Tips for Preventing (and Shortening) Colds and the Flu


Cold and flu season is here. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help make it through.

This week’s blog gives you some tips for supercharging your immune system and boosting your resilience.

Conventional approaches to colds and the flu include over the counter medications, such as: antihistamines, decongestants, and NSAIDs. These can suppress some of the symptoms but do nothing to prevent them or shorten their duration.

Antibiotics may be necessary in certain cases when a bacterial infection gets out of hand, however, they aren’t useful for treating viral infections that are often the culprits for a cold or the flu.

There are several steps you can take that will strengthen your immune system, decrease the chances of getting sick and reduce the intensity and duration of any cold or flu you do get.

Rather than suppressing symptoms, these tips will actually improve the function of your immune system as well as attack the bugs themselves.

#1: Load up on immune-boosting nutrients

There are several nutrients that can boost your immune system. Some include:

  • Adequate protein-   0.8 g-1g/kg body weight. More if you are an athlete.
  • Probiotics- Your gut is intimately connected to your immune system. Increase the good bugs and you enhance your ability to fight off the bad ones.
  • Vitamin C– 1,000–4,000 mg/d, up to bowel tolerance.
  • Vitamin D – 2000-5000 IU (sometimes more) depending on your levels.
  • Zinc– 30 mg/d of zinc picolinate or zinc gluconate for short periods when you feel you’re fighting something.

#2: Honey

Honey has a good track record for soothing sore throats and helping with coughs. Some studies have even shown it to be a better choice than conventional cough medicine.

#3: Elderberry syrup

Elderberry is one of the most effective botanicals for strengthening immune function and preventing colds and the flu. Take 1 teaspoon 2-4 times per day if you feel like you’re coming down with something and continue taking it if you do get sick.

#4: Immune and anti- microbial boosting herbs

There are several botanicals that have a potent immune-boosting and anti-microbial effects. Here are a few of my favorite:

  • Goldenseal
  • Astragalus
  • Oregano
  • Garlic

#5. Chicken soup/Bone broth

Also known as “Jewish Penicillin”, chicken soup has a reputation for helping fight off infections. Here is some  research pointing to the mechanisms.

#6. Wash your hands

Studies have shown that frequent hand-washing is one of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves during cold & flu season. Wash your hands every time you arrive at a destination while out and about, and first thing when you get home.


#7. Exercise

Regular exercise (aerobic and resistance training) supports and enhances immune function. Aim for 3-5 30-60 minutes sessions/week. Take care not to over train, as this has been shown to compromise immune function. It’s OK to exercise if symptoms are located in the upper part of your respiratory tract. Rest if you have lung symptoms, such as a deep cough.


#8. Rest

Many people don’t get adequate sleep. This can play havoc with immune function, increasing your susceptibility and compromising your ability to fight off infections. Aim for 7-9 hours.


Following these 8 tips can help you through the cold and flu season.

If you are interested in incorporating some of the herbs mentioned in this week’s blog, this link provides a resource for high quality products that we use in our practice:








About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin