Sue's Blog

Failsafe management for colds and flu


It is common for failsafers to report that they no longer suffer frequent colds or flu when they are established on failsafe eating. 

I have been on a low salicylate diet for 9 years and it has dramatically improved my life. I am no longer plagued by asthma if I keep to a low salicylate diet.  Other benefits are never catching colds and flu
– from story 1265

Of course, if you break your diet, you are not protected.  Last year when I caught the flu I spent two weeks in bed with a cough that never let up, day or night, making sleep almost impossible.

Our doctor said half the town had it and didn’t want me to take antibiotics - “they don’t work for a virus” - and after reading Martin Blaser’s book Missing Microbe, I’m glad.

People kept saying “I’m living on Strepsils” or similar. The trouble is, what’s in them? Flavours such as peppermint, eucalyptus, menthol,   lemon and honey are very high in salicylates; I didn’t want preservatives, and pharmaceutical labelling is so pathetic these days you don’t even know if you are getting colours, as in this story from our website:

“Do you know what colour is in Strepsils Honey/Lemon? Based on my son's reaction to one lozenge, there has to be an artificial yellow colour additive. [At that time, it was 104] Also, can you tell me why no ingredient listing is required for medications?”

The answer is that the TGA has chosen to protect BigPharma rather than consumers.  Whatever, I was too sick to want medicated lozenges that might make me worse.

So here’s what I found helpful.

Water - thins mucus and prevents congestion

Heat - dissolves mucus

  • ·         Hot drinks & chicken soup (see the science & recipe below)
  • ·         Hot wheat bag on chest while in bed to dissolve mucus
  • ·         Hot bath or shower
  • ·         Steam inhalation (works well, even without Vicks Vaporub, which is NOT failsafe due to eucalyptus, menthol and camphor, all dynamite for salicylate-sensitive failsafers)

To soothe a sore throat

  • ·         Suck on hard candy e.g. Werthers Original butter candy to prevent sore or ticklish throat, also to prevent ear problems while flying (they do contain dairy as “cream, condensed whey, butter” – if you need to avoid, try Allergy Train pear lollipops or see recipe for toffee below.
  • ·         Icechips, iced drinks, failsafe icecream, So Good vanilla soy bliss, pear sorbet (see recipe below)
  • ·         Gargle with warm salt water (1/2 tsp salt in 1 cup water)

To deal with cough

  • ·         Drink lots, suck on hard candy, use ice, icecream and icy drinks as above
  • ·         Rest - propped upright if necessary (I used 3 pillows)


  • ·         Vitamin C, unflavoured e.g. Melrose Calcium ascorbate
  • ·         Painkillers e.g. Paracetamol (most contain preservatives –  we use preservative free, e.g. Amcal white tablets, Herron gold tabsules) - but I quickly gave up on that when I discovered my dramatic night sweats could be caused by paracetamol, and sure enough, they stopped.

RPAH Approved Medications (page 118, Handbook)

  • ·         Demazin cough & cold syrup (butterscotch/vanilla flavour, no added colours or preservatives)
  • ·         Cold and flu products containing paracetamol, antihistamine and/or pseudoephedrine are suitable if not coloured and flavoured.


                Chicken soup


 1/2 tbsp failsafe oil (eg canola)
2 cloves garlic, crushed (if desired)
3-4 spring onions including green parts, chopped fine
500g chicken (skinned thighs give the best flavour), diced small
1.5 litres hot water
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced small
1 swede, peeled and diced small
1 carrot (moderate in salicylates), peeled and diced small
2-3 sticks of celery, chopped fine
Salt to taste

In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the oil and stir the spring onions (and garlic if desired) until translucent, add chicken and stir until browned. Add water and vegetables, bring to boil and simmer for 30-40 mins, covered (alternatively pressure cook for about 7 mins). You can add a tbsp of pearled barley or a handful of noodles too if desired.

See another chicken soup recipe using a whole chicken


                Pear sorbet


2 large ripe pears, or 1 x 400g can pears in syrup (not in juice)
1/2 tsp citric acid

Peel ripe pears or drain canned pears. Dice and add citric acid to stop browning. Process to a pulp in a food processor or Thermomix or use a wand blender. Freeze. To make the sorbet, thaw until it can be broken up with a spoon, whizz in blender or by Thermomix to give a cold slushy mixture. Serve immediately.

OR for a more diluted slushie effect, use the Thermomix recipe on page 149, with 300 g of fruit and 700 g of ice cubes.



3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp citric acid

Put water, sugar and citric acid in a heavy saucepan. Stir over a low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Increase heat, boil rapidly for approximately 15-20 minutes (20 mins for hard toffee, the mixture will turn slightly brown) or until a small amount of mixture will crack when tested in cold water. Remove toffee from heat, allow bubbles to subside, pour into paper patty cases.

Some science

Saketkhoo K and others, Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance, Chest. 1978;74(4):408-10.

This study found that drinking, especially hot fluids, speeds up the excretion of nasal mucus, through the inhalation of water vapour. Hot chicken soup works best, and the authors comment that it appears to possess an additional substance for increasing nasal mucus velocity.

Rennard BO and others, Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro, Chest, 2000;118:1150-1157, see the full study at

In laboratory tests, home-made chicken soup was found to reduce the migration of neutrophils, white blood cells that can trigger inflammation, possibly explaining why chicken soup is a traditional remedy for coughs and colds. The team also tested commercial soups and found ‘variable effects’.

Q: Can you explain to me why we don’t get sick when on failsafe? Something to do with improving your immune system? I practically gloat when everyone around me moans about their colds and flus they have all the time as I don’t get them anymore!! What a relief to not have infections from colds every year now! - Rosemaree (failsafe 8 years), by email

It is common for failsafers to report that they no longer suffer frequent colds, flu and recurrent infections once they are established on failsafe eating (e.g. see stories [874] and [848]) - and yes, there is scientific evidence. Studies have shown that certain artificial colours and preservatives act as immunosuppressants, that is, they can actually suppress the immune system, making us more likely to suffer from recurrent infections. This has been shown in the laboratory by Greek researchers with artificial colours tartrazine (102) and amaranth (123) using small doses normally considered to be nontoxic, and by Brazilian researchers with propionic acid which is part of the group that includes bread preservative 282. As well, a US study with beagle dogs showed they were more susceptible to fatal viruses when fed indigotine (132). Failsafers who are salicylate-sensitive know that although we are constantly told to eat fruit to build up our immunity, for us, it works the opposite way. We are better off eating failsafe vegetables such as cabbage as described in the Myths of Fruit.

Koutsogeorgopoulou L and others Immunological aspects of the common food colorants, amaranth and tartrazine.Vet Hum Toxicol. 1998;40(1):1-4.

Wajner M and others Inhibition of mitogen-activated proliferation of human peripheral lymphocytes in vitro by propionic acid.Clin Sci (Lond). 1999;96(1):99-103.

Hansen WH and others Chronic toxicity of two food colors, brilliant blue FCF and indigotine, Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1966;8(1):29-36.

From /frequently-asked-questions/diet-questions#sensitive2

Q. Since going failsafe three years ago, everyone in our family gets a lot less colds, flu and other infections. Is there a reason for this?

Some studies have showed that both nitrites (meat preservatives) and propionic acid (bread preservatives) cause in vitro immunosuppression, that is, in laboratory studies, they stop the immune system from working properly. Researchers suggest that this may be related to recurrent infections. Presumably some other food chemicals have the same effect.

Ustyugova IV and others, Nitrates/nitrites alter human lymphocyte proliferation and cytokine production, Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 2002 ;43(3):270-6;