As the weather becomes colder and we stay indoors more, people often catch colds or other viruses. The cold and flu season can begin as early as October and usually ends sometime in April. While there is no way to cure the common cold or the flu, healthy eating during cold and flu season can help you avoid getting sick.
Foods that may Boost the Immune System
Researchers are finding positive links between immune function and components in food. If you or your kids seem to get one cold after another, you’ll want to make sure they eat plenty of immune-building foods.
Garlic may boost your immune system, increasing resistance to infection and stress. To get the immune power from garlic, crush the cloves with the flat side of a knife before adding them to your food. This releases the garlic juice, which has great immune properties.
Cheese and other dairy products contain conjugated linoleic acid, a natural component of dairy fat which has boosted immune response in animal studies.
Yogurt and other cultured milk products contain probiotics, beneficial bacterial with immune-boosting benefits. Look for the “live active culture” seal, which indicates that probiotics have been added. Also check milk product labels for vitamin D. Early research suggests low levels of vitamin D may be linked to a seasonal increase in colds and flu and a higher incidence of respiratory infections.
Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and juices, may also help the body’s immune system.
Zinc, found in meat, chicken, peanuts and peanut butter, plays an important role in the proper functioning of the immune system in the body
Foods that Heal
Fresh ginger root can help you when you are sick by inducing sweating and decreasing nausea and diarrhea. Make ginger tea by grating one ounce of fresh ginger in a pint of water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add lemon and honey to taste.
Chicken soup and warm beverages increase the flow of nasal secretions, helping alleviate cold symptoms. Of course, the taste and wonderful aroma of chicken soup may be an important part of the beneficial effects.
Healthy eating during cold and flu season means getting the daily requirement of essential vitamins and minerals by eating a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from all food groups.
Keeping the Germs Away
The most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands. A common way to catch a cold is by rubbing your nose or eyes, so to protect against infection wash your hands frequently.
Your hands pick up germs from other people or from contaminated surfaces and hand washing prevents you from infecting yourself with the germs. Use warm water, soap and wash for several minutes for best results.
Other good health practices are not sharing cups, or silverware and cleaning high-contact items, such as doorknobs, faucets and telephones, with soap and water.
Boost Your Immune System
Even when your hands are clean, staying healthy means more than simply avoiding germs. Healthy bodies have an easier time fighting off infection. To stay healthy and boost your immune system:
- Get plenty of rest
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Exercise regularly
- Decrease stress
- Cut back on unhealthy habits, such as smoking and over consuming alcohol
Studies have shown that a session of moderate physical activity produces positive effects on the immune system. Over time, this means catching fewer colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
For most of us getting sick is a part of life. If you do catch a cold or the flu, the following advice still holds true.
To feel better while you are sick:
- Drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest
- Use a humidifier – to moisten mucus membranes
- Add immune-boosting foods to your shopping list this flu season.
When you are sick, stay home so you don’t infect others. If you do go out and need to sneeze or cough, use a tissue or sneeze or cough into your sleeve or upper arm. Don’t do it into your hand, since you can spread the virus to others by touching people or handling objects that others may use.
This information is not a substitute for a physician’s advice or your own good judgment. If you are feeling truly awful, your symptoms worsen or last a long time it is always wise to contact a physician.