How to Naturally Prepare for the Cold and Flu Season

How to Naturally Prepare for the Cold and Flu Season

Written By: Dr. Saira Kassam, ND

Prevention is rooted in making sure the immune system is strong enough to defend itself from the entry of pathogens into the body. A healthy immune system involves a well-balanced lifestyle starting with, a nutrient dense diet, eating seasonal foods, getting adequate sleep, stress relief and regular exercise.  Sometimes, things don’t always go as planned. Bouts of little sleep coupled with high stress during the cold months can really take a toll on the immune system and that is when the cold or flu strikes!  It is very important to pay attention and listen to your body. We are all aware of the early signs of getting sick - Do not ignore these, take action right away! Natural medicines are one of the best options to try first since most colds and flu are viral in origin, antibiotics do not work in most cases.

So, how can you best prepare your body for the upcoming cold & flu season? The goal is to prevent getting the cold or flu by optimizing the immune system and supporting the body’s natural healing processes. Here are some things you can do to keep your immune system healthy and functioning at its best:


  1. Stay Warm – The immune system can be weakened by damp and cold temperatures, which make us more susceptible to infection. So, take out those scarfs, mitts and hats!
  1. Eat for the season – Eating foods that keep you warm in the fall and winter is crucial. Consume less raw foods and more cooked foods, while including certain spices like garlic, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric. Not only are these foods warming but they also help to strengthen the immune system.
  1. Use a humidifier – Viruses that cause the common cold can survive better in winter due to the lower humidity. Using a humidifier can decrease the dryness in your home or work environments, decreasing the chances of catching a cold/flu.
  1. Immune support – Vitamin C, Zinc and Astragalus for 1 month before fall begins
  • Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds while also reducing inflammation in the body
  • Zinc is a required nutrient when manufacturing immune cells. Studies show that zinc can shorten the duration and decrease the incidence of respiratory infections
  1. Probiotics – An imbalance in intestinal microflora can also contribute to immune deficiency. Supplementation with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics has been shown useful to control respiratory infections.
  1. Assess your environment – Look at your sleep hygiene, stress levels and chemical exposure both at home and work. 8 hours of sleep is generally recommended for proper rest. During times of illness, more sleep is required. Research shows that stress, insomnia and anxiety can have a negative impact on immune function. Stress hormones like cortisol are immune suppressing, so even a cortisol spike after intensive exertion can increase the susceptibility to an upper respiratory infection. Participating in activities that help to reduce your stress levels can help to decrease cortisol levels which in turn strengthens the immune system. 


Remember, getting sick from time to time is part of immune education. It teaches your body how to properly react to pathogens. Below are some quick tips for when you do get stuck with the cold!


  1. Echinacea  Is a herb that is warming and contains anti-microbial properties. It is best to take right at the onset of a cold. Works well with Vitamin C.
  1. Sambucus nigra  Is a herb that is used for its anti-viral properties. It is also quite useful to get rid of excess mucus.
  1. Facial Steam – This really helps to decrease congestion and kill viruses and bacteria throughout the respiratory tract. Mix a pot of boiling water with some essential oils (eucalyptus or lavender or thyme).  Remove from heat and place your face over the pot with a towel over the head for 5-10 while inhaling the steam. 
  2. Herbal Teas – Teas like chamomile, Ginger, Peppermint and/or Turmeric are great for the common cold and helps with coughs, sore throats and headaches.  
  1. Hot Lemon with freshly grated ginger and raw honey for a sore throat
  1. Last but not least, rest and hydrate!  


Keeping some of the above-mentioned supplements at home so you can act proactively at the first sign of illness can be very helpful. Let's get those immune systems geared up for the fall! 



The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.