The winter is slowly crawling closer, and we are getting aware of more coughs and sneezes around us. While we are wiping our shopping trolleys to a bling and washing our hands several times a day, the possibility of catching a cold or flu virus still exist as they are floating their way to invade vulnerable hosts. Giving your immune system a bit extra support during the cooler winter months may help to defend your body against illness.
Eat your way to a stronger immune system.
There is conclusive evidence that Probiotics keep your immune system healthy. To fight colds, the dose needs to be about 10 billion active probiotic cultures per day. This amount can be found in some yogurt with added probiotics, but check the label. Regular yogurt does not contain enough probiotic to see these effects. Probiotics can also be found in capsules, pills, or drops. To help fight colds, you have to take probiotics every day for at least three months before the cold season begins. There are many different types of probiotics. Not all of them have these beneficial effects on colds. Look for products that specifically contain Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium longum, and/or Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Many over-the-counter cold and flu medicines contain vitamin C. Mega doses of Vitamin C do not reduce the risk of acquiring a cold in the general population, but a daily consumption of approximately 200 mg or more may slightly reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. It is advisable to consume a diet abundant in vitamin C rich foods during the flu season. These include oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, broccoli, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, Brussell sprouts, and potatoes.
*Ginseng (200 mg of ginseng taken twice daily for four months) and *Echinacea in the early treatment of the common cold may have some benefit by shortening cold duration among adults.
*If you have any medical conditions and/or are on any chronic medication, please consult with your medical practitioner before using any herbal medication.
Zinc is a mineral that helps strengthen your immune system and is known for its healing effect on wounds. Zinc is found in oysters, fish, seafood, beef, pumpkin seeds and baked beans. It is also found in zinc lozenges, syrup and supplements. It is advisable to rather consume zinc rich foods daily as opposed to taking zinc supplements. Studies have shown that a zinc supplement within 24 hours of getting a cold may result in fewer symptoms, but the recommended dose is not yet published. If you do decide to supplement, do not take more than 40 milligrams per day as doses above this threshold may not be safe.
During cooler weather many people forget to drink adequate amounts of water each day. This is often one of the reasons why we end up with dry skin and cold sores during winter months. Continue having the recommended 8-10 glasses of water a day.
Get to a healthy weight
There is evidence that obesity is associated with an increased risk of infection. Going on a strict dietary plan is not advisable, but making some practical lifestyle changes may be beneficial. Staying physically active, 30-40 minutes a day for 3-5 times a week, and following a sensible diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and heart-healthy oils (nuts and seeds, olive and canola oil, and avocado), may help to reach a healthy weight.
Now snuggle up with a nutrient-dense vegetable soup and enjoy the beauty of the new season that is upon us, in all its splendour!
With thanks to our contributor, Melissa Ludick, dietician at FEMINA HEALTH.