When it’s cold and flu season, the last thing you want is to start to feel tired, achy, and chilled—or to develop a sore throat, cough, or the sniffles. No matter who you are, it is always difficult to take care of yourself, but doubly challenging when you have gluten sensitivity. You have to find treatments that make you feel better, but also make sure every food and remedy that you take is free of gluten so you can boost your immunity, not hurt it, to fend off or overcome illness.
Be prepared. Stock up on essential gluten-free foods and remedies before you are sick so you can take them at the first sign of cold or flu symptoms. Try these tips:
- Let garlic be your medicine. Garlic has antiviral, antibacterial, and immune-boosting properties, and raw garlic is more therapeutic than cooked garlic. You can add a minced garlic clove into a vinegar- or lemon-juice-and-olive oil salad dressing. Or mix minced garlic into a tablespoon of nut butter and eat it—a remedy that works great when taken at the first sign of illness (e.g., when a sore throat is just starting to develop).
- Make chicken soup, a tried-and-true folk remedy. Sipping warm soup can make a sore throat feel better, and the steam it provides can clear nasal passages, helping to relieve cold and flu symptoms. Additionally, sipping hot liquids can raise the temperature in the nose and throat above the threshold that cold and flu viruses can survive. Plus, chicken soup is simple to prepare, nutritious, and easily digested, making it a wonderful food for winter convalescence. To be on the safe side, always keep extra gluten-free chicken broth stocked in your kitchen. That way, if you can’t make chicken soup from scratch, you can prepare a makeshift soup and receive some benefit quickly.
- Drink other hot liquids to warm the body, help relieve nasal congestion, and soothe inflamed membranes that line your nose and throat. Green tea may be particularly effective at boosting immunity and preventing and reducing cold and flu symptoms. Need green tea without caffeine? Good Earth makes a gluten-free decaf green tea with lemongrass.
- Try a gluten-free elderberry formulation, such as Nature’s Way Sambucus Original or Sugar-Free Black Elderberry Syrup. In folk medicine, flowers from the black elder bush were used to ease cold and flu symptoms, and research with elderberry extract suggests it has antiviral and immune-boosting properties. One small study showed that 93 percent of flu patients given a standardized elderberry extract were completely symptom-free within two days and recovered in about six days, compared to those who took a placebo.
- Consider protecting yourself with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), especially if you are elderly or in a weakened condition and at high risk of developing the flu. NAC has antioxidant and immune-regulating properties. One study found that supplements of 600 mg NAC taken twice daily during flu season can dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of flu-like symptoms in elderly high-risk individuals. NAC supplements labeled gluten free include those by Jarrow Formulas and Solgar.
- Think zinc. Several studies have found that zinc lozenges reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms. Gluten-free zinc lozenges include Cold-EEZE and ZAND Herbal Formulas.