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It’s that time of year when viruses such as the common cold and other upper respiratory infections seem to be everywhere. So, if you’ve been googling things like “how to get rid of a cold,” you aren’t alone.

In fact, we are always looking for ways to support our health and immune systems!

So, I’d like to share with you some of my go-to nutrition-based tips on ways you can support your immune system and perhaps even help keep those unwanted colds at bay.

How to Get Rid of a Cold: 3 Nutrients You Should Consume

If you’re wondering how to get rid of a cold or viral upper respiratory infection, or at least shorten the duration of it, one of the best places to begin is by examining your regular pattern of eating and providing additional nutritional support during this time of year.

While these tips won’t stop you from getting a cold, they sure can help you to feel better faster.

Here are a few areas to focus on over the coming months.

1. Antioxidants and polyphenols

As we reviewed recently, antioxidants are natural plant-based substances that help to blunt the effects of free radicals on your cells.

You encounter free radicals anytime your body comes into contact with any outside source. This can include anything from certain foods to stress to viruses or bacteria.

While antioxidants are important for your overall health, a 2014 review confirmed that they’re also very effective against viruses, making antioxidant consumption an absolute must if you’re wondering how to get rid of a cold or viral respiratory infection.

According to the review, antioxidants have the capability to reduce both viral load and replication, according to in vivo and in vitro studies. In simpler terms, they may be able to help reduce symptom severity, since your symptoms are often more severe with higher viral loads.

Additionally, a 2013 study revealed that consuming polyphenols (micronutrients found in plants) can be very effective at reducing cold and flu symptoms.

According to the study, people with either cold or flu symptoms who drank polyphenol-rich cranberry juice daily for 10 weeks reported significantly fewer symptoms of illness than those drinking a placebo beverage.

If you’re looking for some specific foods to begin adding to your regular pattern of eating that may help ward of viral illnesses, checking out this list of antioxidant-rich foods is a great place to start!

From there, you can add more plant-based foods, which are rich in the micronutrients you need for optimal immune support.

2. Vitamin C

It likely comes as no surprise that consuming vitamin C-rich foods is one of the very best solutions for how to get rid of a cold or other viral illness. After all, it’s one of the most well-documented micronutrients for immune support.

But just how effective is it? According to a 2013 meta-analysis of 30 trials, researchers found that out of more than 11,000 participants, those who consumed at least 200 mg of vitamin C each day reduced their risk of developing the common cold by an astonishing 50 percent!

While we are conditioned to associate vitamin C with citrus fruits (and they are a great source of this nutrient), you may be surprised to learn that other foods such as strawberries, ginger, honey, kale, broccoli, and even kiwis are rich in vitamin C as well!

3. Zinc

If you’re looking for even more ways on how to get rid of a cold or other viral respiratory infection, you’ll want to consider consuming some zinc-rich foods as well. Zinc is a trace mineral found in plant-based foods that also functions as an antioxidant.

Interestingly, a 2021 review and meta-analysis of 28 trials with 5,446 participants confirmed that consuming zinc helped to resolve cold and respiratory illness symptoms two days sooner compared to consuming a placebo.

Additionally, those who took the zinc reported significant reductions in symptom severity on day three of their illness compared to those who took the placebo.

As a result, the researchers surmised that taking zinc could help not only shorten the duration of viral respiratory illnesses but also help prevent them altogether!

If you’re wondering how to get rid of a cold or other viral illness by consuming more zinc, a few zinc-rich food options include red meat, shellfish, asparagus, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, peas, eggs, and even whole grains.

And fortunately, because zinc is a trace mineral, your body doesn’t need very much to make an impact. Women need about 8 mg per day while men need about 11 mg.

Additional Tips to Support Your Immune System

In addition to incorporating the above nutrients into your regular pattern of eating and regular handwashing, which is always a must, there are other practices you can implement to help keep your immune system strong and get symptom relief during cold and flu season.

Here are a few of my tried-and-true suggestions.

1. Get plenty of rest.

When your body is resting, it’s repairing, so if you’re wondering how to get rid of a cold, one of the very best things you can do is get enough sleep.

According to a 2015 study on 164 healthy adults, those who slept less than five hours per night in the week leading up to contracting a cold were more likely to develop symptoms than those slept more than seven hours per night.

So, if you’re feeling ill, make sure to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night to support proper immune function and reduce cold symptom severity.

2. Consider using a humidifier.

Adding a little moisture into the air could help to keep any nasal secretions thinned, which allows for better drainage and less stuffiness.

As a result, I recommend that you consider using a cool-mist humidifier in your home during dry, winter months and especially if you begin to develop respiratory symptoms. Not only will it make you more comfortable during your waking hours, but it will also support quality sleep.

3. Tap into essential oils.

Finally, if you’re looking for additional tips for how to get rid of a cold, consider tapping into the power of essential oils.

While they won’t necessarily eliminate the cold, certain oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus have been shown to help open the nasal passages and provide relief to stuffiness.

Several studies have confirmed that the use of certain oils can provide temporary relief of congestion and reduce respiratory discomfort associated with respiratory illnesses, though more research is needed to confirm these findings.

If you’re dealing with stuffiness and congestion, consider diffusing peppermint oil along with lemon oil, which has been shown to help fight congestion, or putting a few drops of eucalyptus oil on the floor of your shower before taking a hot shower to help temporarily open up your nasal passages.

While each of these remedies may prove useful in your search for how to get rid of a cold or other viral respiratory illness, remember that any viral illness can turn into a bacterial infection.

So, if your symptoms linger beyond five to seven days or you develop new symptoms such as a fever or worsening congestion, seek the advice of your physician for additional support and relief.

Suzanne Fenske, MD, FACOG, ABOIM, NCMP

Maya Feller

Sun Goddess Matcha
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