A Naturopathic Doctor’s Cold & Flu Routine

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A Naturopathic Doctor’s Cold & Flu Routine

What I Do When I Get Sick: A Naturopathic Doctor’s Cold & Flu Routine 

As much as I hate to admit it, even doctors get sick. When I am feeling under the weather, the best thing I can do is to stay home. Since colds and flus are often upper respiratory infections caused by viruses, not bacteria, antibiotics are not effective. This means that I use home remedies and supplements not only to help prevent infections, but also to treat symptoms and speed recovery during colds and flu. 

Get Plenty of Sleep 

Sleep and immunity are closely tied. When I am feeling under the weather, the first thing I make sure to do is sleep as much as I can. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night, teens need 8–10 hours while children and infants require up to 14 hours. Research supports that not getting enough sleep is linked to an increased susceptibility to getting sick. When you are feeling ill, this is the minimum because when you do get sick, more sleep will help your immune system better fight off the illness. 

Cup of tea Drink Lots of Fluids 

Being hydrated helps your body to be able to flush germs out of your system. I try to drink at least 2L of water or herbal tea per day. Adding in honey is also helpful because it has natural antiviral and antimicrobial properties – and it helps to soothe a sore throat! 

Gargle with Salt Water 

Salt water gargle can help soothe a sore throat. I mix ½ a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water. I gargle with the solution twice per day or more if needed.   

Take Supplements 

To keep my immune system healthy, I take probiotics, and vitamins C and D daily. When symptoms begin, I add in zinc lozenges, increase vitamin C and herbs like echinacea, elderberry and oregano oil to help decrease the length of the illness and to help lessen symptoms. 

Supplement Spotlight 

Supplements that support healthy immune system function are primarily formulated to offer a degree of prevention with few unpleasant side effects, such as drowsiness. Many of these supplements have been scientifically proven to strengthen your body’s general immune response. 

  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports a healthy immune system. In many studies reduced vitamin C levels are associated with lower immune function. There is evidence that high doses of vitamin C may decrease the length of cold symptoms by as much as one to one-and-a-half days for some people. [1], [2], [3] As a busy mom, I like using a timed-release formula taken in the morning to last me throughout the day.
  • Vitamin D deficiency may increase your chances of getting sick. [4] Research has associated a link between vitamin D and respiratory infections. [5], [6] People with the lowest blood vitamin D levels reported having significantly more recent colds or cases of the flu. I highly recommend that you get your blood levels tested by your doctor. 
  • Probiotics alter the balance of microflora in the gut and play an important role in immunity. [7] Research supports the use of probiotics to increase the immune response during the course of the common cold. [8] Along with a multi-strain probiotic formula, I try to include fermented foods in my daily diet such as pickles, sauerkraut, plain Greek yogurt and kombucha. 
  • Echinacea is used to both prevent or decrease the duration of the common cold. [9], [10], [11] Research shows echinacea works by stimulating immune function, helping the body fight off infections, especially of the upper respiratory tract, as well as helping reduce cold symptoms.
  • Elderberry is rich in antioxidants to support your immune system help to shorten the duration of colds and the flu.
  • Oregano Oil has anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects and has a history of use for respiratory disorders.
  • Zinc is a mineral that boosts immunity and has been found to reduce the duration of a cold. [12] It is often found as an ingredient in lozenges to help soothe a sore throat.

Chicken Noodle Soup 

Chicken soup has a lot of anecdotal data on how Grandma’s best medicine can help fight off a cold. Sometimes grandma really does know best! Hot soup packed with nutrients and made with real chicken bone broth provides collagen, amino acids, and minerals to help your body heal. Chicken soup tastes great and is easy to digest. 


A great way to break up mucus in your body is with aromatherapy. Rubbing camphor or menthol rub around your nose and on your chest can help give relief. You can use aromatherapy oils, such as peppermint and eucalyptus which are great in a nice hot bath

Visit a Doctor 

“An apple a day can keep the doctor away,” a familiar saying that may have truth behind it after all. Eating nourishing foods rich in certain nutrients can help your immune system fight off illness.

But as a doctor, I do know that sometimes a visit to the doctor is in order. Consult with your doctor if your symptoms persist or worsen and prior to supplementation use if you have an existing condition or are taking medication.

Joyce Johnson, ND (Inactive)

Joyce Johnson, ND (Inactive)

Naturopathic Doctor, natural health and lifestyle expert with 18 years of experience in her field.

References :

Martin NG, Carr AB, Oakeshott JG, Clark P. Co-twin control studies: vitamin C and the common cold. Prog Clin Biol Res 1982;103:365-73.

Anderson TW. Vitamin C and the common cold. J Med Soc N J 1979;76:765-6.

Davies JE, Hughes RE, Jones E, et al. Metabolism of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in subjects infected with common cold viruses. Biochem Med 1979;21:78-85.

Vanherwegen AS, Gysemans C, Mathieu C. Regulation of Immune Function by Vitamin D and Its Use in Diseases of Immunity. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2017 Dec;46(4):1061-1094. doi: 10.1016/j.ecl.2017.07.010. Epub 2017 Oct 6. PMID: 29080635.

Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 91(5):1255-1260.

Loeb M, Dang AD, Thiem VD, et al. Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation to reduce respiratory infections in children and adolescents in Vietman: A randomized controlled trial. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2019; 13(2):176-183.

Giorgetti G, Brandimarte G, Fabiocchi F, et al. Interactions between Innate Immunity, Microbiota, and Probiotics. Journal of immunology research. 2015; 501361.

Turner RB, Woodfolk JA, Borish L, Steinke JW, Patrie JT, Muehling LM, Lahtinen S, Lehtinen MJ. Effect of probiotic on innate inflammatory response and viral shedding in experimental rhinovirus infection - a randomised controlled trial. Benef Microbes. 2017 Apr 26;8(2):207-215. doi: 10.3920/BM2016.0160. Epub 2017 Mar 27. PMID: 28343401; PMCID: PMC5797652.

Goel V, Lovlin R, Barton R, Lyon MR, Bauer R, Lee TD, Basu TK. Efficacy of a standardized echinacea preparation (Echinilin) for the treatment of the common cold: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2004 Feb;29(1):75-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2710.2003.00542.x. PMID: 14748902.

Goel V, Lovlin R, Chang C, Slama JV, Barton R, Gahler R, Bauer R, Goonewardene L, Basu TK. A proprietary extract from the echinacea plant (Echinacea purpurea) enhances systemic immune response during a common cold. Phytother Res. 2005 Aug;19(8):689-94. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1733. PMID: 16177972.

Fonseca FN, Papanicolaou G, Lin H, et al. Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench modulates human T-cell cytokine response. International immunopharmacology. 2014; 19(1):94-102.

Hemilä H. Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc acetate and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage. JRSM Open. 2017 May 2;8(5):2054270417694291. doi: 10.1177/2054270417694291. PMID: 28515951; PMCID: PMC5418896.


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