice cup of hot tea might help your body turn up the heat on the infection!
Digesting food is a huge energy drain on the body. Of course, you need to eat to survive, but during your time of illness you should eat less (and perhaps consider food fasting if you are healthy and vital enough to do so) than you would while you’re not sick. In addition, the foods you eat should be easy to digest. Do not shove prime rib and pizza down your pie hole during this time! No pie either! Wisely choose the foods you put into your body during this time- vegetable soup, fruit, lentils, maybe some light fish or a little chicken in the soup. Make sure you drink plenty of water or a low-sugar beverage containing minerals such as these natural versions of Pedialyte or herbal teas.
You have a couple of different approach options here.
- Treat with natural antibiotics. Antimicrobial herbs can really give your body the assist they need to overcome that pesky cold. The problem with these types of products is that most people think they do not affect the body’s microbiome like prescription antibiotics do. There is no evidence to support this view. While they may not be as strong as antibiotics at normal dosing amounts, they will still kill off both the good and bad bacteria in your body. Always follow natural or prescription anti-biotics with probiotics, in either supplement or food form. The exception to this approach is the amazing throat spray mentioned below.
- Treat with immune-stimulating supplements. The idea here is to avoid killing the infection directly and instead boost your body’s own immune system to destroy the pathogens faster. In this category, I would place mostly vitamins and probiotics. The issue including herbs here is that we do not have great research into which herbs have direct antimicrobial properties and which have all/mostly immune stimulating properties. So, all we can do is use herbs based on their historical use, but the native Americans and ancient Chinese didn’t measure immune cells vs decreasing infectious cells. So, it’s not very well known which do what exactly. If you have a delicate or already damaged GI tract that you’re trying to repair, I would go this route.
- Use both herbal antibiotics and immune boosting vitamins. Many people go this route, as it is obviously the most effective.
If you want to go the natural antibiotics route, here you go:
Great Herbal Antibiotics
This baby is my go-to! If anyone in my house starts getting sick, I start spraying! At the very earliest sign that I might be getting sick, I start spraying…and I spray generously. If I feel that sore throat coming on, I will spray 4 or 5 or even 6 pumps into my throat all throughout the day. Yes, I carry the little bottle with me and put it on my nightstand to use if I wake in the night.
With this product, you’re not really consuming a lot of the liquid. So, I get spray happy. I would say well over half the time, if I start to feel sick and start spraying immediately, I do not end up getting sick and the spray nips it in the bud. With young kids in school bringing home the Ebola virus every other week, I keep a case of these at the house!
Priority One- Bio Vegetarian– In naturopathic med school, these were almost eaten like Skittles. No one wanted to be sick during that hellacious time! The great thing with these is that they also include vitamins A, C and the mineral zinc- each having lots of supporting research in immune boosting actions.
Many naturopathic physicians recommend a loading dose of two tablets every hour you’re awake for the first day. If you are really sick, or have been sick for a long time, this can continue to the second day as well. After the loading dose is over, take two tablets 4-5 times per day until you are better! If the tablets are more than you can swallow, you can substitute the above product with Vital Nutrients Herbal Biotic capsules. If you just can’t stand to even swallow capsules, you can use Herb Pharm Rapid Immune Boost liquid. You’ll need several ounces of it.
Great Immune Stimulating Supplements
Genestra Vitamin A–Mulsion– The therapeutic dosing on Vitamin A is quite high. Many naturopathic physicians recommend doses from 100,000 IU to 200,000 IU per day for one or two days, given in divided doses. A standard dosing schedule is 50,000 IU two-to-four times per day for one or two days. If you take too much at one time, you can get severe headaches. So, don’t take all 200,000 IU at once. If you experience any headaches from 50,000 IU, just lower the at-once dose even further.
Don’t forget that vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and should be taken with some fat-containing food for optimal absorption. It doesn’t take a lot. A teaspoon of olive oil in your soup or a small bite of nut butter will do. As a refresher, vitamin A is a micronutrient that has been shown to stimulate the body’s immune system in a variety of ways to fight both bacterial and viral infections. Some studies have shown that Vitamin A actually alters the gut microbiome, increasing the beneficial bacteria belonging to the Lactobacillus family! In the presence of pathogens, these friendly bacteria increase immune cells in the body, such as interferons, that travel throughout the body and fight infections! Amazing! That makes a good case for taking your probiotics regularly!
Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D3 Liquid– This is 1,000 IU per drop (flavorless) and very easy to dose. In a meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials comprising 10,933 participants taking vitamin D, supplementation showed a significant reduction in the rate of getting an acute respiratory tract infection. The most protection was seen in people with vitamin D blood levels less than 25nmol/L whom started taking daily or weekly doses. This means if you have low vitamin D levels, you will benefit the most from daily supplementation, as people currently supplementing with good doses already have immune protection!
If you are NOT already taking vitamin D at at least 2,000 IU per day- Many naturopathic physicians support vitamin D dosing during cold, flus and upper respiratory infections at 1,000 IU per pound of bodyweight (up to 200,000 IU per day) for 2-3 days. So, if you’re 150lbs, the dose is 150,000 IU. If you’re 250lbs, the dose is maxed at 200,000 IU per day for 2-3 days. Once this short dosing is complete, resume daily dosing at recommended levels.
If you are already taking daily vitamin D at atleast 2,000 IU per day- Good for you! Consider bumping it up to 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU for the duration of your symptoms. Regarding regular dosing, as researchers continue to study vitamin D dosages in controlled trials, it is becoming more and more clear that DAILY dosages of vitamin D is superior to larger less frequent dosing. This goes back to how we have evolved as a species making our own vitamin D- living outdoors in the sunlight before we hid in air-conditioned houses and buildings all day and covered our bodies with dresses, suits and sunscreen!
Daily vitamin D dosing recommendations vary a bit from group to group, anywhere from the RDA of 600 IU per day for an adult to 5,000 IU per day by the Vitamin D council. The safe upper limit daily dose ranges from 4,000 IU per day to 10,000 IU per day, with research studies giving patients up to 40,000 IU per day for months without many side effects and single dosages up to 200,000 IU per day (and even higher) without side effects.
The important thing to remember is to get vitamin D lab tests after you’ve been on a regular dosing schedule for a few months. This way, you can know for sure you’re on the right path. Optimal blood levels for 25-hydroxyvitamin D is typically suggested to be between 50 and 80 ng/ml. Personally, I try to take 5,000 IU per day. That way, I am on the high side, and when I miss dosages occasionally, the higher dose makes up for it. If I’m out in the sun in a bathing suite for 30 min or longer, I will skip that day’s dose. The amount of vitamin D your body makes in the time it takes for your skin to turn slightly pink is about 10,000 to 25,000 IUs, depending on your pigment.
If you prefer the vegan version of vitamin D, click here
Life Extension Enhanced Zinc Lozenges– Unfortunately, there isn’t a zinc lozenge that I absolutely love, but I think this one is probably the best one available because it contains the most effective type of zinc (zinc acetate) as shown by many studies. It also has a good therapeutic dose per lozenge (18.75mg), which will provide well over 75mg per day of zinc if taken as directed. This 75mg per day dose is the minimum dose shown to be most effective in randomized clinical trials.
If you have an issue with that one, my second favorite one is Davinci Labs brand version. It contains 23 mg of zinc gluconate & zinc citrate with only 1 gram of sugar. Dosing- Suck on one lozenge every 2 waking hours for the duration of your illness. Don’t worry, studies have dosed zinc at much higher levels with few side effects. The good thing with the Life Extension product is that the directions on the bottle are congruent with our opinion. Just be careful when using high doses of zinc for prolonged periods because it can decrease copper absorption.
Studies have shown the safety limit to be about 60mg of zinc per day for 10 weeks. Further, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine has declared the upper safe limit of zinc to be at 40mg per day indefinitely for adults.
Unfortunately, zinc is another micronutrient, like vitamin D, that is severely lacking in the population. Estimates state that approximately 2 billion people worldwide are zinc deficient! So, don’t forget to include it in your daily regimen! Most multivitamins have a decent amount of zinc.
Hydrotherapy is the process of using hot and cold water applications to stimulate the body in a variety of ways. This can be stimulating blood flow, stimulating lymph flow or even stimulating immune cells. Admittedly, there are not a lot of great research studies on alternating hot and cold water applications. Afterall, there is no return on investment to study this topic. However, many naturopathic physicians use various forms of hydrotherapy regularly in their practice. Further, the most dramatic medical reaction I have ever personally had came from hydrotherapy (and I have tried just about everything from procedures to supplements to very high-dose IVs).
A great application of hydrotherapy for this topic would be to use alternating hot and cold compresses on the throat region if you have a sore throat or on the center of the face if you have sinus pressure. You will need a bowl of hot water, a bowl of cold water and four small towels. You will probably need to heat the water slightly in the microwave or on the stove if your faucet doesn’t get very hot. A few ice cubes will cool the water down sufficiently. Adjust to your ability to withstand the temperatures. People with stronger constitutions can withstand more extreme temperatures. Don’t go crazy.
- Start off with hot. Soak one small towel in hot water and wring it out so that it is barely not dripping. Lie down and place it upon your throat/center of your face. It should be hot but obviously not hot enough to burn you. If you are performing this on someone else, test the cloth on the inside of your forearm and then gently place a small part of the towel down on the other person before lying the entire thing down, to give them a change to let you know if it’s too hot. If the towel is a comfortable hot temperature, cover it with a dry towel. Allow this to rest until the wet towel is no longer hot, usually about three minutes.
- After the time is up, quickly switch the used hot towel with the fresh cold towel that has been soaked and wrung out, barely not dripping. Place the fourth and final fresh dry towel over the cold towel. Allow this to rest for only about 30 seconds, perhaps one minute if you are of stronger constitution.
- Repeat the alternating hot/cold process 3-4 times and you’re done! Do it again tomorrow!
Neti rinse, or nasal irrigation, has become very popular over the last decade, after being highlighted on daytime TV shows such as Oprah. It’s simply the act of pouring salt water through one nostril to flush out some of the sinus cavities and rinse out mucus. Sometimes there are other ingredients added such as sodium bicarbonate (to neutralize the pH), xylitol (to reduce swelling and fight pathogens) and even antimicrobial herbal extracts.
There are many studies showing that neti/nasal irrigation is useful in treating sinusitis. There are also instructional videos on YouTube, if you have never performed the procedure before. It’s definitely weird the first time, but I haven’t gone one illness without doing it since I first started many years ago. Try this a couple of times per day while sick!
You can purchase the neti bottle and salt packets here: Neti Xlear
I’m not sure on the effectiveness of mineral baths to actually battle acute colds and flu, but they can definitely aid the body in bringing about a fever if the body is attempting to warm itself up, they can provide much needed relaxation and they just feel good when you’re sick! Plus, you can get in some much needed minerals that the average diet is typically lacking in. One study even showed that transdermal magnesium decreased fibromyalgia symptoms!
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)- an alkaline substance found naturally in the body, used medicinally for indigestion, cleaning teeth and even to alkalize the body in kidney failure patients. One small box per tub. Found in the baking isle.
- Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). The study provided in the first link used about one pound per 15 gallons to significantly increase magnesium levels in the body. Personally, I typically use one 3lb bag per bath.
- Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate)- used in bath bombs and in baking to prevent powders from caking and eggs and whipped cream from collapsing for that perfect meringue. Found in the baking isle. If you have a clotting disorder, heart condition or any other condition where you need to regulate potassium, you may want to leave this one out!
- Feel free to add your own assortment of essential oils!
- Diet- eat very healthy and light meals!
- Throat spray- Wise Woman Herbals- Throat Mist– spray generously all day!
- Antimicrobial Supplements- Priority One- Bio Vegetarian– take two per waking hour for two days and then two tablets 4-5 times per day until symptoms are gone!
- Immune Boosting Supplements-
- Genestra Vitamin A–Mulsion– from 100,000 IU to 200,000 IU per day for one or two days, given in divided doses. A standard dosing schedule is 50,000 IU two-to-four times per day for one or two days. If you take too much at one time, you can get severe headaches. So, don’t take all 200,000 IU at once!
- Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D3 Liquid– If you are NOT already taking vitamin D at atleast 2,000 IU per day- 1,000 IU per pound of bodyweight (up to 200,000 IU per day) for 2-3 days. If you are already taking daily vitamin D at atleast 2,000 IU per day- Consider bumping it up to 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU for the duration of your symptoms.
- Life Extension Enhanced Zinc Lozenges– Suck on one lozenge every 2 waking hours for the duration of your illness.
- Hydrotherapy- see above
- Neti Rinse- see above
- Mineral Baths- see above