A few weeks back I was struck down with a cold. Unless you have the immune system of an ox, it’s bound to happen at some point over the winter months. I managed to nip mine in the bud in just a couple of days by being careful about what I ate, taking lots of supplements and drinking various hot concoctions. So I thought I’d share with you some cold busting tips in case you get inflicted during party season.
1. Eat light and drink warm things
The first thing I try to do when I realise I’m coming down with something is to take more care over what I eat. When your body is fighting something it needs to put all its energy into that, not into digesting that grande latte and chocolate croissant you just ate for breakfast.
Try to avoid dairy completely, at least for the first couple of days, and avoid anything too heavy, stodgy or fried. Eating little and often is better than having big heavy meals. Ideally start the day with a vitamin and antioxidant rich fresh fruit smoothie such as blueberry or pomegranante. Fresh carrot and ginger juice will also give you a hit of cold-busting nutrients. For lunch and dinner try steamed vegetables to keep in the vitamins and homemade (non-dairy) soups.
Swap coffee for herbal teas and drink plenty of water (and/or caffeine-free tea) to keep you hydrated throughout the day. I always find the first sign of getting a cold is excessive thirst. I drink loads of water every day anyway but if I’m coming down with something I drink even more. If your throat is hurting, hot water with fresh ginger, honey (Manuka is best) and fresh lemon juice is an old favourite for soothing it.
2. Boost your immune system from the inside
When you first start feeling something coming on, that’s the time to try and nip it in the bud by boosting your immune system. Fresh fruit and veg as I suggested above will help but there are also some supplements that will kick your system into fighting mode.
First I reach for my trusty NAC ( N-acetylcysteine) which you should really take daily but is extra important when your immune system is weakened. NAC helps dissolve mucus and supports the liver in getting rid of toxins. Read more about the powers of NAC in my full post here (you’ll notice it’s good for hangovers too). The usual daily dose is 3 per day but I take more when I’m ill (or hungover). As with any supplement you won’t absorb it all in one go so it’s best to take them every couple of hours to keep the levels up throughout the day. Don’t take on an empty stomach though as it makes me feel a bit sick – even just with a bit of fruit will be fine.
As well as NAC there are some other immune boosting supplements out there you’re probably familiar with. Vitamin C really does help; I get my fix from freshly squeezed orange juice but you can buy it in supplement form too. I recommend Biocare or Solgar as vitamin/supplement suppliers; the quality is very high and poor quality supplements can be counter-productive.
Another huge immune system player is Zinc. Definitely pick up some of this when you feel a sore throat or sniffle coming on. Zinc is also brilliant for keeping your skin and hair healthy, helps wound healing and helps maintain your sense of taste and smell, so it’s worth investing in and taking daily. This Zinc Ascorbate formula from Biocare contains Zinc and Vitamin C so is a great cold busting option. Take zinc with food as it can cause nausea if on an empty stomach. Vitamin A and E are also antioxidants which can help boost the immune system.
3. Open your airwaves
The most frustrating thing for me when I have a cold is not being able to breathe properly, especially at night. I have to breathe through my nose, not my mouth, or I can’t sleep as am afflicted with dry mouth within seconds and if I can’t take proper deep breaths I feel claustrophobic. (It’s all very stressful.) So when I’m ill, about half an hour before bed I start trying to loosen up my airwaves which inevitably are blocked by the evening.
A great natural remedy for this is plant extracts such as eucalyptus, menthol, camphor, cajuput and clove. The essential oils would work on their own but if you want an all in one solution, Olbas Oil is a great decongestant for relieving blocked noses . I also love Tiger Balm which is good for musclular aches but also has that strong menthol smell which will open up your airways (and make your eyes water if you get too close to it!) Both work well rubbed on a tissue and inhaled. Or add drops of Olbas Oil to a bowl of hot water and lean over to breathe in the vapours.
During this bout of cold I was also introduced to a fantastic range of natural cold therapy products called Primavera. The eucalyptus based range of decongestant products includes an essential oil blend, bath oil, pillow spray, a roll-on oil and a balm. I tried the balm, just as I was starting to get a bit better but still had a blocked nose at night time, and I loved it. The smell is similar to Olbas Oil or Tiger Balm with its eucalyptus base but it isn’t quite so potent and doesn’t have that eye-watering effect, which is good for using directly on your face. The balm is very soft and light in texture, not like Tiger Balm which is hard and solid. It feels lovely, rich and smooth with little granular, bubbly bits that dissolve as you rub it in. I applied it directly to my nose and what I liked about it was that it didn’t sting like the other products did. By day 3 or 4 of blowing and sniffing you need to be careful what you put on your poor chapped nose. You could also use this like a vapour rub over your chest, or rub on a tissue and sniff to inhale the decongestant vapours. I’d definitely recommend trying something from the Primavera range if you’re coming down with a head cold.
Speaking of chapped noses, I also found my Balm Balm Baby Balm to be a lifesaver during my bout of illness. 100% organic, unfragranced and pure enough for newborn babies, this is the perfect thing for your chapped little nose as it will not cause any irritation or stinginess. Containing organic shea butter, sunflower oil and beeswax, it nourishes and soothes skin and provides a barrier to the elements. Great for lips all year round and any dry or problem skin areas. It’s also recommended as helping with eczema. This is an absolute skincare essential for me so if you haven’t tried it, do!
Last but not least, it really is true that you need to take it easy when you’re not at your best. Try to get at least 8 hours sleep a night and relax as much as you can. You probably can’t take time off work if it’s just a minor cold but it’s worth doing everything you can to rest and recuperate outside of working hours. Keep warm and don’t go to the gym or anything silly like that. This is the time to put your feet up and drink tea, so try and enjoy it (as much as you can through the foggy head and sore throat!).