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

By Staff of Forum Health Clarkston

Cold & Flu Prevention

As the cold and flu season approaches we are all told to get vaccinated to avoid catching a sickness that can last for weeks.  However, while vaccines decrease the chance of coming down with the flu, there are many strands of the flu that a vaccination cannot prevent.  In addition, a common cold can be just as inconvenient, causing us to miss work and leave us feeling utterly crummy.

 

Fortunately, 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

Colds

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.

 

Flu

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.

 

As flu season approaches, 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 not only help you coast through the winter months unscathed but can be implemented year-round to prevent those common colds from rearing their ugly head. Contact us today and have a healthy, happy cold & flu season! 

References

Axe, J. (2015) 9 Echinacea Benefits from Cold to Cancer. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/echinacea-benefits/

Axe, J. (2014) 12 Natural Flu Remedies. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/flu-natural-remedies/

Goldman, R. & Watson, S. (2017) Cold or Flu? How to know which one you have. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/cold-or-flu#seek-help8

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