It’s cold and flu season yet again! But why is that? What is it about the weather turning colder that leads to these sicknesses? It may not be so much about the time of year as it is about our lifestyle and unique traumas, toxins, and thoughts that arise in the fall and winter seasons. The combination of less sun exposure (vitamin D), indulgence in sweets, and added stress makes us more susceptible to infections. Here’s what you need to know about the common cold.
What is the Common Cold?
While most people think of the common cold as a single illness, over 200 different viruses can cause it. The most common are rhinovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, enterovirus, and coronavirus. The rhinovirus is the most common. 
Symptoms of the Common Cold
The common cold most often causes the following symptoms:
- Stuffy nose or runny nose
- Sinus congestion
- Sore throat
- Mild aches
- Low-grade fever
- Sluggish energy
The common cold differs from a fever in that it doesn’t tend to cause a fever and more often involves nasal congestion and a sore throat. It doesn’t usually lead to serious health problems like the flu can. 
How is the Common Cold Diagnosed?
The classic signs of a rhinovirus infection without signs of a bacterial infection or other serious illness are enough for doctors to make a diagnosis of the common cold. Diagnostic testing is typically unnecessary unless a doctor is concerned about ruling out another type of infection like bronchitis, sinus infections, or strep throat.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we talk about the mainstream perspective on healthcare versus our perspective, as the “fireman approach” versus the “carpenter approach.”
Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) to take care of people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out during a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish the “flames”: inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.
Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters: They assess the body’s current state with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are some common natural therapies that support the body in healing.
While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in supporting the healing process.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to The Common Cold
It’s important to note that antibiotics aren’t effective against the common cold because it’s a viral infection, not bacterial. Overuse of antibiotics can also contribute to antibiotic resistance. Here’s what doctors typically recommend for the common cold.
Medications for the Common Cold
There isn’t a specific medication for the common cold since it’s caused by viruses. However, healthcare providers typically recommend over-the-counter (OTC) meds to help manage symptoms. These aim to reduce specific symptoms and make the person feel a bit better. Common drugs used for the symptomatic relief of a cold include: 
- Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers: For a fever, headaches, or other body aches, doctors may recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve).
- Decongestants: These medications, available in pill, liquid, or nasal spray form, help alleviate nasal congestion by shrinking swollen blood vessels in the nasal passages. They can include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) or phenylephrine (Sudafed PE). If used for too long, nasal decongestants can cause “rebound congestion” or worsening symptoms.
- Cough Suppressants: Cough syrups and other cough medicines commonly include dextromethorphan, which reduces the urge to cough.
- Expectorants: Expectorants help thin and loosen mucus, making it easier to cough up and clear the airways. Guaifenesin is a common expectorant ingredient in Mucinex and other meds.
- Antihistamines: These medications suppress the allergic response and help relieve sneezing, runny nose, and itchy or watery eyes. Some antihistamines might cause drowsiness, which can promote sleep if taken before bedtime.
- Sore Throat Lozenges or Sprays: Medicated lozenges or throat sprays with soothing ingredients can help relieve a sore throat.
However, we know drugs and vaccines are rife with harmful side effects, which is why there’s an interest in natural products and home remedies for the common cold.
What Causes the Common Cold? Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts
At The Wellness Way, we think differently! The common cold runs through the population each year. We tend to come down with a cold when our immune response is suppressed by the physical, biochemical, and emotional stressors we encounter daily.
Traumas (Physical Stressors)
Traumas or physical stressors can be acute (like a car accident) or chronic (like being in a physically abusive relationship). Examples of traumas that could contribute to the common cold include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual assault/rape
- Car accidents
- Severe illness or infection
- Having a baby
These physical traumas may set off a state of chronic stress within the body. The result may be an infection like the common cold.
Toxins (Biochemical Stressors)
Toxins are biochemical stressors in the body. Examples of toxins that could contribute to the common cold include:
- Sugar – Excessive sugar consumption can weaken the immune system and increase a person’s likelihood of coming down with a cold. 
- Medications – Immune-suppressing medications may also increase the risk of contracting a cold virus. Examples include prednisone, autoimmune disease drugs like methotrexate (Trexall, Xatmep) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and TNF inhibitors also used for autoimmune diseases like adalimumab (Humira) and infliximab (Remicade). 
- Smoking – Past and current smokers are at higher risk of respiratory infections like the common cold due to airway damage and immune changes. 
- Food allergies – Healthy foods can act like toxins if you’re allergic to them. Continuing to eat foods you’re allergic to can lead to chronic inflammation, poor digestion, and immune imbalance, creating the perfect environment for a viral infection like the common cold. 
- Gut dysbiosis – Intestinal dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) may also contribute to cold susceptibility by altering the immune system. 
Traumas and toxins are made worse by negative thought patterns and emotional stress.
Thoughts (Emotional Stressors)
Don’t underestimate the power of your thoughts. Emotional stress is just as powerful (or more powerful) than physical and biochemical stressors in triggering inflammation and imbalance. Emotional stress can come from the following:
- Relationship issues – Relationships can turn toxic, leading to chronic stress. Prolonged stress can lead to dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which can, in turn, affect the immune defense against viruses.
- Financial stress – Financial struggles can lead to dysbiosis and chronic infections due to the long-term effects of stress and cortisol.
- Watching the news – The mainstream media rarely focuses on the positive. Regularly exposing yourself to bad news increases fear, worry, and overall stress.
- Feeling overwhelmed – Stress from significant life changes, like a recent marriage, a new baby, graduation, a divorce, or even moving to a new city, can lead to gut dysbiosis and an increased susceptibility to viral infections.
- Holding a grudge/pent-up anger – Holding a grudge creates stress in the body.
- A death in the family or a close friend – Grief is another form of stress that may create imbalances in the body.
- Military combat – PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) or PTSD from other causes can create a chronic sense of dis-ease in the body.
- Witnessing violence or a natural disaster – Being a witness to a mass shooting, murder, accident, or natural disaster is another potential cause of PTSD that may cause lasting imbalances.
The cumulative effect of these traumas, toxins, and thoughts can create inflammation and increase the risk of dis-ease anywhere in the body.
The Wellness Way Approach to The Common Cold
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We don’t just address symptoms; we run tests to find out what’s going on behind the scenes. Chronic inflammation and gut dysbiosis can increase the likelihood of getting a cold.
Essential Tests for Assessing Gut Health and Viral Infections
- TWW Viral Panel: Access Custom Viral Panel
- Gut Health Test: Genova GI Effects with Parasitology
- Food Allergy Test: Immuno Food Allergy Test
Your Wellness Way clinic will order more tests based on what he or she considers most relevant based on your health history.
Dietary Changes for Those Avoiding or Fighting the Common Cold
First, focus on lowering sugar intake and improving digestion to support your immune response. That means avoiding food allergies and following a personalized nutrition program, as your Wellness Way clinic recommends. According to a 2021 systematic review, an anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce symptoms and duration of viral infections like the common cold. 
Here are some general dietary guidelines for those avoiding or fighting a cold:
- Chicken soup! Chicken soup may help with nasal congestion. Researchers from the Nebraska Medical Center studied a recipe that included chicken, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, celery, and parsley and its effects on the immune system. They discovered chicken soup had anti-inflammatory effects, which may be why it seemed to reduce common cold symptoms. 
- Hot beverages – According to a 2008 study from Wales, hot drinks like tea worked better than room-temperature drinks to relieve cold symptoms.  Even hot water with honey, lemon, and cinnamon may be helpful. Bone broth is one of our top recommendations.
- No sugar or processed foods – Sugar and refined starches increase inflammation and contribute to gut dysbiosis. Ultimately, they negatively affect the immune response and open the door to infections. 
- Gluten-free, mostly grain-free – Gluten is known to aggravate the gut lining, contributing to chronic inflammation throughout the body.
- Consume an overall low carbohydrate, non-inflammatory diet of organic whole foods, which supply nutrients, antioxidants, and food for a healthy gut microbiome. 
- No cow’s milk dairy products – Goat and sheep’s milk products may be better tolerated – and even beneficial for lowering inflammation in the gut, which makes up a large part of the immune response. 
- Avoid high omega-6 vegetable oils, like corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed oil, sunflower, grapeseed, and others, which can alter the omega-6 to omega-3 balance to be more inflammatory.  Instead, use fruit oils like olive, coconut, avocado, and palm oil or animal fats like beef tallow, bacon grease, and duck fat.
- Eat omega-3-rich foods – Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds provide omega-3s and help lower inflammation. 
- Follow a Personalized Nutrition Program based on your food allergy test results.
- Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Add Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens for enhanced nutrition. Liver is nature’s multivitamin, according to Dr. Patrick Flynn.
- Focus on antioxidants – Including things like turmeric, green tea, berries, dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables, and other foods rich in phytochemicals helps keep inflammation under control. They also support a healthy microbiome. 
A healthy diet can reduce inflammation and support gut health, but supplements can further support the immune response.
Supplements for Those Avoiding or Fighting the Common Cold
Herbal supplements and other nutritional supplements can support the body in overcoming infections like the common cold. Some supplements a Wellness Way clinic may recommend to those fighting the common cold could include any of the following:
- Megabiotic Formula – Probiotic supplements like this blend of highly researched strains can help keep infections and inflammation under control in the gut and throughout the body. Probiotics may help balance the immune response, supporting the body’s ability to fight the common cold. 
- Elderberry Tincture – In a randomized controlled trial, elderberry supplementation reduced the duration and symptoms of the common cold in air travelers. 
- Echinacea – In a 2013 study, a standardized echinacea extract interfered with virus replication and was helpful for upper respiratory tract infections. 
- Mushroom Immune – Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms support the immune defense against viruses, including those behind the common cold. 
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is crucial for supporting the immune system and overall health. Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels may contribute to a healthy immune response, potentially reducing the risk and severity of various infections, including the common cold. 
- Zinc – Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions, including immune health. Those who are zinc-deficient are at greater risk of viruses like the common cold. Adding zinc lozenges can help. 
- Vitamin C – Mega-dosing vitamin C before or after the onset of symptoms may reduce symptoms compared to pain meds and decongestants. 
Each person is different – herbal medicines that work for one individual may not work for another. Part of that is due to body chemistry, including genetics and allergenic responses, and part is due to what imbalances set them up for getting a cold.
Lifestyle Changes & Complementary Therapies for the Common Cold
The following lifestyle changes and natural remedies are helpful for health in general and may help reduce the duration, symptoms, or likelihood of coming down with a cold.
- Regular chiropractic care – If your posture is poor and your nervous system is affected, it can create stress and inflammation, affecting the immune response.
- Saltwater gargle – Gargling with salt dissolved in warm water is a home remedy that may help to break down mucus in the throat and relieve irritation and congestion. A typical recommendation is to add ½ teaspoon of salt to 4 to 8 ounces of warm water and gargle 4 times daily. 
- Neti pot – Rinsing the sinuses with salt water using a neti pot may also help reduce irritation and mucus output.  Dissolve a teaspoon into boiled distilled water (let cool first) and pour through one nostril. Let the saline drain out of the other nostril. Repeat with the other nostril.
- Essential oils – Certain essential oils like eucalyptus oil and those high in menthol and camphor can help to open breathing passages and reduce coughing.  Peppermint oil is high in menthol, and rosemary oil has camphor. In scientific studies, vapor from tea tree oil and eucalyptus essential oils had strong antiviral activity. 
DISCLAIMER: Many of these should be a part of a normal daily lifestyle. The Wellness Way is not giving any medical advice. These are simply A Different Perspective on what you can do. You’re more likely to have a healthy immune system when doing these things regularly. These supplements and therapies are not a replacement for any medication. We are carpenter doctors and practitioners, not firemen. If you want medical advice, ask your fireman doctor.
Be a well-informed patient! Here are some resources for learning more about inflammation, the immune response, and fighting the common cold.
Educational Resources for Learning About the Common Cold or The Immune Response
Videos & Webinars Related to The Immune Response or the Common Cold
Articles Related to The Immune Response or the Common Cold
CONNECT WITH US
We invite you to connect with us! Find an event at a clinic near you! Follow us on social media. Tune in to A Different Perspective each Saturday morning LIVE to get cutting-edge training directly from Dr. Patrick Flynn. Set up a no-obligation health consult with one of our doctors today. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today to get thorough testing and start on your health journey. We are here to help!
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- Cold Versus Flu | CDC
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- Effects of sugar, salt and distilled water on white blood cells and platelet cells: A review | Janjua | Journal of Tumor (ghrnet.org)
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- Can an anti-inflammatory diet be effective in preventing or treating viral respiratory diseases? A systematic narrative review – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro – PubMed (nih.gov)
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- Stress, Food, and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at the Cutting Edge – PMC (nih.gov)
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- The Immunomodulatory and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Polyphenols – PubMed (nih.gov)
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- Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial – PubMed (nih.gov)
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- Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The Role of Zinc in Antiviral Immunity – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Respiratory Tract Infections and its Preventive Measures among Hajj Pilgrims, 2010: A Nested Case Control Study – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Neti pot: Can it clear your nose? – Mayo Clinic
- Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases highlighting their role in bacterial infections and their anti‐inflammatory action: a review – PMC (nih.gov)
- Antiviral activity of tea tree and eucalyptus oil aerosol and vapour – ScienceDirect