I don’t know about you, but my body has a wicked way of letting me get sick at precisely the worst possible times. I got laryngitis smack dab in the middle of my first big orchestra gig singing in Cleveland; I got terribly sick about a week before my wedding; I got a sinus infection right before going home for the holidays last year. Just like clockwork, two days before we leave to spend Thanksgiving (and my birthday!) with my family in Minneapolis, I caught a cold!
But this year, I was determined to do everything I could to get better ASAP, before the plane and the festivities and the traditional Russian vodka and zakuski could turn a cold into something much more unpleasant. And guess what? It worked! With the right mix of traditional and natural remedies, and a bit of rest, you too can beat a cold in just two days, so you’re not walking around coughing and sniffling for weeks!
Here are my top tips for killing that cold, fast. Follow each and every one, and you’ll be right as rain! But it’s important not to skimp, especially on the first recommendation. To get better, you need to give your body the chance to get better, which is doing completely the opposite of what we’re taught in terms of “powering through” and medicating (and thereby ignoring) each of our bodies’ symptoms. Give yourself a break, and shower some extra loving care on your system. That’s the trick, and it works.
1. Take a day off.
The number one worst thing you can do for your body when you start to come down with something is “power through” and act like you’re not sick. A cold or other virus is not in your head, and you can’t trick yourself into getting better. By downing Dayquil and trudging off to work, you are not only exposing everyone around you to your bug, but you are pretty much ensuring that your cold will last much longer. When you’re starting to get sick, you need to do everything you can to support your immune system and give your body a chance to heal up. Stress at the office and germs on the subway all put added strain on your system, and don’t allow your immune system to do it’s job! So take a sick day, stay home, catch up on your favorite shows, and leave yourself plenty of time to do all the great self-care below… One sick day now is better than a week later!
2. Take care of your nose.
If you don’t already have and use a Neti pot, get one, and get one now. This is your secret weapon for avoiding seasonal colds and allergies, and can also be a huge boost to your system once you’ve gotten sick. A neti pot irrigates your nasal passages with salt water, which flushes out irritants and bacteria, loosens up mucous, and clears up a stuffy or runny nose. Most neti pots come with a salt mixture but if yours doesn’t, you can just use 1/2 tsp of sea salt per 16 ounces of water in your neti. I recommend using a neti pot every other day throughout the whole cold season, if you’re prone to getting stuffy, but when you start to get sick, it’s especially helpful. Use your neti twice a day (morning and night) right from the onset of cold symptoms. And always follow it with a couple drops of organic sesame oil or olive oil in your nose, to lubricate things and keep your nose from drying out!
3. Drink up!
When you’re starting to get sick, it is especially important to drink tons and tons of fluids… Like, way more than you think. Basically, you should be drinking something pretty much all day long. This flushes out your system, and supports your immune system in beating that bug! When I’m starting to get sick, I like to alternate between a tall glass of water with Wellness Fizz or Emergen-C (to blast your system with vitamins — don’t exceed 3-4 times a day though!), ginger tea with lemon juice and raw organic honey (which act as an antibacterial tonic for your throat), water with lemon (super yummy, more interesting than plain water, and alkalizing for your system) , and water with apple cider vinegar (a magic, cold-fighting potion). Make sure to avoid caffeine, and shoot for keeping your water intake at about half your body weight in ounces as a bare minimum.
4. Make the 3 G’s (garlic, greens, and ginger) your very best friends!
Yes supplements are all fine and good, and can help give your system a boost when you’re fighting a cold, but nothing does the job as effectively as cold-fighting super foods. Bulking up on these foods also means you’re not eating terribly unhealthy “comfort” foods (cookies, crackers, mac n’ cheese, cereal, canned chicken noodle soup, etc) that we tend to turn to when we’re sick — which actually serve to weaken our immune systems and prolong illness!
Garlic has an antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, immune boosting quality that is pretty much unparalleled… I’ll press about 2 cloves into pretty much anything I eat while I’m sick, and it definitely gets the job done.
Dark leafy greens, always a healthy powerhouse food, are absolutely loaded with vitamins and minerals your body needs to get better. Kale and spinach are particularly amazing for this.. so make sure to have a garlicky kale or spinach salad at least once a day (but preferably more) while you’re sick. Check out my Yummy Cold-Busting Salad recipe that packs a potent one-two punch to kill that cold!
Lastly, ginger is absolutely key for cold-fighting, due to it’s warming effect on the stomach, lungs, and entire system. It does wonders for alleviating congestion, coughing, and a sore throat! Make your own ginger tea by slicing up about an inch of raw, peeled ginger root and steeping it in boiling water. Add fresh lemon and raw, organic honey (a super awesome antibacterial combo), and you’ve got yourself a potent remedy! Drink this tea several times throughout the day for best results. Here is my recipe for Honey Lemon Ginger Cough & Cold Busting Tea!
5. Gargle it up!
This is one of those remedies imposed on me since childhood that I was always the most resistant to, but as always, mom was right! It really does the trick at getting rid of a sore throat ASAP. Gargling with warm water and about a tablespoon of sea salt or baking soda kills the bacteria in your throat. I gargled twice yesterday, and my sore throat is completely gone today! So quit being lazy and get gargling! At least twice a day, but honestly, the more you do it, the faster your sore throat will go away. So stock up on the essentials below, take that day off, and get healthy super fast!!
Your Natural Cold-Busting Essentials:
- Raw, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
- Raw, Organic Honey (local if possible)
- Ginger root or organic ginger tea
- Super greens like organic kale and/or spinach
- Organic lemons
- Organic sesame oil
- A Neti Pot
- Sea salt and/or baking soda
- Airborne or Emergen-C… or better yet, opt for the more natural version, Wellness Fizz!