We have had unseasonably warm weather of late but Winter is now in the air and with it comes the traditional onslaught of coughs and colds. There are no miracle cures but the right foods can make a big difference to the speed of your recovery. Nikki looks at what you can eat to soothe your symptoms and enhance your body’s natural immunity.
Nobody likes an attack of the sniffles. Runny noses, hacking coughs, a temperature along with aches and pains can make even the most hardy of us want to pull up the bedclothes and hibernate.
But while many of us turn to over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, there are other, more natural ways, to make you feel better.
Foods that heal
- Chicken Soup
There is no better way to feed a cold than with a bowl of chicken broth. It is packed full of all the nutrients you need to battle a virus and provides the fluids you need. On top of that it helps reduce the inflammation that triggers symptoms and leads to more colds. It’s not clear which ingredient provides the most benefit, but zinc, found in the meat plays an important role in the proper functioning of the immune system in the body.
Research also suggests warm beverages increase the flow of nasal secretions, helping alleviate cold symptoms and, according to alternative-medicine and home-remedy experts, it can also soothe the throat irritation that causes many dry coughs.
- Citrus Fruits
Vitamin C, most commonly found in citrus fruits, is an antioxidant that can reduce cold symptoms by 23%, studies have found. Some people take supplements when cold symptoms appear but you can get a decent dose of this essential antidote by eating plenty of fruit and veg.
- Garlic, Onions, and Leeks
Combined, these superfoods contain dozens of broad-spectrum antiseptic and immunity-boosting compounds. Another plus with garlic is it helps open clogged sinuses.
Ginger contains chemicals called sesquiterpenes that specifically target rhinoviruses, the most common family of cold viruses, as well as substances that suppress coughing. It’s also a natural pain and fever reducer and a mild sedative, so it can help you rest when you’re sick. On top of this fresh ginger root can help induce sweating and decrease nausea and diarrhea.
Honey is often touted as a cure-all for everything because of its natural antiseptic properties. A popular cold remedy is a mug of honey and lemon in hot water – the combination of which packs a vitamin C punch but also coats your throat relieving that dry, scratchy feeling.
Yogurt contains a bacterium called Lactobacillus reuteri that has been found to block the replication of viruses that invade your body when you get sick. Not all brands carry that particular strain of beneficial bacteria, so look for a brand that does.
- Brazil nuts
These are packed full of selenium, a mineral that helps boost your immunity. Having enough selenium in your body increases its production of cytokines, which help remove the flu virus. You can get your selenium through other means, such as seafood. Lobster, oysters, clams, crabs, tuna, and cod all contain selenium.
Cheese and other dairy products contain conjugated linoleic acid, a natural component of dairy fat which has boosted immune response in animal studies.
Other ways to ward off a cold and get better quickly include:
- Keep warm
Keeping warm can help you avoid coughs, colds and flu. The weather has been exceptionally mild so people are not used to dressing warmly. So if there’s a sudden icy snap, we will be more likely to feel the cold and start to shiver. Shivering depresses the immune system and this makes us more likely to catch colds. Also, lower levels of sunlight and altered levels of hormones such as melatonin and serotonin negatively affect how the immune system performs.
If there is a nip in the air, wear a thick jumper, take a coat and find your wooly hat. We lose up to 30% of our body heat through our heads.
- Wash your hands
The most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands. A common way to catch a cold is by rubbing your nose or eyes, so to protect against infection wash your hands frequently.
Use warm water, soap and wash for several minutes for best results.
- Watch the weather forecast
Low cloud, dull and misty conditions tend to bring an increase in germs.
This is the time when you’re more likely to catch something – although you may not notice you’ve done so until 10 to 12 days later, the incubation period for many colds and coughs.
- Don’t whack up the heating
This sounds like a contradiction after suggesting you keep warm but central heating reduces our defences and affects the respiratory system by drying out the protective mucus in our nasal passages. The dry, stuffy air of central heating can also lead to sore throats and aggravate chest complaints like asthma. Keep heating to a minimum and dress warmly instead.
- Drink plenty
Doctors recommend we drink about eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy. If you have a cold, you should stay hydrated to fight invading bacteria and viruses. Drinking plenty of fluids will help flush out the infection.
- Get some rest
Lack of sleep makes us more prone to infection. Aim for eight hours sleep a night and take it easy in the daytime. If you are feeling very ill, stay off work. Your colleagues will thank you for it – they don’t want germs circulating the office.
- Exercise regularly
You may not feel like being that energetic when you are under the weather but studies have shown that a session of moderate physical activity produces positive effects on the immune system. Over time, this means catching fewer colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.