Nothing stops you in your tracks quite like a cold. One day you’re breezing through a jam-packed work day, the next you’re down for the count.
Luckily there are several natural options for both treating and preventing a common cold as it happens. We talked to Dr. Paul Grewal — a New York-based internal medicine physician and New York Times bestselling co-author of Genius Foods — to help us learn more about this perennially pesky illness.
Looking for how to get rid of a a cold fast? Dr. Grewal said first it helps to understand what exactly is happening to your body and how to prevent it. A cold is actually your immune system’s response to a virus causing an upper respiratory infection. The reaction causes inflammation of the nasal passages, sinuses, throat and upper airways.
Grewal says common cold symptoms present themselves differently depending on the person. For some, a cold may pop up in the guise of seasonal allergies, while others may come down with a mild fever and body aches.
Dr. Grewal's Cold Prevention Tips
So how do you prevent a cold? Dr. Grewal says to start by avoiding three immune system killers:
- Poor diet: Dehydration and lack of adequate nutrient-dense foods can prevent your immune system from operating at an optimal state, ultimately making your body more susceptible to illness. Dr. Grewal suggests “prioritizing an unprocessed diet” and making sure to eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Lack of sleep: Failing to get enough shut-eye can lead to hormonal changes that weaken the body and make yourself more prone to getting sick. Dr. Grewal recommends prioritizing routinely getting a full night’s sleep — according to the National Sleep Foundation, adults age 18-64 should aim for somewhere between 7-9 hours a night (that’s 7 hours asleep, not just “in bed”!).
- Lifestyle stress: Sometimes difficulties in day-to-day life are unavoidable, but if left unchecked they can take a major toll on your health. “Working on mindfulness and stress reduction are the great things you can do long term for reducing colds and susceptibility to illness in general,” Dr. Grewal said.
If all else fails, there are several natural remedies that can help reduce cold symptoms. Dr. Grewal recommends staying hydrated with plenty of water as well as herbal tea (add tumeric, ginger and honey for some extra flavor and added health benefits). Moderate exercise is OK if you feel up for it, as well, and movement in general can help circulate lymphatic fluid to support your immune system!
Most importantly, stay clear of antibiotics, which will not improve cold symptoms. The common cold lasts on average between 3 days to 2 weeks. If symptoms become more severe, Dr. Grewal recommends consulting with your doctor.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a physician before treating any disorder.