Cold and Flu Prevention, Nutrition Connection

Colds and flu are highly contagious respiratory infections that are caused by viruses. New flu vaccines are produced yearly to protect against the prevailing strains of the virus. Doctors recommend annual flu shots for everyone over the age of 65, and people of any age who have a circulatory, respiratory, kidney, metabolic, or immune disorders.

People are more vulnerable to colds and flu when their immune systems are depressed. Preventive steps include avoiding alcohol, getting plenty of rest, and reducing stress levels. Wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Nutrition Connection

While there’s no cure for colds or flu, eating properly may help to prevent them, shorten their duration, or make symptoms less severe. It’s a myth that you should starve either a cold or a flu. Eating provides essential nutrients that can help your body recuperate.

Here’s how:

-Get your vitamin C. There’s no evidence that big doses work to prevent colds, but some studies show that it can shorten them or lessen the symptoms. Vitamin C is also known to have a slight antihistaminic effect, so drinking more citrus juice or taking a supplement may help reduce nasal symptoms.

-Drink lots of fluids. One of the worst effects of high fever is dehydration. During a cold or flu, drink a minimum of 8 to 10 glasses of fluids a day in order to replenish lost fluids, keep mucous membranes moist, and loosen phlegm. Drink water, tea, and broth. Abstain from alcohol, which dilates small blood vessels makes the sinuses feel stuffed up, and reduces the body’s ability to fight infection.

-Have chicken soup. It’s soothing, easy to digest, and contains cystine, a compound that helps thin the mucus, relieving congestion. Scientists believe that a 12-oz (355-mL) dose of the soup may reduce inflammation of the lungs. It is thought that chicken soup slows down the activity of white blood cells that can cause the inflammation. -Eat spicy foods. Hot peppers, or chiles, contain capsaicin, a substance that can help break up nasal and sinus congestion. Garlic, turmeric, and other hot spices have a similar effect.

-Eat foods rich in zinc. Zinc is important for a healthy immune system. Sources include seafood (especially oysters), red meat and poultry, yogurt and other dairy products, wheat germ, wheat bran, and whole grains. Studies have shown that supplementation in the form of zinc lozenges may help shorten the duration of a cold, but getting more than 40 mg per day over a long period of time can weaken your immune system.

Beyond the Diet

These guidelines can help you recover colds and flu fast:

-Get plenty of rest. Adequate rest will help your immune system get back on track.

-Try over-the-counter medications. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and decongestants can help ease accompanying fever, pain, or stuffy nose.

-Seek professional care. Most colds and bouts of flu go away by themselves, but see a doctor if you have a cough that produces green, yellow, or bloody phlegm; a severe pain in the face, jaw, or ear; trouble swallowing or breathing; or a fever over 100°F (37.8°C) that lasts more than 48 hours.
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