It’s every year the same: as soon as the winter starts to arrive there is a massive cold and flu outbreak. It begins slowly, when you notice here and there that someone is coughing and sniffling. But before you even realize that the virus is spreading, everyone around you is sick. What makes things even worse is that you cannot hide from it. You can take all precautionary measures one can think of, only to wake up one day with a sore throat. It’s that moment when you realize that the common cold has caught you, once again. And quite frankly, it is an uncomfortable feeling. One feels helplessly exposed without a chance of fighting against the virus. Some years ago, it was so bad that I felt like I was part of a vicious lottery that decided by chance how many colds I would catch throughout the winter. Nothing seemed to help; there was no escape from it. That was the moment when I decided to take a stand against it. I began to study people who never seemed to get sick. Above the surface line, they did not do anything different. Below the line, however, each and every one of them had a habit (knowingly or unknowingly) that allowed them to maintain good health. And I started digging for exactly these habits. My curiosity was rewarded and I began to uncover one gem after another. Some methods were rather unconventional. Others seemed to defy any logic, but some were hidden in plain sight. Throughout my research, I was constantly motivated by one single thought: if those people could prevent a cold with a single method, combining these various methods would be even more effective in preventing colds. Better yet, it would provide results for the common person as well, not just for those whose immune system works above average.
At the beginning of my journey, I did my proper research on the Internet. I read various articles related to the prevention of colds, but was rather disappointed with the “secrets” they claimed to share. Furthermore, I tried to gather any piece of information I could get on those super-healthy people who never get sick. Again, my hopes were disappointed. I read about people who claimed to have avoided getting sick for several years. Yet, their advice never surpassed the level of “train a lot, maintain a healthy diet, quit smoking, quit drinking alcohol, alleviate stress and catch some fresh air regularly.” Sorry folks, but this is not enough. All of these tips might be beneficial for your health, but they will not help you to avoid a cold. Period. I was striving for the really effective methods. Tactics that could provide results even for those whose immune system is not as strong as that of those super-healthy individuals. It was my aim to never get a cold again. Furthermore, I was looking for the solutions of regular people, not of those who have an immunity to the common cold. If you want to know how to stop getting a cold, you ask the people who have managed to change their habits in order to stay healthy. Not those who never were sick in the first place.
How to avoid getting sick?
The main intention behind this article is to present you a vast array of different tools that have the potential to help you in preventing a cold. This does not necessarily mean that you have to like and implement each and every technique that is presented here. Instead, this article should serve as an inspiration to you from which you could choose several methods that you like the most.
The article is split into two parts. In the first part, I show you the techniques that work for me. These are proven tactics that have a major effect on my immune system. I tested them, found them to work miraculously and implemented them into my daily life. Therefore, I do not have to rely on other people’s testimony, but can speak from my own experience. But I will also include scientific evidence why each and every method works so effectively.
Moreover, I want to provide you with a vast array of different powerful techniques that can help you to stop yourself from being sick. This is why I have included a second part into this article, which contains many more tactics that you can implement to prevent colds.
My approach towards avoiding sickness consists of a combination of three techniques that I will present you in the following. My approach, however, requires consistency and stamina. The results of following this method can be quite effective, but it takes daily practice and the will power to stand it through. If you do not like my rather unconventional approach, few free to skip to part two, which includes methods that might be more suitable to you.
1. Boost your immune system with a cup of ginger tea
As soon as autumn starts to arise, I switch to the regular habit of drinking one or two cups of ginger tea daily. Admittedly, the taste of the tea takes a little getting used to, because it has a rather biting flavor. Ginger tea is not the kind of tea one drinks for its gusto. It’s the tea one drinks to fight off sickness. But you will quickly adopt, especially when you start to notice how effective this tea is. Immediately after drinking you will notice a comfortable warmth spreading through your body. This effect in particular and ginger in general is highly regarded in Ayurvedic medicine, as it is believed to help the body sweat out toxins, improve immunity and cleanse the lymphatic system.
But what is the benefit of ginger tea in regards to avoiding sickness? Besides being known for its ability to relieve nausea, reduce inflammation and improving blood circulation, ginger helps strengthen your immune system and can help to prevent colds. Evidence for this is highlighted by a scientific study that found that there is a chemical in ginger, called “sesquiterpenes”, which is known to be specifically effective against the rhinovirus—the most common virus behind a cold:
“The dried rhizomes of Indonesian ginger were investigated for antirhinoviral activity. Fractionation […] allowed the isolation of several sesquiterpenes with antirhinoviral activity.”
Isolation of Antirhinoviral Sesquiterpenes from Ginger, Journal of Natural Products
The results of this paper highlight that ginger contains a chemical that fights the virus that is responsible for the common cold. That is something very important to consider, if one wants to know how to prevent a cold.
The positive results ginger has on the immune system are further supported by research that investigated the effect of fresh ginger on the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). An RSV-infection shares many commonalities and symptoms with the common cold. However, it can be a lot more severe and last much longer. The results of the aforementioned study highlight that ginger prohibits viruses from attaching themselves to human cells, hence increasing the chances of remaining healthy.
The only important thing to note is that people with blood disorders, hypertension and gallstones, as well as pregnant or breast-feeding mothers, should avoid ginger.
2. Reduce sugar intake
Or even better: avoid sugar at any cost. Normally, I am not fond of advising people to reduce their consumption of sugar. It is an incredibly difficult thing to do and yields no results. But in this discussion, the benefits of a near sugar-free nutrition have to be addressed. In fact, it is the big elephant in the room that must be addressed. The reason for this is simple: limiting your intake of sugar to a minimum, for the purpose of preventing colds, is highly effective. Keep in mind, this point addresses refined sugar such as high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar. The intention behind limiting the intake of refined sugar is to avoid an excessive consumption of fructose. However, the fructose that you can find in fruits is not considered a refined sugar (logically) and therefore not addressed in this discussion. You can still eat fruits!
An excessive consumption of sugar (fructose) is linked to a variety of health problems. The negative side effects of sugar range from considerable weight gain, increased blood pressure and insulin resistance—which can lead to diabetes—to name only a few. The existing research on the impact of sugar on the immune system is, to this present day, very limited. This results out of the problem that researching the link between sugar and weakened immunity is tremendously difficult. There exists research, however, that suggests that the ingestion of sugar significantly decreases the responsiveness of white blood cells towards bacteria:
“The maintenance of lowered blood glucose levels […] may provide a clinical method of enhancing the body’s defenses against infection. […] We found that sugars impaired the neutrophils [a type of white blood cells]to engulf bacteria. […] Thus, diet may play a key role in the control of resistance to infection.”
Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
The results of the study tie in with another negative side-effect of sugar: scientific research has shown that the consumption of sugar can lead to increased inflammation in the human body. This in itself would not be noteworthy, if it wasn’t for the fact that the aforementioned neutrophils (white blood cells) are first-responders to inflammation. If inflammation is significantly increased through the consumption of sugar, the white blood cells become occupied in fighting the resulting inflammation. This on the other hand, might cause the white blood cells to respond significantly slower (and maybe even less effective) towards infections.
This was the scientific side of the story. From my own personal experience I know how effective it can be to cease eating sugar. It has a major impact not only on your health, but also decreases the craving of the body for sugar when your blood sugar levels hit rock-bottom. And while it was difficult at the beginning to stick to the habit of eating no chocolate and all those delicious pies, one gets used to it and even discovers better alternatives such as nuts. Furthermore, if it helps you to avoid getting sick it’s worth a try.
3. Take a cold shower daily
Nearly every person has—in some form or another—heard about the benefits of taking cold showers. However, the number of people that actually tried having a cold shower is significantly lower. Not to mention that the amount of individuals that regularly take cold showers seems rather tiny. But when it comes to discovering ways to avoid getting sick, taking cold showers should be considered as an option. In fact, the sudden exposure to very cold water causes the body to heat up, which in turn can assist the body in fighting viruses.
The possible benefits of cold water exposure sparked the interest of scientists in the subject matter. Particularly the immune system seems to benefit highly from the exposure to cold water, as studies suggest. One research has shown, for instance, that the amount of white blood cells increased significantly after the body was immersed by cold water for a certain amount of time:
“[…] we found a strong increase in the number of neutrophil granulocytes [and]lymphocytes [which are both white blood cell types].”
Effect of winter swimming on haematological parameters, Journal of Biochemia Medica
The increase of white blood cells is particularly helpful, as they protect the body from viruses and bacteria. Another study found that winter swimmers benefit of a higher antioxidative protection, which helps in reducing the risk of sickness:
“We investigated whether the repeated oxidative stress in winter swimmers results in improved antioxidative adaption. […] If one compares some aspects of the antioxidative defense system of winter swimmers with those of healthy controls, there appears to be improved antioxidative protection […] in winter swimmers.”
Improved antioxidative protection in winter swimmers , QJM: An International Journal of Medicine
The only problem with taking cold showers is that one has to somehow motivate oneself to actually do it. In case you are looking for further benefits of cold showering, this article on the ways to get motivated to take cold showers will give you further information about this subject.
4. Discover liposomal vitamin C
Vitamin C is believed to be incredibly helpful, especially when you are coming down with a cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection). As a result of this, many people increase their vitamin C intake when they feel a cold approaching. While it is certainly beneficial to eat fruits as a main source for vitamin C, the necessity of an excessive consumption of vitamin C through supplements is questionable:
“Approximately 70%-90% of vitamin C is absorbed at moderate intakes of 30-180 mg/day. However, at doses above 1 g/day, absorption falls to less than 50% and absorbed, unmetabolized ascorbic acid is excreted in the urine.”
Vitamin C fact sheet, National Institutes of Health. Results taken from a study conducted by R. Jacob and G. Sotoudeh called “Vitamin C function and status in chronic disease.”
The results of the study highlight the major problem of vitamin C: the body cannot absorb it properly. As a result of this, if you take high doses of vitamin C, nearly half of it will not be absorbed. Naturally, one would be inclined to take even more vitamin C, if only 50% is absorbed by the body. But this would lead to another problem, which is that vitamin C has drastic side-effects, if it is taken in high doses, such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps and dental erosion.
A possible solution to this dilemma could be liposomal vitamin C, which is still relatively unknown to the public. Basically, it is vitamin C that is encapsulated by so-called “phospholipids”. This compound has a higher similarity to cell walls, which are fat-based, than vitamin C alone, which is water soluble. As a result, the compound can be absorbed by cells more easily, thus increasing the bioavailability of the vitamin C drastically, while avoiding some of the negative side-effects of vitamin C. The effectiveness of the compound is supported by a study that scientifically investigated the difference between absorption levels of oral intake of vitamin C with those of liposomal vitamin C. Interestingly enough, the study found that the bioavailability of liposome-encapsulated vitamin C was nearly twice as high as the highest possible bioavailability of oral vitamin C predicted by the National Institutes of Health:
“Here, we provide evidence that plasma levels following oral administration of liposomal ascorbate can reach approximately twice the predicted maximum. These findings have previously unrealized implications for the use of oral vitamin C as a therapeutic agent for various diseases.”
Pharmacokinetics of oral vitamin C, Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine
Translating all this knowledge back to our subject, the ability to increase the body’s absorption of vitamin C may have severe implications for our quest to never get a cold again. Liposomal vitamin C has the potential to stop you from getting sick, if it leads to an increase of white blood cells, which combat infections and viruses. Moreover, it could not only prevent colds, but also help you in stopping a cold or at least alleviate the common cold symptoms. Further research is needed to understand the effect of liposomal vitamin C on colds and flu’s. The growing number of testimonials about its effect on various kinds of diseases certainly opens a wide spectrum for potential research areas.
5. Brewer’s yeast – the foundation of immunity
While most people know that Brewer’s yeast is used in the fermentation of beer, it is little-known that it also can provide considerable health benefits when taken individually. It is rich in important nutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium and chromium. As a probiotic, it contains microorganisms such as bacteria and microbes such as yeast. These microorganisms work mainly in the digestive tract and help the body in restoring and maintaining the population of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms. The positive impact that Brewer’s yeast can have on the immune system was scientifically proven, when a study was conducted with 116 participants. The research results highlighted that the placebo group had significantly more colds and flu than the group that was given Brewer’s yeast. Furthermore, Brewer’s yeast was shown to reduce the duration of a cold or flu:
“Both incidence and duration of cold and flu-like symptoms were significantly reduced, including almost a full day of duration reduction been harboring colds and flu-like symptoms.”
Effects of a modified yeast supplement on cold/flu symptoms , Journal of Urologic Nursing
If combined with a healthy lifestyle, Brewer’s yeast has the potential to prevent getting a cold. But if you are still trying to figure out how to stop a cold, this supplement could be a possible solution. At least, it was proven in scientific research that Brewer’s yeast helps in decreasing the duration of the sickness.
6. Preventing colds with hydrogen peroxide?
The Internet is crowded with people attesting the effectiveness of hydrogen peroxide as a cure of an early stage cold. Yet, there is not a single scientific study to be found on this potential remedy. As far as the credibility of those testimonials is concerned, one has to keep in mind that this liquid solution costs roughly 1 dollar, so there would be not much profit in giving a false testimony. Therefore, it is included into this article as an honorable mention, so that the reader can further investigate it.
Hydrogen peroxide is well known as a sanitizer, because it oxidizes microorganisms and effectively kills them. What is more interesting about hydrogen peroxide is that the white blood cells in the human body produce hydrogen peroxide in order to kill bacteria. What differentiates hydrogen peroxide from the other tools that are mentioned in this list is that it might have the potential to cure colds and flu, not just to prevent them. Hydrogen peroxide might therefore give you a final answer to the daunting question: “how to stop being sick?” The downside, however, is that this remedy has to be applied as soon as the first symptoms of a cold appear, otherwise it will not work at all. This stage is critical, because it will only work before you have come down with a cold. Therefore, it is important to carefully monitor your body and to apply it as soon as the first signals of the onset of a cold start to appear. The procedure that follows this is rather simple. The people that use hydrogen peroxide to cure a cold simply tilt their head to one side, fill the ear canal with a 3% solution from the pharmacy and wait up to five minutes for the bubbling in the year to stop. If there is no bubbling in the ear, then this indicates that there is no infection. After this they repeat the procedure on the other ear. However, it has to be kept in mind that hydrogen peroxide is potentially dangerous and should therefore never be swallowed or come into the eyes.
“But if you do get the flu, one of the most important and simple things you can do is to use hydrogen peroxide in your ears. […] I didn’t believe it when I first saw it, but I have now seen many hundreds of cases that have been rapidly aborted with the use of hydrogen peroxide.”
Dr. Mercola, from mercola.com
Hydrogen peroxide is not only used to stop a cold, but also to avoid getting sick. For this purpose, some people either gargle with the diluted solution or dip their heads into a sink that is filled with water and a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide.
“It can be a little irritating—there’s some wound healing data that shows that hydrogen peroxide can delay wound healing. But if you have some form of virus or bacteria in the throat, it may be a little toxic to them, so it might help from that standpoint.”
Dr. Lin, Ear, Nose and Throat specialist on mensfitness.com
Personally, I would not recommend the daily use of hydrogen peroxide neither in the ear nor mouth, as it was found to damage cells. Still, the FDA has approved hydrogen peroxide (3%) for use as a mouthwash, but it should only be used for a short time.
7. Vitamin D
When it comes to avoiding a cold, vitamin C is part of every advice you hear. Another vitamin that is rather ignored is vitamin D, partly because of its possible side effects as a high-dosed supplement. Yet, being deficient in vitamin D is directly associated with higher infection rates and an increased autoimmunity, as a study on vitamin D and the immune system has shown. Building up on these and similar results, there was an analysis conducted, which examined the vitamin D levels in 18,883 subjects and their reports about recent upper respiratory tract infections (common colds). The study highlighted a direct association between higher vitamin D levels and lower risks of contracting a cold. This means that the participants with the lowest vitamin D levels reported significantly more upper respiratory tract infections than the group with the highest vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D alone might not be able to help you to avoid getting sick, but it has the potential to significantly reduce the risk of getting a cold. If you want to increase your vitamin D levels without taking (not so beneficial) supplements, exposing your body to a healthy dose of sunlight will cause your body to produce vitamin D. Because sunlight is not always available, fatty fish such as salmon can also supply your body with the vitamin. But also specific kinds of mushrooms, eggs and cod liver oil can provide you with vitamin D.
Garlic could also have the potential to stop a cold, if it is applied as soon as you notice that you are coming down with one. For this purpose, people eat a raw clove of garlic. Some let the garlic dissolve in their mouths, others chew on it (leads to garlic breath) or simply swallow small, but crushed, cloves entirely. The effectiveness of garlic was highlighted in a very interesting study, which investigated 146 subjects that were either given a garlic supplement or a placebo. Interestingly enough, the number of people who suffered from a cold during the research period was nearly three times as high if they were given a placebo.
“Consequently, volunteers in the active group were less likely to get a cold and recovered faster if infected. Volunteers taking placebo were much more likely to get more than one cold over the treatment period.”
Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement , Advances in Therapy
When applying garlic for preventing colds, it is important to crush the cloves. Doing so generates allicin, a compound that has antiviral and antibacterial properties. However, allicin is only found in raw garlic and is lost when the garlic is heated.
Ginseng tea has the wonderful effect that it helps you to quickly restore your energy levels. It has not only an energizing effect, but could also aid in preventing a cold. To this conclusion comes a study that was conducted in 2005 among 279 subjects that were either given two capsules of North American ginseng or a placebo. After the research period of four months, the ginseng group had fewer upper respiratory tract infections than the placebo group. In fact, only 10% of the ginseng group reported more than one cold, as opposed to 22% of the participants in the placebo group. This result highlights that the ginseng extract was able to reduce the amount of people who got sick by 50%. Furthermore, the ginseng extract was found to reduce the symptoms of a cold.
10. Chicken soup – the last resort
If all of this does not help in avoiding colds, there is still chicken soup left to help you to alleviate the symptoms of being sick. Chicken soup might not be an effective prevention measure, but it is a well-known cold and flu remedy. It has anti-inflammatory properties and contains a compound called carnosine, which assists the immune system during the early stages of a cold.
That was it! I hope you enjoyed these strategies to avoid getting sick. And who knows, maybe the article contained one or two methods that you found particularly interesting. If this is the case, I wish you good luck in implementing them into your lifestyle and benefiting from it through a reduced number of colds.
Please keep in mind, the information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. You should always consult your doctor or healthcare professional before taking any action.
Photo by Allen Foster
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What are your favorite tricks to avoid getting sick?