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As you well know, it’s cold and flu season, and being sick sucks, especially when it drags on for a week or more of misery. I truly believe being on a plant-based diet has drastically reduced my frequency of colds and flu and well as their duration when I do get one. I have no concrete evidence to back this, just pure observance, but I used to get colds quite often growing up, probably a few times a year. Now, it’s usually once a year (if that).
Besides an vegan diet, I have found a few specific things that seem to really work for me in knocking out a cold fast. Here are my go-to cold and flu natural remedies. Some of these may seem familiar, others, perhaps not.
Zinc can also be difficult for vegans especially to get enough of. It’s not produced naturally in the body, so it must come from food sources (or supplements) and the main sources of zinc are animal-based, though you can get some from plant-based foods including mushrooms, kale, legumes, nuts and seeds, certain whole grains, and fortified foods.
I used to take a brand of probiotics formulated for colds that included zinc. Now I take Immunity Plus by Just Thrive (not an affiliate link). Full disclosure, I do work for this company, however I don’t just take supplements for the hell of it. I don’t have the time or desire for that. I take them because they work.
Immunity Plus also contains:
- Echinacea – a flowering plant rich in antioxidants and alkamides (help renew worn out antioxidants)
- Selenium – this mineral is rich in antioxidants
- Pomanox® (pomegranate extract) – rich in polyphenols and antioxidants
- EpiCor® Postbiotic – postbiotics are by-products from probiotics feeding on prebiotics (food for probiotics e.g. fiber) and are rich in proteins, peptides, antioxidants, polyphenols, organic acids, and nucleotides (the building block of DNA and RNA)
Seriously, you cannot go wrong with upping your vitamin C intake to kick a cold’s ass. Whether it’s through supplements or some extra citrus fruits, get it in. Plus, lemon and orange go so well in tea, it’s a win-win.
Other plant-based foods high in vitamin C are:
- bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- strawberries and many more!
Speaking of tea, this is another go to of mine. Between the warming sensation of a good cup of tea and all the herbs and adaptogens, you cannot go wrong.
I tend to drink teas specifically geared toward my particular symptoms for the best effects. Yogi is a great brand with formulations for respiratory health, congestion, immunity, and more. You can pick up a couple and try a different one every day.
If you don’t feel like getting that fancy, there’s nothing wrong with a good cup of green tea with a generous squeeze of lemon.
Eat your greens! If you feel a cold coming on, add some extra greens into your diet. Dark leafy greens are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber (important prebiotics) to support your immune system.
An easy way to get more greens in is to add them to smoothies or soups. You can buy frozen ones, or, if you garden, you can preserve your greens by freezing them so you have them on hand when you need them. This is what we did last fall, as we had more greens than we could eat, and they are really coming in handy now.
You can even eat the greens that many people automatically throw away, like turnip and radish greens. Keep in mind, as these mature, they get tougher and spiny, so they are best cooked down in soups.
These are my ace in the hole. Probiotics will beat a cold or flu down so fast it’ll blow your mind. I typically take one Just Thrive Probiotic a day and one Just Calm (also probiotics, but strains that target brain health), but when I feel a cold coming on, I double up, or triple up, depending on the severity of my symptoms.
One thing to know about probiotics though is that you can experience a die off reaction if your gut is unbalanced or especially if it’s in a severe dysbiotic state. (My husband has this issue and this G.I. Detox/Binder really helped.) Don’t let this scare you though, it means they are working, but you should start slow if they are new to you. This is why it’s a good idea to start BEFORE you get sick, and take them on the regular for overall support, then take a stronger dose when you are not feeling well.
Reduce or Eliminate Alcohol
I do enjoy my craft beers, but I actually find this one pretty easy, because when I am sick, I do not find myself in the mood for alcohol. I usually will sub in some herbal tea or sparkling water in its place to assuage my oral fixation to drink something. If you are going to have alcohol though, a dry wine is probably your best bet.
I know this is obvious, but it bears stating because I do struggle with this one, mainly because I am always going. If you are sick, take it easy, like for real. Let the house chores go for a minute (hopefully your partner, roommate, or kids, can help pick up the slack).
And take off from work. First of all, you don’t want to get other people sick, that’s just uncool, but also, you body and brain need a break. If you MUST work and you have the luxury of being able to work from home, keep it relaxed, go at half power, and if you feeling super tired or achy, put the computer away and take a break.
With how little I get sick, I would rather miss a day or two of work than try to push through and end up feeling crappy for way longer because I didn’t allow my body the grace to heal on its own terms.
More Cold & Flu Remedies
These are things I already consume/use/do pretty regularly, and I wouldn’t say I consistently bulk up on them when sick, but there’s a lot of evidence behind their immune and overall health benefits.
- cayenne or other spicy peppers (for the capsaicin) – good for a sore throat, gargle with warm water or salt water
- apple cider vinegar (use in salad dressing, mix into foods, or drink with water or as a shot)
- essential oils (via a diffuser or add a few drops to a humidifier which will also help congestion and dry nasal passages – favorites are eucalyptus and tea tree oil)
- sunshine/outdoor time (fresh air + vitamin D is a win win)
- CBD for calming and reducing general body aches and pains
In closing, I cannot stress enough the importance of probiotics for a cold and flu. While everything I mentioned is important, if there was only one thing I could do on this list (besides rest) it would be to take a probiotic supplement. Try it, and you’ll see what I mean.
Thanks for reading, and here’s a simple soup recipe to try when you’re feeling sick! Throw some greens in at the end of cooking for extra immune benefits.
I love how simple this soup is! In general I find simple meals to be the best for me. Since I was already in pumpkin mode from making a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, this recipe seemed obvious. I also still have a bunch of cheese pumpkins from the garden this past summer, so I decided …