Each year, the flu virus sidelines tens of millions of Americans with fever, fatigue, aches, pains and more. In short, the flu makes people feel miserable for days and sometimes weeks. Unfortunately, the flu can also open the door to secondary infections in some people who are vulnerable, including the elderly, the very young and the immune-compromised.
For starters, you’ll want to maintain a healthy diet filled with immune-supporting foods—healthy proteins; probiotics; antioxidants; enzymes; essential fatty acids such as omega-3s; vitamins; and minerals—and drink plenty of fresh, pure water to stay hydrated. By the way, green and black tea—organic, of course—can also help support the immune system.
For example, healthy proteins are needed for adequate numbers of, and for proper functioning of, immune cells. Likewise, vitamins A, C, D, E, K, the B vitamins and the minerals zinc, folic acid, iron, copper, selenium and manganese are essential for healthy immune cells. Vitamin D, for instance, is a powerful immune supporter that you don’t want to come up short on, especially during flu season. It inhibits negative autoimmune responses by positively modulating cell responses. If you come up short on vitamin D, however—and 75 percent of American adults and teens do—then cells can attack the body instead of fighting off unwanted invaders. And that leaves you vulnerable to their havoc.
Some additional specific foods to include are:
chia seeds, which are packed with omega-3s containing a fat mediator known as protectin D1, because this substance is able to suppress influenza (flu) viral replication. Other omega-3 foods can offer the same benefit.
green foods, such as broccoli and spinach, because they activate key viral-fighting immune cells in the gut, where up to 80 percent of your immune system is housed.
cultured foods, such as kefir and certain yogurts, due to their diverse probiotic content that bolsters the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells, a part of the immune system that helps our body fight infection.
homemade (not canned) soups, such as chicken soup with veggies—all organic, of course—since chicken soup with vegetables provides natural anti-inflammatory goodness, which, in turn, strengthens infection-fighting cells and hastens viruses from hanging around too long in your throat and nose.
garlic, which contains the compound allicin, known to have anti-viral properties to dismantle colds and the flu. Studies also indicate that those who had a daily dose of garlic were less likely to get colds and flus compared to those without.
mushrooms, such as shiitake, reishi and maitake, since they—as friendly fungi—help to support a healthy immune system.
You’ll also want to get plenty of rest and keep stress in check, as not getting enough sleep or rest and being under chronic stress can wear you and your immune system down, making you vulnerable to unwanted invaders, including flu viruses. Additionally, be mindful of proper hygienic measures, such as washing your hands frequently and cleaning surfaces that harbor those nasty viruses. Those steps alone can help you stay strong in the midst of flu season.
However, if you do happen to fall victim to the flu, you need to respond quickly, since viruses double within the first 48 hours of symptoms. In other words, they take over ground rapidly!
In addition to maintaining a healthy diet with immune-supporting foods, staying well hydrated, getting plenty of rest and keeping up with hygienic measures so as not to spread the infection, the following have been suggested to lessen the severity of the flu:
• Elderberry, packed with the antioxidant quercetin that has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties, helps to support a healthy immune system and, in certain amounts, helps to lessen the severity and duration of the flu.
• Zinc, an essential mineral found in every cell, has been noted, in some studies, to also support a healthy immune system, thereby helping the body fight infections, including the viruses responsible for colds and the flu.
• Echinacea, which is antiviral and antibacterial, contains polysaccharides that boost the levels of infection-fighting white blood cells in the body. Those who may be allergic to the aster family of plants, of which echinacea is a part, should avoid it, however.
• Ginger, often noted for taming nausea in pregnant women, also acts as a natural antihistamine and decongestant, helping to ease the symptoms of colds and flus.
So, if you want to increase your chances of avoiding the flu this season, then arm yourself with these.