This flu season has hit the United States especially hard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 37 children have died from the flu so far this season, and between Oct. 1 and Jan. 20, there have been 11,965 laboratory-confirmed flu-related hospitalizations reported. With many weeks left to go in this year’s flu season, it’s so important to protect yourself from the flu virus. That means getting the flu shot, and going to the doctor if you notice any flu symptoms. But once you’ve taken those measures, there are natural flu remedies that help you avoid getting sick, on top of getting vaccinated, and help you feel better faster if you do get sick.
Dr. Megan Meyer, the director of Science Communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, tells Bustle that what we ingest can have a huge impact on how we avoid and recover from the flu. “Different foods and micronutrients can be helpful in keeping your immune system strong,” she says. “Following a balanced diet that incorporates healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables is a great way to protect yourself against this year’s cold and flu season. But there are a couple specific components you can add to your diet to help alleviate some symptoms and/or lessen the chances of getting sick,” she says. You may have some of these natural ways to combat the flu in your cabinet already, or can easily grab them from the corner store. These are not replacements for going to the doctor, especially if you’re sustaining a high fever over multiple days, if your vomiting won’t let up, or if you feel any chest pain or pressure. However, if you’re just feeling lousy, they may help you get back up to speed more quickly.
1. Vitamin C
This one you may have heard before. Some studies have shown that deficiency of vitamin C has led to depressed immune response, at least in animals, according to Harvard Health, so taking extra vitamin C when you’re trying not to get sick definitely can’t hurt you. If you’re being proactive and trying to ward off the flu, Dr. Axe recommends taking 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, whether by eating citrus or taking a supplement. If you already have flu symptoms, take up to 4,000 milligrams.
Dr. Meyer tells Bustle, “It’s important to stay hydrated when you are sick.” Water helps flush the flu virus out of your system. Adding lemon, honey, and cinnamon to hot water can also help prevent mucus buildup and soothe a sore throat. Keep a full water bottle by your bedside and get up to fill it when it’s empty. Healthline.com also recommends gargling “with 8 oz. of warm water, 1 tsp. of salt, and 1/2 tsp. of baking soda” to soothe a sore throat.
Echinacea is a natural anti-inflammatory, and research suggests that it can slightly lessen the chance you’ll catch a cold, as well as neutralize inflammation-causing bacteria (though the flu is a viral, not bacterial, infection). It’s been used for centuries, though, as a general illness remedy, and at worst it’ll help you stay more hydrated. Try drinking echinacea tea or taking it in a supplement.
4. Vitamin D
Research has found that lack of Vitamin D is associated with increased flu infections. Your body creates naturally Vitamin D when it’s in the sun (which, of course, isn’t around as much as usual during flu season). The recommended daily amount of Vitamin D for folks between age one and 70 is 600 IU (international units). So take a walk outside and soak up the sun. Vitamin D can also be found dairy milk, eggs, salmon, almond milk, and in supplements.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Don’t miss out on the amazing uses and benefits of apple cider vinegar! pic.twitter.com/qrnHvFgEvd
— Dr. Joseph Mercola (@mercola) January 16, 2018