Article at a Glance:
- Rest (and especially sleep) can help you recover from the flu faster by supporting your virus-fighting T-cells.
- When you’re up to eating, choosing high-protein, nutrient-rich foods that are easy to digest will make you feel better and help your recovery
- Elderberry has been shown in several studies to reduce the severity and length of flu symptoms.
- Saltwater can help relieve nasal and throat discomfort during the flu.
- Staying well-hydrated and upping your electrolyte intake is critical to recovering from the flu faster, especially if you have a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Despite trying to avoid the flu as avidly as your dog tries to avoid the vacuum cleaner, that sneaky virus got you somehow. Now you’re saddled with the whole shebang of flu symptoms: fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, fatigue. In other words? You’re miserable.
Obviously, there’s no quick fix for the flu (we’ve all learned that lesson before). But there is a lot you can do to make yourself a little less miserable and (even more importantly) help yourself recover a little faster. Here are a few of our flu-fighting favorites.
1 - Rest up
This one’s pretty obvious. But it bears repeating: Don’t throw in a load of laundry. Don’t squeeze in a little work. Don’t take your bull terrier Toby for a walk. The longer you put rest on the backburner, the longer you’ll be sick. Your body needs to devote all its energy to fighting the flu virus, so camp out on the couch, catch up on your Netflix queue, and sleep. In fact, research shows that sleep improves the function of critical immune cells known as T-cells that help fight off viruses like the flu. So sleep up a storm!
2 - Eat healthy
Your first reaction to this suggestion might be: nope, not hungry. And that’s okay. Sometimes the flu comes with a serious case of nausea or a non-existent appetite. If you’re not hungry the first few days, you don’t have to choke down food (you should make sure to get plenty of fluids, though. More on that below). But don’t go without eating for too long. Otherwise, your body’s energy reserves will get low and you’ll feel even worse than you already do. When you feel up to eating, choose simple but nutritious options that are easy to digest. Here are some fantastic choices:
- Chicken soup (yep, your mom was right) because it provides protein and the broth is good for hydration.
- Fruits like bananas and apples because they provide nutrients and antioxidants.
- Green leafy vegetables or 100% vegetable juices because they provide nutrients and antioxidants.
- Eggs because they offer a powerful punch of protein and nutrients. Just make sure to cook them simply without rich add-ons like cheese which could upset your stomach.
3 - Embrace elderberry
Did you know that elderberry has been used as a cold and flu remedy for centuries? But it’s not just some old herbal remedy. There are modern scientific studies to back up its cold and flu-fighting clout. One study found that taking elderberry lozenges four times per day reduced cold and flu symptoms in just 48 hours. Another study found that taking elderberry syrup four times per day caused flu symptoms to get better four days earlier. And one more study found that taking elderberry capsules three times per day made cold and flu symptoms less severe and reduced the length of the virus. All great reasons to embrace elderberry when you’re fighting off the flu.
4 - Get salty
We run a salt company, so this suggestion is probably no surprise. But honestly, even if we weren’t slangin’ salt, we’d want you to know how helpful salt can be when you’re sick. If you have a sore throat, gargling with salt water can ease the pain, since the salt helps draw out the virus. Just add a ½ teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and gargle a couple of times per day.
If you’re dealing with congestion, saline (saltwater) nose drops or sprays could be helpful. That’s because a simple saline solution can help clear out bacteria and viruses in your nose, relieve congestion, and reduce the odds of the infection spreading. You can buy some drops or spray next time you head to the store (or have a family member or friend pick it up if you’re feeling really lousy). If you don’t want to go to the store (or you’re just the DIY type) you can make a saline solution yourself at home. Here’s what you need:
- 1/2 teaspoon of non-iodized salt. We recommend Real Salt Kosher (or another kosher salt with no additives)
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
- 1 cup of distilled or sterile water. If you just have tap water, boil it and let it cool before using.
- A large medical syringe, squeeze bottle, or nasal cleansing pot (like a Neti Pot).
Mix the salt and baking soda in the water. Fill up your syringe, squeeze bottle or nasal cleansing pot. Put the tip in your nostril and squeeze lightly. As you pour in the solution, you want to aim for the back of your head (as unpleasant as that sounds). The solution will either come out of your other nostril or out your mouth. Blow your nose after rinsing. You can repeat this a couple of times per day for clear nasal passages and (hopefully) a quicker recovery from the flu.
5 - Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Here’s the most essential flu recovery advice you’ll ever get: stay hydrated! If you have a fever that’s making you sweat, it’ll drain your body’s hydration level quickly. Sometimes the flu also comes with vomiting and diarrhea. Those will cause your hydration level to take a swift nosedive too. So drink plenty of water, tea, and broth. And don’t forget to replenish your electrolytes. If you’re drinking broth, you’ll get a nice serving of electrolytes from that. But it doesn’t hurt to add a little extra electrolytes to the equation when you’re sick (especially if you have any of the three symptoms mentioned above).
Now, you may have heard that you should drink sports drinks to maintain healthy electrolyte levels when you’re sick. But we don’t think that’s the best approach. Standard sports drinks contain far too little sodium and potassium and far too much sugar to truly provide the support you need. What can you use instead?
We recommend Re-Lyte Immunity, which uses our Re-Lyte Hydration as its base. It only contains clean ingredients, doesn’t have any added sugar, and contains more sodium and potassium than your average sports drink. Plus, it contains other immune-supporting herbs and nutrients like vitamin C, D, B12, zinc, elderberry root, ginger root, and turmeric root.
Gas-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells—Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Food and Drink to Help You Fight the Flu— UnityPoint Health.
Sports Drinks Are Not Solutions for Illness-Related Dehydration—Texas A&M Health.
Saltwater Washes (Nasal Saline Lavage or Irrigation) for Sinusitis— University of Michigan Medicine.
Saline Rinses for Natural Relief— Kaiser Permanente.
Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections— The Journal of International Medical Research.
Sambucus nigra (black elder) as alternative treatment for cold and flu—Advances in Traditional Medicine.
9 Tips to Recover Faster from COVID-19 or Flu—UnityPoint Health.