Nutrition Articles

Beat the Flu! Here's How

Tips to Prevent and Overcome Winter Viruses

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When a virus enters your body, one of three things can happen:
  1. The virus can die, OR
  2. Your immune system can activate and kill the virus, OR
  3. The virus can survive, multiply, and produce a cold or the flu.
How do you keep this from happening? 

Prevention
  • The power of produce: Plant foods contain natural disease fighting compounds called phytochemicals and antioxidants. These substances can enhance your immune system. Therefore, eat vegetables and fruits at least 5 times a day, preferably 7-9 times.
  • Exercise: Regular, moderate exercise will stimulate the fighting T cells into doing their job – attacking foreign invaders like germs and viruses.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: To improve your immune system and resistance to disease commit to these guidelines: do not smoke, sleep 7-8 hours each night, eat a nutritious diet that includes breakfast, and avoid (or take steps to reduce) mental stress.
  • Germs: To avoid the spread of germs, wash your hands frequently with warm soapy water (for at least 20 seconds), and do not share cups or food.
  • Water: Drink 8-12 cups of water every day. Water helps to cleanse the body and remove toxins, including germs. By keeping body systems, especially the respiratory system, well hydrated, you can enhance your virus-fighting potential.

After Symptoms Occur
  • "Feed a cold, starve a fever?" Many people say they can never remember whether to starve the cold or the fever. The answer: neither! The best advice is simply to listen to your appetite because being neither hungry nor stuffed will get rid of a cold, flu, or fever any faster. "Starving" an illness is particularly a bad idea. Intentionally restricting calories only makes it harder to recover from an illness.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: Drink significant amounts of water – at least 8-12 cups throughout the day. Additional water is needed not only to help fight infection, but also to combat dehydration brought on by fever. If you have flu-symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea also increase your need for water above the normal 8-cup requirement.
  • Vitamin C: Take 250 milligrams each day for 5-7 days. Although vitamin C will not prevent the cold, it may soften the blow, decrease symptoms (such as a runny nose and sore throat), and possibly shorten the duration of the cold by a day or so. Also drink plenty of vitamin-rich orange or grapefruit juice. These provide vitamin C as well as the fluids and calories your body needs.
  • Have some chicken soup! Researchers have studied the possible benefits chicken soup may have on colds and flu. While they’re not sure what the exact mechanism is, they believe that the benefit comes from something related to the smell or the taste of the soup. Eating chicken soup (or a soup that smells or tastes like chicken soup) may help increase the flow of mucus and clear nasal passages. It will not help cure or shorten your illness, but it may help relieve symptoms temporarily.
  • Garlic may help stimulate your immune system. Include one to three cloves of garlic each day in your diet by eating foods like: garlic bread, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, salad dressing with garlic, and by adding it to pasta salad, soups and stews. Do not use if you are on a blood thinning medication.
  • Echinacea: This herb is a natural immune enhancer. Use caution if you are allergic to ragweed and other pollens, have kidney problems or are pregnant or lactating. Take 500 milligrams (mg) in capsule form, 3 times a day on the first day symptoms occur. Then take 250 mg, 4 times a day for 10 days.
  • Pamper yourself: Get plenty of rest and relaxation.
Hopefully, by adhering to a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent an illness from occurring in the first place, or at least lessen the severity if one does arise. 

Be sure to always talk with your health care provider before taking any herbal, vitamin, or mineral supplement.

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Member Comments

  • I think its more than common knowledge that hey can only protect you from the 2 or so many strains that they figure may be bad in the coming season. I have been getting one for as long as I could (think its been 12 or so many years now) and YES in my experience it HAS made a difference. Anything that prods your immune system into action will help even if it isn't the exact same strain it will help your body to fight the infection. As to the saying the CORRECT form is "FEED a COLD, STARVE a FEVER!!" WHY would you want to ADD fuel to a raging fire?
  • Last time I received a flu shot, I got the flu.
  • Every time I see grapefruit or grapefruit juice recommended, I feel this should be added. (Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are on medication, as grapefruit products have been shown to alter or nullify some medications,)
  • I absolutely do not agree with SP stance on getting a flu shot. I am a pretty healthy person due to eating properly and not keeping my home as hot as many people do. I agree with the other commenter about that. Our house is normally around 60-62 in winter during the day. Add good nutrition in and keeping fairly active has worked for us for many years. Flu shot - don't need them.
  • I can't remember the last time I had flu and I rarely get colds. Mind you I do like airing the house out even in mid winter and I keep it quite cool so I don't suppose germs can survive long here.
  • SKYFROG
    Actually, the old saying is "IF you starve the cold, you feed the fever" when we have a cold, our taste buds are not very active and food just isn't as appealing. Remembering that we need nutrition more than ever and continuing to eat healthy meals will help us feel better faster.

    It's funny how the little IF at the beginning of the phrase has been dropped over time, leaving us with a mysterious either/or situation. Let's put the IF back where it belongs.
  • I appreciate this article mainly because it focuses on prevention through means of common sense and a healthy lifestyle. It is a reminder to have a healthy lifestyle throughout the year not just during the winter months. I especially like the fact the author did not say get the flu shot because there are things that we can do to prevent getting the flu.
  • Several years ago my employer offered free flu shots to everyone. An error was made and live vaccine was given. We all got really sick. Three years ago I had a bad reaction to a flu vaccine. My doctor said every year he has a few patients who have bad reactions. So I skipped a year. Last year I knew I was going to be in the hospital so I got one. Didn't get sick so I suppose I will get one this year.
  • OKBACK2ME
    You know you are still liable to get the flu whether or not you get the flu shot! The flu shot only protects against two or three, sometimes four types of the flu. There are thousands of different types of flues out there. What the hope and the word is hope to do is control the flues that they feel may cause the most deaths. It is causing contriversary where I live. Especially since they have had studies showing the shot is less than 50% effective against the flu they have been designed for and even less for Seniors.

    I think washing hands often and not touching your mouth or eyes before washing them with soap in water are the most effective ways of preventing the food along with a healthy diet and sleep.
  • So you didn't get a flu shot even though it was recommended and then you got the flu! Well now what? After you get well from that bout of the flu if it is still early in the flu season GO GET A FLU SHOT! There is more than one strain of the flu and the shot will protect you from the ones you didn't get when you caught the flu in the first place. Unless of course you want to offer yourself up to the flu viruses then just go on your merry way, but stay away from the young and the elderly and anyone else who might have a poor immunity. Protect yourself and those around you! Get your flu shot.
  • Or get a flu shot and don't worry about it.
  • Echinacea: you need to check on this if you have an autoimmune disease.
    Thanks for the reminder that H2O is the way to go.
    I heard zinc may help, does anyone know?
  • Agree with MARAUDE and MDSCINCIAGAIN. I am sorry SP is putting out such malarkey.
  • I sure wish I had seen this about 4 weeks ago when the FLU was invading my body. But I did drink lots of water and juice and my neighbor brought over chicken soup and I really drank my orange juice so 3 of these surly helped me fight it off a bit faster. Great read.
  • GARBLEDEEGOOK
    Check this out if you want more info: http://www.skepdi
    c.com/vitacon
    .html

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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