How to defend against the flu
And what to do if you get sick?
By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic – Expert Column
With the flu season upon us, we must all be vigilant to take good care of ourselves to increase our immunity and avoid getting sick. An ounce of prevention could be worth a week in a sickbed!
So what should you do to keep yourself free of the flu? These are all things you should be doing anyway for the sake of your health:
Take a daily multivitamin Get enough rest and exercise regularly Drink plenty of fluids Follow a healthy eating plan that includes a variety of foods rich in vitamins and minerals
In particular, vitamins B6 and B12 contribute to a healthy immune system. Vitamin B6 is widely available in foods such as potatoes, spinach, turkey, beans and enriched cereals. B12, on the other hand, is only available from animal sources such as meat, milk and fish.
Minerals such as selenium and zinc also work to keep the immune system strong. These minerals are found in foods rich in proteins such as beans, nuts, meat and poultry.
Keeping up with your physical activity program can also help. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends regular and moderate exercise to boost the immune system. According to ACE, people who exercise four to five times a week are less likely to get colds and flu.
And do not forget to take simple "respiratory hygiene" precautions that can help reduce the spread of diseases, including:
Wash your hands often, use soap for at least 15 seconds Avoid close contact with sick people Clean earphones from your phones, and wash door knobs, handrails and other frequently used items to keep them germ-free Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, covering your mouth and nose when cough or sneeze
What to do when you have the flu
If you get the flu, check with your doctor and ask about antiviral medications that can reduce your sick time in one or two days and make it less contagious. While you stay home and try to recover, follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control:
Drink plenty of fluids Rest, avoid tobacco and alcohol.
Do not worry about following your meal plan or keeping up with your diary when you do not feel well. Most people do not really want to eat when they're sick, especially if they have symptoms similar to those of the flu. You can retrieve your diary when you return to enjoying solid foods or simply skip the period during which you were sick.
The most important nutritional therapy for a quick recovery is to drink plenty of nutritious liquids, such as hot tea, broth or chicken soup and 100% fruit juice. All these drinks contain easy-to-digest fluids and nutrients that will help you improve.
You may want to make your tea from the chamomile variety. Chamomile tea, long considered a relaxing tea at bedtime and as a way to quell an upset stomach, is now also considered an immune booster. A study recently published in the Journal of agricultural and food chemistry He showed that five daily cups of chamomile tea helped fight infections.
Stack the cover in your favor
Choosing a multivitamin with additional vitamin E and C can help reduce flu symptoms. A 2002 study showed that older people who took 200 IU of vitamin E per day for a year had 20% fewer colds. Typical multivitamins contain only 30 IU of vitamin E, and this is a vitamin that is easier to supplement in pill form than in food. Food sources of vitamin E include vegetable oils, wheat germ, nuts, asparagus, spinach and other green leafy vegetables.
Linus Pauling became famous for advocating for additional vitamin C for cold and flu symptoms a decade ago, but the validity of his advice has been questioned in recent years. Some researchers argue that additional vitamin C is effective only for elite athletes. Others suggest that high doses of vitamin C can reduce symptoms and / or reduce your time of illness in one or two days.
In any case, drinking orange and grapefruit juice and eating tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli and cabbage rich in vitamin C is unlikely to cause any harm, and are excellent choices when you feel under the weather. Since vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, it is difficult to get too much from the food sources.
The road to recovery
When you begin to feel better, slowly add more foods to your diet. Oatmeal, scrambled eggs, yogurt, bananas, turkey and toast are examples of foods that are generally well tolerated after a flu attack.
You may have your own homemade food remedies that you prefer when you return to your meal plan. Just take your time and go back to your diet and exercise routine when you recover completely.
SOURCES: Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, January 26, 2005. Journal of the American Medical Association, August 2002
© 1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
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