Take a peek in your medicine cabinet today for an inventory of what’s lining the shelves. If you’re collecting drugstore quick fixes and over-the-counter meds, it’s time to reconsider how you’re preparing for this winter season.
Avoiding getting sick during the winter months can seem impossible, but if you take the effort to support your immune system, you can actually fend off a lot of illnesses before they attack. These natural solutions aren’t like most meds, which work to relieve symptoms after-the-fact; they help build your immunity in the preventative sense, so even if you do get sick, you can slash your recovery time without worrying about the side effects that accompany traditional pharmaceuticals.
So it’s out with the old, and in with the new—stock your medicine cabinet with these all-natural supplements and stay healthy all winter long.
Probiotics are bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. The first and most overlooked reason that our digestive tracts are critical to our health is that 80 percent of our entire immune system is located in the gut.
Antibiotics, which are highly over-prescribed these days, are one of the top killers of our body’s good bacteria. When the “good” bacteria is killed, “bad” bacteria is allowed to flourish, leaving the body vulnerable to attacks from cold and flu viruses and bacteria. To keep the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut at a healthy ratio, I recommend a daily dose of a high-quality probiotic supplement along with regular intake of probiotic-rich foods. These include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir and miso.
You might just think of raw honey as one of your favorite natural sweeteners, but it’s actually a potent health supplement. Studies have shown that a daily dose of raw honey raises levels of the antioxidants that help block disease-causing free radicals in the body. Additionally, it helps support the body’s immune system, particularly against local environmental allergens that can trigger cold and flu-like systems.
Raw honey is also beneficial when a cold or the flu has already hit, as it’s an amazing alternative to hazardous over-the-counter cough syrups. In fact, raw honey has been shown to be just as effective as dextromethorphan and even better than diphenhydramine, which are two common ingredients found in over-the counter cough medicines. A half teaspoon to two teaspoons of raw honey at bedtime can work wonders to calm a cough and improve the chances of good night’s rest.
Looking for a natural remedy that has a very long history of medicinal use? There’s evidence that the elderberry may have been cultivated by prehistoric man. Health benefits of the elder plant include naturally improving colds, the flu, sinus issues, nerve pain, inflammation, chronic fatigue, allergies, constipation, and even cancer. When used within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, elderberry extract has actually been found to reduce the duration of the flu, with symptoms being relieved an average of four days earlier. During the 1995 Panama flu epidemic, the government actually employed the use of the elderberry to fight the flu.
Oregano oil benefits are proving to be superior to some antibiotics—but without the harmful side effects. The antibiotics commonly prescribed today are known to destroy good bacteria in the gut, reduce vitamin absorption, damaging the intestinal lining, contribute to the development of leaky gut, and even cause antibiotic resistance.
On the other hand, oregano oil (also known as oil of oregano) is an incredible natural alternative. It contains carvacrol and thymol, two active compounds that have powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties known to stop viruses and bacteria in their tracks. Oregano oil is best taken on a short-term basis (a maximum of two weeks in most cases). It is very strong, so be sure to only use one or two drops in a carrier oil when applying topically, or mix it with water when taking it internally.
Colloidal silver is an alternative medicinal substance made of silver particles suspended in water. Widely used to control sinus infections, colloidal silver can benefit as a nasal spray, according to a recent study published in the International Forum for Allergy and Rhinology. Many also turn to colloidal silver to treat and prevent the flu, as well as the common cold.
It’s important to note that, because colloidal silver is such a potent antibacterial agent, you should be sure to supplement with probiotics during use in order to maintain a proper balance of gut bacteria. Similar to oregano oil, colloidal silver is best when used for no more than 14 days in a row.
Last but certainly not least, zinc is a supplement with proven immune system-boosting powers. The body needs zinc to activate T-cells, which are critical for proper immune function. The role that zinc plays in DNA replication also helps the immune system make new cells when they are needed, and people who are deficient in zinc tend to be more susceptible to a variety of illnesses.
It’s easy to find a wide variety of zinc supplements to help you meet your recommended daily allowance and get your immune system primed for cold and flu resistance. You can also add more zinc to your diet naturally by including plenty of zinc-rich foods in your meals.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored ‘Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and Five Surprising Steps to Cure It’ and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at http://www.DrAxe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DRJoshAxe.