There is still no cure for the common cold and the flu virus changes it’s coat yearly. While the flu vaccine has a high rate of protection, the virus can sometimes change and be unpredictable. The flu is not only debilitating, leaving you bedridden for days with pain and fever and coughing for weeks, it can kill. Both can really bring you down and stop you from working, taking care of your responsibilities and doing what you want and need to do. The best protection is having a good immune system. Some foods and supplements can prevent or shorten the course of illness. Your lifestyle also plays a role. Here are some strategies to strengthen your immune system before, during and after.
Immune Super Foods
- Homemade Chicken Soup – Chicken soup is rich in carnosine. Studies show that carnosine controls damage from inflammation, inhibits the cold and flu virus from multiplying and clears mucuous. The homemade variety works better than canned or packaged soups according to studies.
- Mushrooms – Mushrooms have beta glucan and other active compounds that stimulate the immune system and protects against cold, flu, and other infections, by inhibiting viruses from reproducing. The best are Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake.
- Fermented foods –Eighty percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, so populating your digestive system with powerhouse probiotics enhances your immune system’s effectiveness at warding off cold and flu viruses. Fermented superfoods like miso, kimchee, natto, kefir, lassi (an Indian yogurt drink) and sauerkraut, are rich in probiotics, more so than commercially prepared yogurt. They enhance immune system function.
- Garlic has allicin, which is a phytochemical that can kill bacteria.
Supercharge Immune Supplements
- Vitamin C – 2,000 to 3,000 mg a day during a cold or flu. It works better as a preventive measure but is useful to prevent oxidative damage during colds and flu.
- Zinc – 50 mg a day at the very first sign of a cold has been shown to shorten the duration and severity. Zinc is not recommended for anyone with an underlying health condition, like lowered immune function, asthma or chronic illness. This dose should only be taken for a short period of time to avoid other mineral imbalances.
- Beta glucan is a great immune system booster. They are not all created equal. The natural supplement using pleuran showed benefit in preventing respiratory infections.
- Vitamin D – 2,000 – 10,000 IU depending on your blood levels which should be 60-80 ng/ml. Each 1,000 mg will raise your D level by 10 points. Get your levels measured to avoid over dosing. Vitamin D has antiviral and antibacterial activity.
- DHEA 5mg for women and 25 mg for men is especially helpful when aging or under a lot of stress. DHEA enhances immunity. Get your levels measured before taking DHEA or any kind of hormone.
- Probiotics 10 to 20 billion CFU (colony forming units) and several strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium will give your immune system a boost.
Lifestyle Do’s and Don’ts
- Wash hands frequently
- Avoid sugar since it is an immune suppressor
- Sleep 6-8 hours a night
- Manage stress – stress raises cortisol, which suppresses your immune system and makes you vulnerable to getting colds and flu.
- Exercise regularly – too much or too little can depress your immune system.
Incorporate lots of colorful, nutrient rich fruits and vegetables into your diet. Eat at least 5 and preferably 10 servings a day. Practice the lifestyle do’s and don’ts and take supplements when needed. These habits can keep you healthy and productive and protect you from getting infected.