Viral infections like cold and flu are best prevented by taking care of yourself and keeping your immune system in tip-top shape. This involves not only eating right, and ensuring you have appropriate nutrition, but also treating any underlying conditions like hormone imbalances and fatigue that can weaken your immune system over time.

In this excerpt from the book Real Cause, Real Cure by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD and Bill Gottlieb, CHC the authors explain cold and flu prevention tips that can keep you healthy and resisting seasonal illnesses.

Colds and Flu

•Nutritional Deficiencies. Many nutrients are critical for the optimal immune function that fights off cold and flu viruses.

•Poor Sleep. Sufficient sleep is a must for a strong immune system.

•Hormonal Imbalances. A weakened adrenal gland and an imbalance of adrenal hormones are risk factors for infections.

You can find a complete program for optimizing your immune system and preventing infections and other immune problems in Chronic Inflammation. This chapter focuses on two of the most common infections: colds and flu, infections of the upper respiratory tract.

Real Cure Regimen

Collectively, Americans cough, sniffle, and sneeze our way through one billion colds a year, spending more than $7.7 billion for doctor’s visits and $4 billion on OTC and prescription cough and cold treatments. Fortunately, few people die of a cold. But you can’t say that about the flu. On average, the influenza virus hospitalizes nearly one million Americans a year and kills an average of 36,000 a year, many of whom are over age 65 (according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the years 2010 to 2020). And flu shots are no guarantee of protection: the CDC estimates they work only half the time to stop the infection.

If you feel you’re coming down with an upper respiratory infection, I recommend the following…

•Take natural thymic hormone. The thymus gland—located just below the neck, between the breastbone (sternum) and the lungs—helps power your immune system. Natural thymic hormone—a remedy available in the supplement ProBoost—is a very effective immune stimulant that I think should be in everyone’s medicine cabinet. Taken at the first sign of a respiratory infection, it usually stops the infection within 12 to 36 hours. Dissolve the contents of one packet under your tongue three times a day, until the infection clears up.

•For the flu or flulike symptoms, take Oscillococcinum. This homeopathic remedy (available at most health food stores, in some pharmacies and supermarkets, and online) can help ease the symptoms of the flu (or the flulike symptoms of a cold), such as chills, fever, achiness, and just plain old feeling bad (malaise). The remedy also speeds healing. For it to work, you need to take it as soon as you have any symptoms, so keep this remedy in your medicine cabinet.

•Take vitamin C: 1,000 milligrams to 8,000 milligrams daily. Yes, vitamin C does help the common cold. Finnish researchers analyzed 29 studies on vitamin C and colds, involving more than 11,000 people. They found that taking the vitamin shortened the duration of colds up to 13 percent in adults and up to 22 percent in children. They also found that vitamin C reduced the incidence of colds by 50 percent in endurance and recreational athletes (marathon runners and skiers), and people who spend significant time outside in cold climates. I recommend taking enough vitamin C to cause (harmless) diarrhea (an indication the body has all it needs to fight the infection) and then cutting back to a comfortable level.

•Suck on zinc lozenges: five to eight daily. Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit studied 50 people within 24 hours of their coming down with a cold. Half sucked on zinc lozenges (13.3 milligrams of zinc acetate per lozenge, one lozenge every two to three hours); half sucked on a placebo. The zinc group had shorter colds (an average of four days compared with 7.1 days), and their coughs cleared up more quickly (2.1 days compared with five days). They also had less severe colds, according to the results published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. (In another study by the same team of researchers, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people 55 and older who took zinc supplements had “significantly fewer infections” of any kind compared with people the same age who didn’t take zinc.)

In another, recent study, researchers from Australia and Finland analyzed data from three studies on zinc lozenges and colds—and found that the lozenges decreased: nasal discharge by 34 percent; nasal congestion by 37 percent; sneezing by 22 percent; scratchy throat by 33 percent; sore throat by 18 percent; hoarseness by 38 percent; cough by 46 percent; and the duration of muscle ache by 54 percent. Not surprisingly, they conclude the lozenges are likely to be a “useful treatment” for the common cold.

I recommend lozenges with at least 10 milligrams to 20 milligrams of zinc, taking at least 80 milligrams per day. (These are especially helpful if you have a sore throat.)

•Take echinacea: 1,000 milligrams a day. Often recommended for preventing and treating colds, echinacea is the most popular herb in the US (40 percent of people who use natural products using echinacea). But a much-publicized study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine showed the remedy didn’t work to stop, shorten, or ease a cold.

Researchers at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Connecticut analyzed results from 14 studies on echinacea and colds, involving nearly 3,000 people. They found that echinacea did work, reducing the risk of catching a cold by 58 percent and shortening the duration of a cold by an average of 1.4 days. “The take-home message from our study is that echinacea does indeed have powerful cold prevention and cold treatment benefits,” we were told by Craig Coleman, PhD, a professor of pharmacy practice at the School of Pharmacy of the University of Connecticut, who led the study.

Why did the New England Journal of Medicine study show that echinacea didn’t work? The study had two problems, said Dr. Coleman. It used the least common form of echinacea (angustifolia), not the one most people take (purpurea). And the dose was three times lower than generally recommended.

To Prevent Colds and Flu

The best defense is a good offense: Keep yourself from getting sick in the first place. Here’s how…

•Take vitamin D: 2,000 IU to 4,000 IU daily. In a study led by James R. Sabetta, MD, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Yale University, researchers took monthly measurements of the blood levels of vitamin D in 195 healthy adults. The measurements started the third week in September and continued for the next four to five months. At the same time, the study participants were asked to report any acute respiratory tract infections.

Those who had blood levels of vitamin D lower than 38 nanograms per milliliter had twice as many upper respiratory tract infections. Among the 18 people in the study who consistently maintained blood levels of D above 38 nanograms per milliliter, 15 were completely free of upper respiratory tract infections—no cases of colds or flu. (Of those 18 folks, 13 were taking vitamin D supplements.) When the above-38 group did succumb to a cold or flu, their illnesses were shorter. Their percentage of days ill with acute respiratory tract infections was 4.9 times lower than in the below-38 group. Of the other 180 participants—all of them with blood vitamin D levels consistently below 38 nanograms per milliliter—81 developed colds and flu.

The study’s statistical summary: The 38-plus group had a twofold decrease in the risk of developing a cold or flu. “Maintenance of a 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum concentration of 38 ng/ ml or higher should significantly reduce the incidence of acute viral respiratory infections and the burden of illness caused thereby, at least during the fall and winter,” concluded the researchers. How do you know your vitamin D levels? I don’t recommend spending money on a test. Instead, take a multivitamin/mineral with 1,000 IU to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3, and get a daily dose of vitamin D–making sunshine by taking a walk outside. (Avoid sunburn, not sunshine!)

•If you’re over 65, to prevent pneumonia, take zinc: 10 milligrams to 20 milligrams daily. “Low zinc status” is linked to pneumonia in the elderly—more cases, longer bouts, more use of antibiotics, and more deaths, concluded researchers from the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at Tufts University. Zinc supplementation is a “potential low-cost intervention to reduce” the risk, they concluded in the journal Nutrition Reviews. (Low zinc levels are also one reason why the pneumonia vaccine—and perhaps others—are sometimes ineffective.)

•Take olive leaf extract: 1,000 milligrams, three times daily, for three to seven days. Although not as effective as natural thymic hormone, olive leaf extract also can rev up the immune system and may help a number of infections. If it causes nausea, cut the dose in half.

•For sore throat: Gargle with a mouthwash. I recommend Cepacol or Chloraseptic. You can also gargle with salt water: 1 ⁄4 teaspoon salt, 1 ⁄4 teaspoon baking soda (not baking powder), and 1 cup lukewarm water.

•Stop a cough—with dark chocolate. Yes, believe it or not, dark chocolate is an effective (and tasty!) cough suppressant that works as well as codeine. Eat a square of chocolate from a chocolate bar, two or three times a day when you have a cold. Or drink hot chocolate, made from unsweetened cocoa powder.

•Drink plenty of water and hot, caffeine-free tea (or hot water with lemon). Hot liquids loosen mucus, making it easier to cough up. And that mucus you expel contains billions of viruses or bacteria your body no longer has to kill in hand-to-hand combat!

•Sleep eight hours a night. Sleep is a must for a strong immune system.

For more ways to fix root causes of common health problems, purchase Real Cause, Real Cure from

Related Articles