FAQ: How do I treat (or prevent) a cold or flu naturally? [with video]

Diane Sanfilippo Cold Care, Health & Wellness, Most Popular 4 Comments

10 Ways to treat (or prevent) a cold or flu naturally

It happens to the best of us. You’ve been eating clean Paleo or maybe you’re on the 21-Day Sugar Detox and you’re feeling amazing. Then suddenly you feel like you’ve been hit by a ton of bricks. Ugh. You’re coming down with a cold. Or even worse–the flu. If you’ve been living a Paleo or 21-Day Sugar Detox type lifestyle for a while, this is likely a rarity, but it happens. So, you want to know—how do I treat a cold or the flu naturally?

10 ways to treat and prevent cold and Flu Naturally | Balanced BitesYour first thought might be,“Where’s my mom?” Ha! That’s what I think, but you and I know that’s not always reasonable. I digress. Anyway, you likely start brainstorming remedies because you know by now that those cold and flu medications on the drug store shelves are just band-aid fixes and don’t promote true healing. You likely just want some comfort foods, too (I know I do!).

Before you jump off the Paleo or 21-Day Sugar Detox wagon (like falling back to the ol’ saltines and ginger ale remedy), know this—grains and sugar and other bad food will not only exasperate inflammation but these foods will also feed whatever gnarly bugs you’ve got! Sugar depresses our white blood cells' ability to engulf bacterial and viral nasties so it’s more important than ever to eat whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods to continue to support your body.

Your Paleo or 21-Day Sugar Detox foods will fuel your body’s natural defenses against these invaders and you’ll heal much faster. I’ll share some things that might not already be included in your nutritional profile that you can add to help boost your immune system and kick that cold to the curb.

So, let’s get you feeling better already–check out these cold & flu busting tips:

10 ways to treat and prevent cold and Flu Naturally | Balanced Bites1. Homemade bone broth.

It's not only delicious and comforting, it’s rich in minerals and gelatin, which will assist your body in fighting germs while soothing an unsettled stomach.

Try my yummy Easy Recipe: Mineral-Rich Bone Broth—and be sure to add the garlic, known to stimulate the immune system and fight viruses.  For more information on bone broth and even more recipes grab this eBook, “Bone Broth:  A Recipe for Health”.

2. Water.

Make sure you are consuming enough water—hydration is essential for prevention and healing. Water moistens oxygen for easier breathing, regulates body temperature, removes wastes, flushes toxins, and empowers the body’s natural healing process. Drink up!

3. Herbal Teas.

Hot water and herbal teas can be very soothing while you are sick. Use lemon (with the added bonus of some extra vitamin C), fresh ginger (a natural anti-inflammatory herb), or other herbs with anti-inflammatory effects such as licorice root, turmeric, and Echinacea* (*use short term-no more than 4 weeks to prevent irritation to the liver and changes to the gut flora). I love Traditional Medicinals brand herbal teas.

4. Moisture.

Bacteria and viruses love to hang out in a dry environment so get some moisture in the air with a humidifier or vaporizer, which will also soothe your breathing and congestion.

5. Zinc & Vitamin A.

Kick up your bone broth and your immune system a notch by adding foods rich in zinc. Scientific studies verify that zinc therapy is effective at preventing and reducing the severity of colds and other infections. The best and most absorbable sources of zinc are from animal foods, especially red meats and liver. Zinc can also be found egg yolks—which is easy enough to drop into your bone broth and it tastes delicious.

Working synergistically with zinc is vitamin A, also known to play a role in immune function. Vitamin A decreases during illness so increasing vitamin A rich foods is really important. As it turns out, vitamin A is highest in liver and fish liver oil (which is recommended next on this list). Other good sources of vitamin A are egg yolks, butter, and leafy green vegetables. So, adding eggs to your bone broth will give you the benefits of both zinc and vitamin A—a nice punch of immune boosting nutrients!

10 ways to treat and prevent cold and Flu Naturally | Balanced Bites6. Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO).

Green Pastures Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil, often referred to as a “super food,” provides a true powerhouse of nutrients to prevent and aid in the speedy recover of your cold or flu: Omega-3 fatty acid,a well-documented anti-inflammatory, as well as and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K2.

I already discussed the importance of vitamin A and it turns out that vitamin D has been shown to reduce colds, and because no other vitamin is known to require more whole-body participation, vitamin D is the superhero of vitamins. Egg yolks, butter, liver, and some oily fish such as salmon and sardines are also good sources of Vitamin D, but don’t forget about the sun!

Vitamin K2 in FCLO is also found in other organ meats and grass fed butter. It’s known to reduce inflammation and is suspected to play a role in fighting infections such as pneumonia among many other important functions.

Read more about fermented cod liver oil in my article: FAQs: All about fermented cod liver oil (and why I don’t take fish oil).

7. Vitamin C.

Affecting several components of the immune system, vitamin C has been shown to stimulate both the production and function of white blood cells. Studies show that supplemental vitamin C is helpful for preventing colds in those under physical stress but for others it’s inconclusive. What is known is that we cannot manufacture vitamin C so we do need to consume it in food. You can get plenty of vitamin C in colorful vegetables such as red bell peppers, broccoli, and sweet potatoes (add some or all of these to your bone broth for a super-charged, nutrition-packed, soothing comfort food). Grapefruit, which is allowed on the 21-Day Sugar Detox is also a good source of vitamin C.

8. Oil of Oregano.

Using high quality oil of oregano can be helpful while you are sick. It is a natural antibiotic so only use it short term during your illness, not as a preventative. Gargling with a few drops in a shot of water could speed your healing process. Refer to the bottle or manufacturer to make sure you are using a safe amount. It’s important to restore the healthy bacteria in your intestines with some probiotics or probiotic food (next on the list), either during or after your course of the oregano oil. Also, take it away from probiotics and probiotic foods. For example, if you have your sauerkraut for dinner, use the oil of oregano earlier in the day or before bed. Note: This should not be used by pregnant women. My #1 recommended brand is Oreganol and you can get either their liquid (most potent) or capsules, nasal or throat sprays.

10 ways to treat and prevent cold and Flu Naturally | Balanced Bites

9. Probiotics.

As I often remind my readers, 60-80% of your immune system is in your gut so any imbalances there can contribute to immune related illness. Give your gut bacteria a boost with some probiotic foods like raw sauerkraut or kombucha. You can also try a probiotic supplement.

10. Sleep/Rest.

While you may feel you need to “push through” to work and exercise like usual, this may not be the best thing for your health. Lack of sleep and rest will diminish your immunity even further. Make sure you are going to bed on time (or a little earlier than normal), and resting a bit during the day when you can. Read more about the importance of sleep in my article: Turn Down the Lights, Turn Up Your Metabolism.

Incorporating all these recommendations throughout the cold & flu season and beyond should strengthen your defenses and keep you strong. But, it happens to the best of us—especially during times of stress. If it happens to you, keep in mind that being under the weather is the most crucial time to avoid the sugar and stick to healthy eating and lifestyle habits. Your healthy body will have more defenses to get rid of those bad bugs quickly so you can get back to feeling good again.

Be and stay well!


Haas, Elson M., and Buck Levin. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006. Print.

“Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Research for Optimum Health.” Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2013.

Masterjohn, Chris. “On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved.” The Weston A Price Foundation. N.p., 14 Feb. 2008. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.

Meyerowitz, Steve, and F. Batmanghelidj. Water: The Ultimate Cure. Summertown, TN: Distributed Book Pub., 2000. Print.

Comments 4

  1. You’ve offered some really great ideas here. I will certainly be looking out for some oil of oregano. I already include a probiotic in my diet. I prefer to use kefir as I use it in its natural form and add it to smoothies.

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