The kids are in school (and/or daycare). More time spent inside with crowds. Snow is on the news. The winter cold and flu season is in full swing.
Short of wearing a biohazard suit or sequestering yourself in your home, you're not getting out of at least a little bit of exposure to this year's microbial goody bag - especially if you have children and grandchildren (a.k.a. our beloved little plague-carrying beings who are able to take down an entire healthy family in one fell swoop).
So what do you do? Will you wait until you feel those tell-tale signs? Or would you rather make some prophylactic dietary changes and supplement implementations?
Well, let’s start with the dietary end of the equation. A surprisingly common and readily accessible micronutrient has shown to be very promising with regards to both preventing and treating the common cold as well as influenza. Through clinical research polyphenols have exhibited a multitude of health benefits – one obviously being its robust anti-viral capabilities, possessing the means to not only fend off contagions but to improve the body’s own ability to eradicate infection.
Polyphenols are found in abundance in:
- green & black teas
- apples & [pure] apple cider
- dark chocolate
- red wine & grape skins
- flaxseed meal
- and a wide variety of berries (such as blueberries & elderberries)
Magnolia officinalis, specifically its bark, is also polyphenol-rich and can be made into tea or extract. Although more common among traditional oriental medicine, Magnolia officinalis has been successfully used for cold, flu, and pneumonia and is also a potent anti-inflammatory agent.
Another way to help boost your immunity is by cultivating a healthy gut. In fact, it is hypothesized that our microbiome is the true key to our immune system. That means increasing your probiotic (good bacteria) intake with live, fermented foods and high quality supplements (try Prescript Assist Probiotic), as well as boosting your consumption of prebiotics which help feed your gut and stimulate activity.
Prebiotic foods include chicory root, dark leafy greens, garlic, onions, asparagus, and bran. These foods contain high amounts of indigestible dietary fiber which ultimately feed our complementary microbes and cultivate rich bacterial populations.
As many of you probably already know, Vitamin C has a long history of use for preventing and alleviating cold & flu. Countless studies have shown high dose Vitamin C being a tenacious anti-viral agent and immune booster. Intravenous doses have even been used to treat shingles, showing a decrease in “pain, dermatologic findings and accompanying common complaints.”
Other common cold & flu remedies include Zinc, Echinacea, Goldenseal (berberine), and garlic – although garlic, currently, has less studies supporting this claim, despite its long-time recommendation.
Of lesser notoriety, but great import, are N-acetylcysteine (NAC), Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Brahmi, and Curcumin. Along with Echinacea, Ashwagandha and Brahmi have demonstrated immunostimulatory effects (increase immunoglobulin production). One such study indicated that they also “may regulate antibody production by augmenting both Th1 and Th2 cytokine production.”
Panax Ginseng has shown an aptitude for immune activation and modulation. During studies, Red Ginseng specifically has displayed an ability to inhibit replication of influenza virus, reduce severity of the infection, decrease recovery time, and increase survival rate.
On top of boosting your diet and supplement intake, there are other ways to help your body evade illness. The first, of course, is to get plenty of sleep. Insufficient sleep is positively criminal when it comes to your health, and robs your immune system of its ability to fight off intruders. Next, remove or reduce stressful stimuli (Easier said than done, right?). Stress not only lowers your immune system response, but it also results in an excessive loss of vital nutrients such as magnesium.
And finally, exercise! Yes, we can’t leave out exercise – that endorphin releasing activity that not only boosts mood but your immune system as well. Just think – if the zombie apocalypse does come, you’ll want to be fit fit fit!
For a healthier cold and flu season - proper diet, balanced supplementation, lower stress, good sleep and exercise.