How to get rid of a cold, stop the flu, and boost your immune system

Peak cold and flu season has arrived and is here to stay until spring. The best way to prevent colds and flu from striking and lingering is to have a bullet-proof immune system. Though colds may still happen, the stronger your immune system, the quicker you’ll recover.

While there are some things you can do to fight a cold and to stop a cold in its tracks (read to the end for those tips), it’s all about taking preventative measures ahead of time.

Here are some easy ways to bullet-proof your immune system.

  1. Get adequate sleep

Sleep is crucial for a healthy immune system. A 2008 study from Harvard showed that “people who averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night were about three times more likely to develop cold symptoms than study volunteers who got eight or more hours of sleep when exposed to the cold-causing rhinovirus. In addition, those individuals who got better quality sleep were the least likely to come down with a cold.”

So make a point to prioritize your sleep. Put down your devices, avoid screen time 2 hours before bed, supplement with magnesium, and try to go to bed before 10pm.

  1. Focus on your gut health and diet

There has been a huge amount of research recently on the link between gut health and immune function. While this has been all the craze recently, we’ve known about this link in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Your diet and gut health is everything.

The gut houses 70% of the cells that make up the immune system. When your gut is inflamed and not functioning optimally, it can lead to low immune function, anxiety, depression, and even autoimmune disease.

  1. Lay off the processed foods and oils (avoid sugar, bread, white flour, and processed/packaged foods). These are inflammatory for your gut.
  2. Nourish yourself with whole foods that don’t come in a box – fruits, veggies, and proteins. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and avoid the inner aisles where all the boxed foods are.
  3. Avoid sugar and dairy. Sugar suppresses your immune system making you more likely to catch a cold, and dairy produces phlegm, which can make cold symptoms worse and linger.
  4. Take a quality probiotic. This one is my favorite.
  5. Incorporate more fermented food into your diet – things like greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and kimchee.
  6. Drink bone broth. It’s basically long-simmered chicken soup. And it really is medicine, just like your grandma said.

What to do if you feel that dreaded tickle in your throat and worry you’re about to come down with something?

how to stop the flu or cold

Here’s my best-kept secret to stopping a cold in its tracks and speeding up recovery if you do catch it:

  1. Andrographis is sometimes called the “Indian Echinacea” because it’s so effective with common colds and flu. It’s even credited with helping to stop the spread of the Indian flu during the major epidemic of 1919. Studies have shown it helps to stimulate the immune system and can help protect against viral infections. You can get Andrographis here.
  2. Elderberry syrup is high in Vitamin C and antioxidants and has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the severity and length of the flu. A few studies have shown that it may also play a role in preventing it.
  3. ColdQuell, Cold Snap, or Essential Defense. These are all Chinese herbal formulas that are based on the same historic formula, Yin Qiao, that is amazing at fighting viruses.

The combination of the above three supplements (plus a long good night’s sleep) is my go-to strategy to prevent myself from getting sick when someone in my family has a cold or flu. It’s pretty amazing.

I start them at the very first sign of a tickle in my throat. That's key. If you catch it early enough, you can nip it in the bud. That's why I recommend having these stocked and loaded in your cabinet, so they're ready and can take them at the very first sign of a tickle.

If you don’t catch it early enough, then taking them will help speed your recovery time.

Armed with these supplements, plus the first two strategies to keep your immune system strong, you are well-equipped to not get beat by the cold and flu season ahead.


  1. Louise on October 5, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Great tips- thank you! I love elderberry syrup!

    • Katie Altneu on October 5, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Louise! Totally, thank goodness for elderberry syrup 🙂

  2. JoAnn on February 16, 2019 at 8:51 am

    Yes, sugar suppresses the immune system and makes your cold worse. I think sleeping helps get rid of a cold and so does eating no sugar or things very low in sugar content until the cold goes away.

    • Katie Altneu on February 16, 2019 at 11:56 pm

      Thanks, JoAnne. I totally agree!

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