By Amanda Figge, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Dietetics & Nutrition
Does the impending flu & cold season have you in a panic? Don’t worry—there are plenty of natural ways to help prevent getting the cold or flu before you even get the sniffles.
Sugars, especially from refined, processed sources (hello, alcohol and holiday sweet treats) suppress the strength of the immune system. A weakened immune system will make you more vulnerable to catching a virus. In addition to desserts, watch out for these hidden sources of sugar:
These natural anti-microbial benefits are found in foods like garlic, ginger, turmeric, oregano, Manuka honey, apple cider vinegar and mushrooms.
Stir fry mushrooms, sugar snap peas and zucchini with fresh garlic, ginger and sea salt for a quick, Asian-inspired side dish. Use apple cider vinegar in homemade marinades and dressings. Blend small amounts of Manuka honey or turmeric into protein shakes.
The immune system is powered by your gut—yes, really! Fried foods, refined sugars and alcohol can all cause dysbiosis, or microbial imbalance in the gut lining, which makes it more difficult to absorb nutrients properly. Limiting these foods and consuming adequate fiber (25-35 grams/day) can help strengthen the gut barrier.
Additional foods that can help improve the integrity of the gut include
Staying hydrated ensures that the body can function properly and defend itself more effectively against the cold or flu. It can help relieve congestion as well as loosen mucus in the sinuses. If you’re like most people, you should be consuming one half of your body weight in ounces of water daily. Add an extra 15–20 ounces for every hour of exercise.
Consider supplementing your diet with vitamin D, zinc, vitamin C and other immune-boosting micronutrients. Remember, supplements do not overpower poor eating habits, and some supplements should be avoided due to certain medical conditions. Please consult with your dietitian or primary care physician on proper supplementation.
Want to learn more? Visit Amanda Figge's profile or call 217.528.7541 to make an appointment with our Dietetics & Nutrition team.
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