Stopping Colds and Flus Before They Happen

A lot of things are going on this time of year that place extra stress on our immune systems—midterms, assignments, work deadlines, colder weather...

Year after year we go through the same thing and without adequate rest, proper nutrition, and in many cases supplementation of key nutrients, our immune systems slowly but surely start to break down. I know it is difficult for most of us to maintain an optimal diet and lifestyle, there are some things we can do to boost or at least maintain the function of the immune system.
  • Vitamin C 
    • Although most research shows that vitamin C is best for treating the common cold, some studies suggest that taking vitamin C (especially those exposed to high amounts of physical stress) may help prevent it as well.
  • Vitamin D3
    • Vitamin D is an important immune system modulator that stimulates anti-microbial particles in different cells in our bodies.
    • Since sunlight is becoming scarce and time spent outdoors is decreasing so vitamin D3 stores are likely to start depleting.   
  • Echinacea
    • Echinacea acts as an immunostimulant and antimicrobial and has been shown to reduce the incidence of colds by 58%.  It has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of colds.
  •  Green tea extract
    • One study demonstrated that green tea extract prevented the onset of flu symptoms by 32% and also decreased the amount of symptom days.
    •   This benefit was seen with taking green tea extract (with L-theanine and EGCG) at the equivalent of 10 cups of green tea per day.
As always, there are also some very basic things we can do to make sure our bodies are ready for the stress that comes with fall and winter:
  • Hand hygiene:
    • It’s true what they say: washing your hands frequently is the easiest way we can stop the spread of viruses.
  •  Fruits and vegetables:   
    • Eating just an apple (or avocado!) a day for your fruit and vegetable intake is not enough to keep the doctor away.  Make sure your body is constantly receiving the vitamins and minerals that are in fruits and vegetables by eating at least 5-6 servings a day.
  • Sleep:
    • Not getting enough sleep makes your immune system less effective when trying to fight off microbes we encounter on a daily basis.
Lastly, if you think you are at high risk of getting and spreading the flu, talk to your doctor to see if the flu shot is a good option for you.  Remember that it’s also important to begin your flu prevention protocol well before cold weather hits and to maintain it through the end of winter.


Hope this helps!


Christine Cho






References:
Cannell JJ, Vieth R, Umhau JC, Holick MF, et al. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiology and Infection. 2006 Dec; 134(6): 1129-40. Epub 2006 Sep 7.


Hemila H, Chalker E, Douglas B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group. 17 March 2010. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub3.


Rowe C, Nantz M, Bukowski J, Percival S. Specific Formulation of Camellia sinensis Prevents Cold and Flu Symptoms and Enhances Gamma Delta T Cell Function: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2007 26(5): 445-252.


Shah SA, Sander S, White CM, Rinaldi M, Coleman CI. Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 2007 Jul;7(7): 473-80.

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