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Prevention is the Best Medicine – Your Immune System is the Best Defense


Reviewed by Kimberly Cabe, FNP-BC of Forum Health Clarkston

Cold & Flu Prevention

We have more control of our immune system than we think and a lot of that depends on our nutrition.  Foods and supplements play a critical role in supporting our immune system, providing the body with the strength it needs to fend off pesky viruses.

The Difference Between Colds and the Flu


While both the common cold and the flu are upper respiratory viruses, the cold is less severe and occurs gradually within a couple of days.  The Rhinovirus is the most common cold virus causing the typical symptoms of sneezing and congestion. Other symptoms include, sore throat, coughing, headaches and mild fatigue.  A cold can last 7 to 10 days and is very contagious within the first four days.


Unlike colds that develop gradually, the flu is sudden, and more severe.  Influenza A and B are the common viruses with hundreds of different strands within a virus. This makes it difficult to target with just one vaccine.  Once the flu strikes the symptoms will be similar to a cold with added muscle aches, nausea and vomiting and extreme fatigue.  The flu is also seasonal, occurring between the fall and spring seasons whereas a cold can happen any time.


Both viruses are highly contagious and are easily spreadable if the virus is airborne.  The best way to keep yourself healthy during the peak season is to strengthen your immune system through foods.

Foods for Prevention

  • Echinacea – Rich in polysaccharides, which stimulates the immune system, flavonoids and vitamin C, this flower has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory and a remedy for infections.  1,000 mg 2 to 3 times daily have shown to shorten a cold by 1 and 1/2 days.  It is advised to take this supplement the first signs of a cold.


  • Vitamin C – Taking a tablet or eating plenty of fruit and vegetables will help ensure you are getting enough of this immune boosting agent.  Consuming foods such as red peppers, citrus fruits, kale and broccoli, in addition to a supplement when you are sick, will provide an adequate dosage.  Studies have shown a dose of 1,000 mg 3 to 4 times a day, could shorten your cold by 1 to 2 days.


  • Garlic and Onion – Each are anti-inflammatory agents that will aid in reducing the effects of upper respiratory viruses.


  • Sweet Potatoes– Getting a healthy dose of this comfort food helps stimulate beta-carotene or vitamin A, which is a natural immune booster.


  • Omega 3 – Salmon, Flaxseeds, coconut oil, and chia seeds are foods rich in omega-3s which balance the ratio of omega-6 and helps fight inflammation.
  • Probiotics – One of the easiest ways to strengthen your body’s immune system, is consuming probiotics which improves the health of your gut. Foods high in probiotics,

In addition to consuming foods that stimulate immune function, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep and reducing stress levels are all great ways to keep your immune system running strong.

Forum Health can provide you with the right nutrition plan that will prepare you for the months when you are most susceptible. Learning the right diet can be implemented year-round to prevent those common colds from rearing their ugly head. Contact a Forum Health provider near you today for more information!


Axe, J. (2015) 9 Echinacea Benefits from Cold to Cancer. Retrieved from:

Axe, J. (2014) 12 Natural Flu Remedies. Retrieved from:

Goldman, R. & Watson, S. (2017) Cold or Flu? How to know which one you have. Retrieved from: