Surviving the winter months: tips & remedies for colds & flus (and preventing them!)


This is one of those posts I have been wanting to write for some time. I have asked my lovely friend and nutritionist Emma Sgourakis, the Nutrition Coach, to provide her comments on my suggestions. I really hope these will help you over the coming months. 

Emma is a nutritionist with a difference – she isn’t going to suggest you eat your leafy salads, to drink 8 glasses of water or even to eat that raw apple! Instead Emma focuses on eating the right foods to ensure an optimally functioning metabolism and thyroid.

If you have met Emma you will agree that she radiates such good health and amazing presence. I always think if you are going to take nutritional (or any sort of advice) from anyone, it should be someone who embodies what you want to achieve yourself.

So here you have them, our top tips for keeping cold & flus at bay and helping your body fight back if you find yourself unwell.

:: Vitamin d3 drops – taken orally in milk or applied topically on the skin. Vitamin d3 drops are a very bioavailable form of vitamin d – meaning it is in a form that your body is easily able to make use of. I like to use 2-3 drops of 2000IU during the winter months when my sun exposure is not as great as during the summer time.

Emma says: Natural Vitamin D (D3 cholecalciferol rather than synthetic D2) is helpful supplementally when the days are shorter and cloudier.  Get as much outdoor time as you can even through the winter, but if your Vitamin D levels are already low then you could benefit from supplementation.  If your intestines are sensitive or inflamed, I recommend using D3 drops on the skin: 3-5 drops topically depending on your blood levels.  

:: Light therapy Adequate sunlight is essential for optimal health. Have you ever wondered why in the darker months of winter, people suffer from more sickness. Darkness in itself is a stress on the body as it impairs cell energy production and stress hormones are highest at night. In the darker months many people benefit from light therapy, such as exposure to an incandescent heat bulb for about 15-20 minutes a day (a minimum of 250W).

Emma says: it’s no coincidence that we all ‘feel better’ after being outdoors on a sunny day, while depression, colds and flus are more prevalent when the days are shorter and grey. Light therapy on those darker days is a brilliantly simple and powerful way to quench free-radicals, improve cell respiration, immunity, sleep and mood, and lower catabolic stress hormones. Otherwise just spend more time outside for as much full-spectrum light exposure (without burning) as you possibly can.  For more on light, I recommend this article.

Bi-carb Another new one right? Bi carb can be useful in stopping a cold early on due its ability to increase carbonate dioxide in your cells. Try adding half a teaspoon of bicarb to your morning orange juice or a glass of water. 
Emma says: Taking half a teaspoon of bi-carb soda (sodium bicarbonate) every couple of hours in the first day or two when cold/flu symptoms appear can help stop the progression of illness.  Dr Cheney published his findings on bi-carb’s actions on treating colds back in 1924.  From my own experience, it does seem to help!

:: Zinc – Low zinc levels contribute towards imbalanced blood sugar and frequent infections. The best way to get adequate zinc in your diet is oysters. So how much should you have? It really depends on you and how your body is functioning, however consuming oysters once a week is a great start.

Emma says: Zinc is definitely an important mineral for strengthening immunity, and you can get more than enough through eating the right foods; far better than supplemental zinc.  If you regularly eat oysters or other shellfish, liver, lamb etc, and avoid phytates in whole grains that block its absorption, you can bring your zinc levels up quickly.

:: Epsom Salt Baths  Do you need convincing? I didn’t think so.

Emma says: Epsom salt baths are about the safest and most effective way of ‘taking in’ supplemental magnesium (and the most enjoyable way too!)  Richest food sources of easily absorbable magnesium are fresh orange juice, bone broth, coffee and cocoa.  Note that magnesium levels are typically low in hypothyroid people, and estrogen also seems to be antagonistic of magnesium.

:: Raw honey – Raw untreated honey has wonderful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is full of natural enzymes and nutrients that can be powerful to the body and immune system. Once honey has been pasteurised or heat treated, it loses many of its beneficial properties, so be sure to try to source a local raw honey or a raw organic honey. Take it by the spoonful to coat a sore throat, use it in my tonic (recipe below) and just enjoy a spoon with a glass of milk throughout the day or before bed. If you are worried about the fructose – read about why simple carbohydrates (which is what honey is) are essential to good health here.

:: Raw Carrot Salad It sounds so simple and yet it has such a powerful affect. Why? The fibers in raw carrots do not feed bacteria and instead assist in detoxifying endotoxins from the intestines, lowering inflammation and assisting in the elimination of excess estrogen. I grate one carrot in the morning, mix it up with sea salt, apple cider vinegar and coconut oil and pop in a stainless steel tin, for my mid morning snack (best eaten without other food). To understand in full what these carrots fibers are going to do for you, read Emma’s article here.

:: Sleep In our fast paced life, everyone is looking for the quick fix solution, and yet our bodies immensely benefit from slowing down. Ensuring adequate sleep is essential where ever possible. Set your bedtime and put an alarm on your phone for 30 minutes before this. In your last 30 minutes of the day, get away from all screens and relax – sit and read, write a to do list for the next day, sew or meditate – enjoy a warm honey & milk or a little ice cream.

Emma says: Regardless of what you’re eating or taking, if you’re sleep deprived you’ll always be somewhat immunosuppressed.  Do what ever it is that helps you relax.  Eat very regular balanced meals through the day to avoid hypoglycemia, and top up your sugars (as Natalie mentions: milk and honey is excellent) before bed to prevent a blood sugar crash and the compensatory adrenalin rush (that will wake you up) in the night.
:: Bone broth Bone broths are rich in alkalizing minerals and beneficial immune factors. We prefer to make beef bone broth  however chicken stock still has some therapeutic benefits. Incorporate it daily into your meals or even better warm a cup on the stove, add a tablespoon or two of bovine gelatin, a squeeze of fresh lemon , sea salt and sip in a mug.
Emma says: old fashioned liquid immunity. 

Honey & Lemon Tonic 
a few tablespoons of raw (local) honey
finely grated fresh ginger
finely grated fresh turmeric (if you can get some) a dash of raw apple cider vinegar,
half a lemon squeezed (no pulp)
Fill cup with boiling water and sip.

disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all ideas expressed here are my own, unless mentioned otherwise. This does not constitute medical advice.

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  1. Steph @ this brown wren on May 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

    You are truly an inspiration lovely Nat! I adore this post and no doubt will return to it time and time again. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂 xx

  2. Jodi on May 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Thanks Natalie and Emma for a brilliant post. I'll be referencing it over the next few months x

  3. Stacey on May 28, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Great post Nat & Emma. I didn't know about the Vitamin d3 drops, tempted to email a few friends right now (especially those in the UK next Winter!) about those. I've just made a batch of tonic for us, by slicing lemon and ginger placing in a jar then covering with raw honey and leaving it to infuse. I add garlic & tumeric as I see fit when adding the boiling water (Marilla doesn't care much for a strong Garlic flavour so I just add it to mine sometimes). Hope this finds you all happy and of course healthy! xx

  4. Imogen Eve on May 28, 2013 at 11:05 am

    This is fabulous advice, thank you.

  5. Prue Gilfillan on May 29, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Thanks for the excellent advice! I'm always interested in natural ways to stay healthy and nourished, without the need for synthetic drugs. Great post!

  6. Meagan Wilson on May 29, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Love this Nat. Good work! xx m.

  7. natalie on May 29, 2013 at 12:42 am

    Oysters! I never eat them but I'm going to! Awesome post, thanks so much. Great to have a run down of some things I didn't know to include for winter health. I just stocked up on epsom salts for the bath yesterday so that's definitely going to occur before the week is out. Nat x

  8. Norfolk Exposure on May 29, 2013 at 7:38 am

    This is gold and you are a cherub. I've just added epson salts to this weeks shopping list. Bone broth we have covered…my husband just made a GINORMOUS pot of beef broth that bubbled away on the stove for 72 hours…it's setting in the fridge as I type. You know, I've been extra tired lately and haven't felt as though I was getting quite enough sleep. As of tonight it's 8:30 to bed and lights out at 9pm! Well it's my intention anyway 🙂 Thank you so much for passing on this invaluable information x

  9. Iliska Dreams on May 30, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Excellent post. Are there any alternatives to oysters?

  10. Stacey on May 31, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Hi Nat, just wondering what your thought are on taking fermented cod liver oil as means of boosting immunity? I ask because I know you used to use it and wondered if that was still the case? Stace x

  11. bron @ baby space on June 1, 2013 at 9:49 am

    ooh, great tips, I'll be coming back to this post too x

  12. Vicky on February 22, 2014 at 2:56 am


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Hi I’m Natalie,

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