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You are here: Home News Articles Super-Foods that Help You Weather the Winter Months

Super-Foods that Help You Weather the Winter Months

Cold and flu viruses take advantage of a weakened immune system. Factors that can weaken the immune system include excess alcohol and sugar consumption, stress and lack of sleep, all of which increase for many during the holiday season. Getting your immune system up and running strong is key to preventing and recovering from colds and the flu. A healthy diet, moderate exercise, adequate sleep and stress control form the foundation for a healthy immune system. 

World renowned oncologist and homeopathic physician, Dr. James W. Forsythe says there are a lot you can do to stay healthy. “Fortunately, there are actions we can take that will help protect us from colds, flu and even avian flu should it become a threat.” Forsythe advises certain foods and supplements that complement the flu vaccine and that are rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemicals include a variety of special plant compounds that act in different ways to help support the immune system.  “Phytochemical-rich foods do play an important role in strengthening the immune system. It’s important to aim for at least 2-3 services of fruits and 3-5 servings of vegetables every day.”  

Dr. Forsythe recommends adding the following foods to your grocery shopping list for the winter months.

Medicinal Mushrooms
Maitake, shiitake and reishi mushrooms contain powerful immune boosting components known as beta-glucans. Researchers have found these compounds effective in stimulating the immune system to fight off infections from cold and flu viruses. Studies have also found potential for their use in cancer and against the HIV virus. These mushrooms can be eaten whole as in this recipe or are also available in supplement form.

Whey Protein
Whey is a by-product of the cheese making process. It contains many individual protein parts that offer numerous health benefits. By raising glutathione levels in the body, it helps to boost immunity. Other actions of whey include limiting the growth of harmful bacteria while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Whey protein is available in a wide variety of products and flavors.

Yogurt
Because viruses cause colds and the flu, antibiotics will not help your recovery. In fact, they kill “friendly” bacteria in your body known as probiotics. Probiotics help maintain balance in the GI tract by warding off unwanted bacteria and yeast. Recent studies suggest that probiotics can help reduce the length and severity of cold symptoms. Probiotic bacteria are found in yogurt and kefir. They are also available in supplement form. Recent studies have shown probiotics to be helpful in preventing and fighting the common cold.

Turmeric
The compound curcumin in turmeric is responsible for its yellow color and has been found to help stimulate the immune system. This spice also has been shown to have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Blueberries
Blueberries are rich in powerful antioxidants and boosting immunity is just one of their many healthy benefits.

Garlic
This centuries-old cold and flu fighter has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. One of the active components of garlic, allicin, blocks enzymes that allow unwanted viral and bacterial invaders from entering and damaging cells. You don’t have to eat raw or fresh garlic to reap these health benefits. Studies have found garlic in supplement form to be effective in preventing the common cold as well.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, the plant form of Vitamin A, and other carotenoids. These compounds help support a healthy immune system.
Adequate, but not excessive, intakes of vitamins A, C, E and B6, zinc and iron appear to be especially important in maintaining immunity. Most people benefit from a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, especially those who are stressed or don’t eat a healthy balanced diet. Make sure your multivitamin includes selenium. According to Dr. Forsythe, a diet lacking adequate amounts of selenium could lead to mutations in the flu virus making it more dangerous. Brazil nuts contain high amounts of selenium. Other food sources include tuna, chicken, sunflower seeds, garlic and wheat.

Echinacea
Echinacea has been used to boost the immune system and reduce fever. Currently, there's debate on whether the plant Echinacea is best used to prevent cold and flu from occurring or whether it helps one to heal faster. Caveat: Echinacea should not be taken by women who are pregnant or by individuals with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, Multiple Sclerosis or HIV.

Other herbs that Dr. Forsythe says may be helpful include:

  • Goldenseal (modulates the immune system),
  • Licorice (antiviral and soothing),
  • Yarrow (antibacterial)
  • Elder (reduces swelling and irritation)
  • St. John's Wort (pain reliever)

He also recommends the following supplements:

Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg twice daily)

Vitamin A (25,000 IU per day for 2- 6 weeks)

Zinc (25 to 90 mg per day)

Women who are or who may become pregnant should not take high doses of vitamin A. The elderly may find vitamins C and A useful in treating their flu symptoms because of their compromised immune system

A 100 mg standardized extract of ginseng taken for 12 weeks along with a flu vaccine also helps prevent influenza by helping the body fight infection by increasing antibodies and boosting the body's natural defense system. Caveat: Those with high blood pressure should avoid ginseng. Ginger taken in the form of a tea may help relieve fever, sore throat, and headaches. Medical research indicates that garlic can kill many types of bacteria as well as some viruses and fungal infections If you do catch a cold or the flu, there are a few options available to help ease symptoms and speed recovery.

Zinc lozenges taken at the first sign of illness may help reduce the length and severity of a cold. The same is true of Echinacea. This popular herb appears to help boost activity of immune cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infections. The use of Echinacea for longer than six to eight weeks is not recommended however, as it appears to lose effectiveness. Therefore, you shouldn’t take Echinacea throughout the entire cold and flu season. Take it only if you have been exposed or feel symptoms coming on.

If you are unable to obtain an antiviral flu drug, such as Tamiflu or Relenza, there are some natural remedies that may help. Some studies have found that elderberry extract can help shorten the duration of the flu, possibly by blocking the virus from replicating and entering cells. Oscillococcinum is a popular homeopathic remedy that may also help ease symptoms and boost recovery time.

Before embarking on any self-treatment plan (beyond bed rest and taking fluids), consult your doctor.  At the Century Wellness Clinic, Dr. Forsythe and his medical team can perform a thorough examination and take a throat swab to identify a particular viral strain, or a chest x-ray if there is concern about pneumonia. If you have started herbal remedies or intend to do so, you should let know your healthcare provider know before we recommend any medications. This will help to avoid any possible interactions between conventional medications and herbs or other remedies.  If you would like to make an appointment at the Clinic, please call 800-789-0707 during regular business hours.  Dr. Forsythe would be happy to help you.

Dr. Forsythe also recommends incorporating the following preventative measures.

  • Wash your hands. This is a very simple and effective act we should get in the habit of doing, especially after shaking hands or touching public doorknobs, stair hand rails, shopping carts, etc.
  • Consider a flu shot. Some groups are especially at risk for flu complications and may need to consider getting a flu shot, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. This will not protect against avian flu however.
  • Contain sneezes and coughs to prevent spreading to others. Wash hands after doing so.
  • Keep at least a 3-4 day supply of food and water at home. This way if an outbreak occurs in your area you won’t have to go out unnecessarily.
  • If possible, consider keeping the kids home and work from home during an outbreak.
  • If you are sick, stay home to prevent spreading it to others.
  • Support your immune system so it can better handle incoming viral threats.

The opinions expressed in the newsletter article belong to the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Century Wellness Clinic and Cancer Screening & Treatment Center of Nevada. The information provided at this site and specifically newsletters are for informational purposes and are not intended for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional.

The information contained in this Health Report is intended for education purposes only. It is intended to complement—not replace—the advice provided by healthcare providers.

Lisa Marie Wark is currently a free lance writer and is a business development consultant with a concentration in medical spas and alternative clinics. Currently she is President of MedSpas, a business development firm that provides physicians the necessary business tools to help them build or expand their practices into medical spa facilities. Wark was formerly an anchor and financial reporter for ON24 Financial News in San Francisco. In 2001, she was promoted to the main female anchor of three financial news broadcasts, covering a broad range of financial sectors and industries.

 

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