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3 Wonderfully Weird Ways to Stop the Winter Sniffles Naturally

Updated: May 26, 2023

mug with tissues and glasses against a dark background

It's that time of the year again! And no I'm not talking about the festivities of the winter season. I'm talking about the colds, flus, and upper respiratory track infections that seem to come with it.

While you've probably listened as your primary care medical doctor offered you the flu vaccine or saw television commercials for the latest natural blend of echinacea, you've probably never thought of these 3 wonderful and slightly weird ways to beat the cold and flu stop winter sniffles naturally.

feet in sheer socks

1. Stop Winter Sniffles Naturally with Wet/Warming Socks

The wet sock treatment, also called warming sock treatment, is a tried and true holistic health approach to giving the cold and flu the boot!

Naturopathic doctors love this approach because of its simplicity while kids think its magic!

The warming socks treatment is type of hydrotherapy that uses the body's own immune and circulatory system to its advantage.

Hydrotherapy, or the use of water for healing purposes, isn't something new. In fact, it dates all the way back to Ancient Greece and the thermal baths and natural hot springs.

The Ancient Greeks were well aware of the healing attributes of the sulphur filled hot springs surrounding them, which they used to treat skin conditions and muscular and joint pain [1].

But the founder of modern hydrotherapy would have to be Vinzenz Priessnitz (1799-1851), a Silesian (now part of Poland) farmer turned physician [2]. He developed a system of treatment using water after he observed hurt animals dipping their limbs into water to accelerate the healing process.

He began to apply this water healing system to his own injuries and then to patients in his area. He eventually added diet and physical activity into his regimen and developed a clinic in Austria.

He became famous due to his success rate in treating the diseases of his day.

Out of this history comes the warming socks application.

So what is warming socks?

Warming socks is a hydrotherapy treatment that uses cool water to activate the body's immune and circulatory systems.

people enjoying an outside thermal hot spring

Cold water hydrotherapy has been shown to increase the number and activity of white blood cells as well as interleukin-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine necessary for the immune response [3].

Increasing white blood cell number and activity increases immune system function which causes a more vigorous response to help get rid of those nasty cold and flu viruses.

Warming socks hydrotherapy also induces vasodilation of deeper vasculature in the body to maintain the body's normal temperature. In other words, when cool wet socks are placed on your feet, your body automatically compensates by increasing blood flow to the surrounding area.

An increase in circulation and immune system function give the cold and flu a heavy hit.

So how is the warming socks therapy done?

After a very warm (thinking soothing not lukewarm or scalding hot) foot bath, take socks that have been dipped in chilly water, wring them out, and place on your feet.

Place thick woolen socks over your wet socks and go straight to bed.

In the morning, (if doing this with your young kids, they will LOVE it), the socks will be dry.

If you want to do warming socks, you can head over to resources where you can download a quick guide to warming socks and explore the other free resources for you to enjoy.

an avocado that has been cut in half

2. The Ketogenic Diet

While warming socks is a great way to beat the winter bugs, another popular health trend is proving useful for the very same purpose: the ketogenic diet.

The ketogenic diet, keto for short, has become a very trendy diet with everyone from Dr. Mercola to WebMD, talking about it. The keto diet is one in which you put your body into a state of ketosis by eating very little carbohydrates and high amounts of fat.

The keto diet was originally used for children with epilepsy who weren't responding to conventional medications but today it has become a popular weight loss trend.

While the keto diet is useful for weight loss, it's also been found to be beneficial for protecting against the flu virus.

Researchers found that the keto diet, as opposed to one high in carbs, helped to activate a special type of T cell (a cell of the immune system), the gamma delta T cell, in the lungs which increased mucus production and trapped the influenza virus [4].

a drawing of humans lungs exposing the airways

With the influenza virus trapped, the severity of the flu infection was lessened.

To put your body in the state of ketosis, where your body is using ketones for fuel and not glucose, you have to greatly decrease the amount of carbohydrates you're eating. 20 grams of carbs a day or less should be your goal. Also increase physical activity and fat intake.

Organic coconut oil is a great option.

Before starting any diet, talk to your naturopathic doctor or health care professional.

a bowl of blueberries

3. Bacteria and Berries

While the keto diet may be trendy, my last tip for beating the winter colds and flus, is time honored although it may seem unusual at first: bacteria and berries.

The bacteria that lives in our guts are amazing and the more learn about them, the more we see how integral a healthy gut microbiome is to our overall health.

Research has found that certain phytonutrients, called flavonoids, were broken down in our guts by bacteria to help increase the immune response and destroy the flu virus. Flavonoids, which include heavy hitters like quercetin and luteolin, are found in many different types of foods like elderberries, blackberries, and even red wine.

Researchers found that when flavonoids were introduced into the gut, a bacteria called Clostridium orbiscindens, broke them down to produce a molecule that increased the immune response [5].

This increased immune response prevented flu related damage to the lungs.

While there aren't any probiotic supplements that contain C. orbiscindens at this time, the good news is that you should already have plenty of it in your gut. Eating a diet rich in foods that contain flavonoids will help to increase the amount of C. orbiscindens in your gut naturally.

a person holding a cup of herbal tea

Foods that are high in flavonoids include:black tea, bilberries, raspberries, black currants, chick peas, parsley, oregano, capers, blackberries and elderberries (as mentioned above).

With cold and flu season upon us, using these three wonderfully weird tips will help you help you in your fight against the winter bugs naturally.

Your turn! Have you tried any of these to beat the cold or flu? How did it work for you? Let me know in the comments.

Dr. Candace Mathers, naturopathic doctor near me, natural medicine doctor, functional medicine doctor, special needs family

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woman in watermelon dress holding a slice of watermelon
I'm Dr. Candace Mathers, a naturopathic physician, helping you repair, restore, and renew your health and life to new heights! I'm a Christian, a mother, and lover of the outdoors. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for fun challenges, community, and tips on getting healthy naturally!

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