Colds and the flu are all to common this time of year. I find myself turning away from people sneezing and coughing, avoiding direct contact with doorhandles and shopping carts and generally staying out of crowded places as mush as possible. This might be extreme, but with this years “vicious flu” it seems reasonable to me.

Healthy Lifestyle

The best way to feel better from a cold or the flu is never to catch it at all! As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Complementary therapies can play a major role in preventing illness by keeping your immune system strong. Prevention strategies like mindfulness meditation, physical activity, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are important to boost the immune system. Avoiding micronutrient deficiencies, such as deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and vitamin E, can also help you avoid illness. We also know emotional stress plays a major role in our health and it should be avoided whenever possible. However, we don’t know specifically what role stress plays on the immune system.

While there are lots of products available that claim to improve the immune system, the Harvard Medical School Health blog points out that the immune system is, indeed, a system. It has many components that work together so boosting one component may have an effect on others. For example, researchers still don’t know how many immune cells or what the best mix of cells optimizes immune function.


For severe illness, including the flu in children, older adults, and others who have a deficient immune system, vaccines can be important. They strengthen the immune system and allow our body to recover faster and more fully from illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services emphasize the importance of vaccines for lifelong health. Use of complementary therapies is growing among children and adults alike. We have an important opportunity for conventional and complementary medicine providers to communicate about treatment strategies and truly move towards integrative care. Healthcare providers of all types want their patients and clients to be healthy. Communicating clearly about treatment and prevention options can help achieve that goal.

Treating Cold and Flu Symptoms

The National Institutes of Health indicates that there is no strong evidence that any product is useful in fighting the flu, but that taking zinc by mouth may help to treat colds. Hydration and nourishment help to keep your system strengthened to heal. In the meantime, as you are fighting seasonal illness, get plenty of rest and resume your usual activities as soon as possible.


Bleser WK, Elewonibi BR, Miranda PY, BeLue R. Complementary and Alternative

Harvard Medical School, Mozaffarian D. Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals.

About the Author

Jenna Troup has a Masters in Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and is a devoted spin class attendee and yoga practitioner. Contact her on Twitter: @JennaCTroup