Restoring the Temple – Cold and Flu Care

Cool weather makes us think of family gatherings, bundling up the children for school, and playing in the snow. Unfortunately, something else comes to mind: flu season. Many of my patients have asked me, “Is there something going around?” I tell them there is always something going around. It is not the cold temperatures that cause infection. Although chilling predisposes us to illness, it does not cause the illness. Ellen White understood the relationship between temperature and illness: “I should be unwise to sit with cold feet and limbs, and thus drive back the blood from the extremities to the brain or internal organs. I should always protect my feet in damp weather.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 302.

Infectious diseases tend to become more epidemic in the winter, because we are inside more and exposed to more people in buildings with poorly circulated, stale air, than we are during the warmer months. Schools, malls, even churches, become ideal ecologies for viruses and bacteria. It has been shown that people isolated on a deserted island do not catch colds until rescued. Ellen White noted the necessity for fresh, circulating air when she wrote: “Sleeping rooms especially should be well ventilated, and the atmosphere made healthy by light and air.…Sleeping apartments should be large and so arranged as to have circulation of air through them day and night. Those who have excluded the air from their sleeping rooms should begin to change their course immediately.” Counsels on Health, 57.

What was possibly the first description of a flu-type illness was first recorded by Hippocrates in 400bc, but viruses—the microbe that causes influenza and colds—were not discovered until 1898. Today many of us are still confused about what makes the difference between colds and influenza (flu). Sometimes people use the terms interchangeably. Sometimes they use the term flu when they have a stomach virus. Both are incorrect. Generally, the distinction between colds and flu is not very significant. Since both are caused by viruses, antibiotics are useless against them. Influenza tends to be more concerning than a cold, because of its potential complications. A cold occasionally leads to a secondary bacterial infection, such as a sinus infection, which is miserable but treatable. Influenza can lead to more serious complications that can have a deadly effect on the elderly and those with weak immune systems. We should be extra careful not to spread our illness to other people.


Though it is almost impossible to avoid exposure to viruses, it is possible to limit their impact on our lives. A strong immune system can destroy a virus before we ever knew it was there or at least limit the length and strength of a cold or flu.

First, follow the laws of health. Diet must be more than merely adequate. It is not as hard as it used to be to get fresh produce in the winter. The immune system needs the prime nutrients found in fresh foods. Activity typically slows down in cold weather, but it is important to make a goal toward getting at least 20–30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, or every day if possible. A brisk walk is excellent. Ellen White writes: “Morning exercise, in walking in the free invigorating air of heaven,…is the surest safe-guard against colds, coughs, congestions of the brain and lungs,…and a hundred other diseases.” Healthful Living, 210. Water is also essential. It works for us by keeping the system working at its optimum and by helping flush microbes and their toxins out of the body.


Remember that the symptoms of a cold or of the flu are signs that the immune system is fighting hard to combat the illness. Fever helps to speed white blood cells to their destination—to kill microbes. Your body makes extra mucus, which produces a runny nose and cough, so the body can attempt to shed the virus out through the nose and the lungs. Over-the-counter medications do not cure illness. Rather, they work against us by suppressing the symptoms. We must work with our bodies to enhance immune function.

As with prevention, following the laws of health are essential. Diet is very important. During illness it is important to listen to what your body is telling you. If you are not hungry, do not eat. It will not harm you or your child (if normally healthy) to fast for a couple of days during illness; fasting may actually be quite beneficial. If hungry, eat only easily digested, nutritive foods. Avoid sugar and dairy products—the former inhibits our immune response, and the latter produces thicker, stickier mucus, which is harder to expel and makes a cozy environment in which microbes can grow.

In our typically hectic lives, we do not give enough value to rest, especially during illness. The immune system uses tremendous energy to wage war against an invading microbe. Do not use up this valuable energy elsewhere. Stay home from work, especially when you have a fever. You may be able to work, but not only are you doing a disservice to your health, you are also exposing others—others who may not be as able to recover from disease as easily as you. Working during an infectious illness is a case of the hero who was not!

Deluge those microbes out of your system with water. Most people are in a chronic state of dehydration, and fever causes even more fluid to leave the body. It is very important to push fluids during your cold or flu. Pure water is best, followed by unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices and herbal teas.

Good anti-viral supplements include Olive Leaf, Echinacea,* Elderberry, Scullcap, and St. John’s Wort. Drinking a ginger/garlic broth throughout the acute stage of illness would also be beneficial.


It is important to replenish the body’s natural resistance after the acute stage of illness. During the recuperation period, start eating lots of fresh and steamed vegetables and brown rice for strength. Consider taking acidophilus and bifidus to replace friendly flora. A massage will help the immune recuperation phase by cleansing the remaining pockets of toxins, and it feels great as a bonus. Continue to avoid sugar and dairy products. Recovery herbs include calendula and astragalus, garlic and dandelion, to help stimulate and cleanse the lymph system.

“But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth.…” Malachi 4:2.

*Echinacea: avoid during pregnancy