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12 Ways to Beat Cold and Flu Season

Posted by on Nov 21, 2013 in Autumn, Cold and Flu, Recipes, Winter | No Comments

This time of year creates a perfect storm for catching something nasty. Generally, viral and bacterial infections (e.g. colds and flus) can creep all up on you when your immune resistance is low, due to nutritional deficiencies, fatigue and even stress.

Then the holiday season happens, and infections are even more easily passed around.

Here in Canada, the flu is responsible for 20,000 hospitalizations and 4,000 deaths each year (1). While these are extreme cases, it’s wise to be a little proactive to reduce the incidence and severity of colds and flus.

It’s best to start now to reduce the chances of catching something nasty. But if you find yourself with a tickle in your throat or a full-blown cold or flu, these tips (and recipe) will help you get back into top form in less time. Pow!

Boost Your Immune System

Ever wonder why some people get sick while others don’t?

Your ability to fend off colds and flus depends on your terrain. If it’s easy for bad bacteria and viruses to grab a foothold in your body, you will get sick. This is why some people get sick while others don’t.

Your body’s terrain is all about your immune system. The most important thing that you can do to ward off colds and flus is to boost your immune system! Your immune system’s basic function is to distinguish “self” from “non-self” – and then neutralize and destroy any foreign material.

Not surprisingly, the food that we eat and our lifestyle habits can either boost or impair our immune system. Here are some key nutrients, foods and habits to adopt to help reduce the chance of catching something nasty, and to help speed recovery if you do.

{You’ll also note that I’m not recommending that you get a flu shot or that you use hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand soap.}

Key Nutrients

  • Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin actually improves immunity. A deficiency in vitamin D is linked with greater susceptibility to infections. Recent studies have suggested that vitamin D can reduce the incidence of influenza and respiratory tract infections (2). Vitamin D can even help to speed recovery from a cold or flu. Start with 1000 to 1500 IU.
  • Vitamin C – an antioxidant nutrient that is antiviral and antibacterial. Take 2-3 g per day for maintenance and cold prevention. Buy a formula that also contains bioflavonoids. These are phytonutrients commonly found in foods alongside vitamin C that enhance absorption and utilization.
  • Probiotics – these are your “friendly” bacteria, also known as microflora. Microflora help to manufacture lymphocytes and macrophages, which are some of your immune system cells! Any tissue in your body that has contact with the outside world will have microflora, and it’s beneficial to take a probiotic. One study found that college students who took a probiotic experienced cold symptoms that were 34% less severe and the cold duration was two days shorter than the students who were not taking probiotics (3). If you feel a cold or sore throat coming on, break a probiotic capsule with acidophilus into a glass of water and gargle with it. This will allow the microflora to access your respiratory system.

Key Foods

  • Garlic – known as ‘nature’s antibiotic,’ garlic has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It also contains an immune stimulant called germanium. Raw garlic will be the most potent, so try to add some to your fall and winter cooking. I like to add it to dishes at the very end of cooking to maximize flavour and benefits – just be sure to nibble on a little parsley after… Try this recipe.
  • Turmeric – this bright orange spice helps to relive inflammation throughout your entire body, including inflammation and congestion of your mucous membranes due to a cold, flu or sinus infection. See below for my super hot lemon recipe, which uses this wonderful spice.
  • Fruits and vegetables – fresh fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamins A, C, E and zinc, the antioxidant nutrients that help to support our immune systems. We can find all these antioxidant nutrients in seasonal produce, such as dark leafy greens, carrots, winter squash, turnips, and in nuts and seeds such as almonds, pumpkin, squash and sunflower seeds.
  • Ginger – it’s a peripheral circulatory stimulant that will warm your entire body (you’ll learn later why this is important). Ginger is antibacterial and antimicrobial, and will help to reduce bacterial and viral infections. Ginger also helps to increase absorption of the nutrients in your food, so add it to whatever you’re cooking to access more nutrients. Try this recipe.

Avoid

  • Sugar – suppresses your immune system by slowing down the white blood cells responsible for attacking bacteria. So stay away from processed sugar at all costs. In my opinion, unpasteurized local honey (which contains beneficial bacteria and can feel soothing on a sore throat) and stevia are ok in small amounts.
  • Mucous-forming foods – extra mucous will impair elimination of waste, so it’s important to avoid wheat, dairy, fried foods, processed and natural sugar. Cold foods are also mucous-causing, as they impair digestion and constrict your mucous membranes, so be sure to eat and drink warm things that warm you up from the inside out.

Key Habits

  • Sleep – have you ever noticed how sleep seems to cure all? Unfortunately, with our hectic holiday schedule, sleep gets sacrificed for other fun things. If you find yourself on the verge of a cold or flu, sleep it off! Likewise if the cold or flu has already taken hold. Sleep. This is when your body repairs itself. Aim for 8 hours.
  • Avoid stress – researchers have found that medical students’ immunity goes down during exam periods. Even though we’re not exactly writing exams, this time of year can be just as stressful! While you can’t always avoid the stressors in your life, you can learn to better deal with them. Try incorporating deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
  • Keep warm – I’ve talked about it here. Keeping your body warm means bundling up and eating and drinking warm things. Taking epsom salt baths. Being cozy in general. When we’re cold, our bodies have to expend extra energy to warm us up. This is energy that would normally be used to digest our food, fight off infections, and so on. We live in Canada, so for the love of god, wear a warm coat.

healthydelicious.ca

When I was young, my mother would make this for me at the first sign of a cold. Back then it was simply honey and fresh lemon, but I’ve added ginger and turmeric to really pump up the healing benefits of this warming and immune boosting tonic!

Cold Buster Tonic
Print

Ingredients
  1. 1.5 cups water
  2. 1 small knob ginger, sliced
  3. 2 slices fresh lemon
  4. 1 tsp raw honey
  5. pinch turmeric
Instructions
  1. Bring water to a boil. Put ginger in a small teapot and cover with 1.5 cups water.
  2. Cover and steep for around 15 minutes. Add the lemon, honey and turmeric and pour into a mug. Drink up.
Notes
  1. healthydelicious.ca
Healthy Delicious Toronto Nutrition http://healthydelicious.ca/v2/

So if you have any friends who are prone to catching colds and flus, please pass this along.

Wishing you freedom from cold and flu blues. xo Andrea

Notes:

(1) Public Health Agency of Canada website (publichealth.gc.ca)

(2) Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA Jr. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

(3) Tracey J. Smith, Diane Rigassio-Radler, Robert Denmark, Timothy Haley, Riva Touger-Decker. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12® on health-related quality of life in college students affected by upper respiratory infections. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012; : 1

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