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Despite your healthy eating, you've still managed to catch a bit of a cold. It's certainly frustrating in our busy lives to get sick—especially when you have become more mindful of taking care of yourself through your newfound plant-based nutrition knowledge.
Colds happen, and the body has an amazing ability to heal itself so your healthy eating pays off with a quicker recovery time. While over-the-counter cold medicines only mask symptoms, ultimately slowing the body's own resilience, there are many natural ways to help your body help itself.
Used traditionally to help relieve sore throats and the symptoms of upper respiratory infections1, scientific studies have found mixed results on Echinacea's effectiveness, with the main reason being that Echinacea works best at the onset of symptoms, and won't help once a cold has taken grip. So grab some Echinacea when you start to feel run down or when around others who are sick, but do don't take for more than 2 weeks at a time or it will lose effectiveness.
Water not only helps flush out those bad bugs, but also aids in thinning mucous secretions so your body can get those out too. Sipping warm liquids like herbal tea or broth help loosen mucous, as well as steam showers. No steam shower? Boil a pot of water, then keeping a safe distance away from the pot, put a towel over your head and inhale the steam. Adding eucalyptus or rosemary to the water can boost the effects.
Going right to the source, a nasal spray with a saline solution or using a neti pot can help clear congestion and may even help prevent colds.
Clinical studies have found zinc help maintain immune function2, reducing the duration and severity of colds, particularly the use of zinc lozenges. Avoid taking additional zinc for more than 5 weeks. Food sources of zinc include legumes and whole grains.
A little common sense can go a long way so listen to your body! Rest when you need to, get plenty of sleep, abstain from alcohol and processed foods while boosting nutrient dense meals. If your body says it's ok, exercise can help you feel better but strenuous exercise has been shown to decrease immunity3, so don't overdo it or workout when you have a fever.
1 Health Canada. (2011). Compendium of Monographs. Accessed on November 28. 2011, from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=78&lang=eng
2 Health Canada. (2011). Compendium of Monographs. Accessed on November 28. 2011, from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=192&lang=eng
3 Gleeson, M. (2006). Immune system adaptation in elite athletes. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 9:659-665.