It’s Cold and Flu Season. What Might Help?

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by Nils Osmar. Updated December 4, 2023. Medical Disclaimer

Want to have an easier time of it during cold and flu season? What you eat, drink, and do have all been shown to have an impact on your immune system and its ability to fight off viral respiratory infections.

Note: Listing items below is not meant to suggest an endorsement. Some interventions (like taking hot baths and showers) have both medical and epidemiological studies suggesting they may have benefits. Others (like putting a few drops of diluted hydrogen peroxide in the ears) have only anecdotal evidence to support them – a much lower standard of proof. None of the interventions discussed below are intended as or should be taken as medical advice.

What might help?

No intervention is guaranteed to help everyone. And of course this is not intended as medical advice. But there are studies suggesting that there may be benefits to the following. For more information, click the linked words.

  1. Getting some exercise.
  2. Getting some sun exposure.
  3. Taking hot baths or saunas. (Heat shock proteins can have profound health benefits.)
  4. Doing prolonged fasting or fasting mimicking diets (when we’re not sick) to keep our immune systems strong.
  5. Good ventilation.
  6. Optimizing your sleep.
  7. Nasal irrigation (if done carefully).
  8. Using Xylitol nasal spray.
  9. Some doctors advocate letting a fever burn (though not all agree with this recommendation). Fever is the body’s way of fighting infections. Speaking anecdotally, I usually let fevers burn rather than taking aspirin or other medications to lower them.
  10. Rinsing or gargling with hydrogen peroxide – or even, as odd as it sounds, putting a few drops in your ears. (I’ve actually done this, and had a bad cold completely vanish within a few hours. My doctor thought it was a placebo effect. He could be right – but (1) it was harmless, and (2) it worked for me and (3) I haven’t had a cold that lasted more than a few hours since learning about it) (I start with 2 percent hydrogen peroxide and dilute it down to 1 percent, and use a whole dropper full in each ear. If I have an infection, it’ll fizzle and bubble for a few minutes. I lie down, pour a dropper full in one ear, then when the bubbling stops, I roll over and do the same in the other ear.)
  11. Rinsing or gargling with mouthwashes such as Listerine.
  12. Building natural immunity. Our immune systems actually benefit from some (limited) contact with pathogens, and exposure to germs (if we’re basically healthy) can have profound health benefits (see study). There are times when it’s good to isolate ourselves, but there are also times when it’s good to challenge our immune systems to keep them strong.

Supplements that may help

Food and Drink

  • Taking probiotics
  • Eating high-nutrient foods, including foods rich in protein containing a full array of essential amino acids, to support a strong immune response.
  • Eating fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut.
  • Taking melatonin
  • Taking senolytics (such as quercetin and fisetin)
  • Taking monolaurin (lauric acid) (destroys viruses in the stomach)
  • Fasting may be of benefit during bacterial infections, but appears to be dangerous and best avoided during viral infections.

CDC Recommendations

The CDC recommends these “Six Tips to Enhance Immunity

  1. Eat Well.
  2. Be Physically Active.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Weight. …
  4. Get Enough Sleep.
  5. Quit Smoking.
  6. Avoid Too Much Alcohol.

Should we exercise when we’re sick?

My understanding is that it’s fine to exercise if a respiratory infection is “above our neck”. If the infection is below the neck, i.e., if it has moved into our lungs, it’s best to wait till we’re healed.

Should you get “the jab”?

As with any medical intervention, MRNA vaccines have possible benefits and side effects. Benefits include reducing the rates of hospitalization in the elderly. Known side effects include an increased risk of diabetes, myocarditis, neural inflammation, and higher death rates in some age groups and sub-populations.

In my own case, I got the first two shots, because (at that time) the danger of infection appeared to outweigh the (then unknown) danger of vaccination. I have no plans to get boosted. The possible dangers of the jab, in my current thinking, outweigh the possible benefits, at least for me.

From a 2023 study:

There have been rare cases of serious adverse events reported with the COVID-19 vaccines. Previous studies have shown an increase in the risk of myocarditis and myopericarditis associated with mRNA vaccines including BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) and mRNA-1273 (Moderna)8,11, and an increased risk of thrombotic and other rare cardiovascular events after the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (Oxford-AstraZeneca)12,13.

There is also evidence of a range of other rare neurological complications14. However, the absolute risk of severe complications is low and needs to be assessed against the increased risks associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection if unvaccinated15,16. The balance of risk and benefit is particularly important to determine in younger people, due to the lower risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation and death in this age group17.

Comparisons of the risk of death in vaccinated and unvaccinated young people are subject to confounding due to the vaccine prioritisation of, and higher vaccination rates among, those with underlying health conditions…

Read the whole study here.

Not medical advice

This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplements. All supplements can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen.  See full Medical Disclaimer

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