by Dr. Rivet, B.Sc., ND
Fall brings not only cooler weather but also signifies for many a return to the school year. The change to cooler weather allows certain virus’ to flourish and this may be why there is an upsurge of colds and flu within the population at this time. Studies show that school upper respiratory infections increase within 2 weeks of return to school and is usually a rhino virus (Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2015 May;34(5):476-81).
One of the most promising cold/flu prevention strategies is oral zinc supplementation. Zinc has shown best promise when taken within 24 hours of onset of symptoms to help decrease symptom(s) duration. When used as prevention, “zinc used for at least 5 months was associated with reduced cold incidences, school absenteeism and antibiotic prescriptions in children”. (Clin Microbiol Rev. 2013 Jan; 26(1): 135–162).
The RDA for zinc is around 15mg/day, typical supplemental amount depends on age, body size, gender, activity levels and what medications someone is on.
It is important to take zinc with food as taking it on an empty stomach can cause nausea.
Foods high in zinc: Beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, garbanzo beans, cashews, turkey, quinoa, shrimp.
Good nutrition is also important at this time; low sugary food and drinks, whole food snacks, and a good multivitamin or vitamin C if under unusual stress may also help support the immune system.
Foods that contain high flavonoids have been shown to reduce colds and flu! (Effect of Flavonoids on Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Immune Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Adv Nutr. 2016 May 16; 7(3):488-97).
Foods high in flavonoids: Apples, blue/black berries, cherries, plums.
Most vegetables including onions (especially red), red bell peppers, red cabbage, tomatoes, eggplants, celery, artichokes, snap beans, okra and broccoli and thank goodness red wine and dark chocolate.
Herbs high in Flavonoids: Green tea, lemon balm tea, thyme tea, rosehip tea, hibiscus tea, p’auer tea, to name a few. Most tea in one form or another has some form of tannins in them.
Good Bacteria for Immune Support
Another aid to support the immune system is the daily intake of probiotic supplementation or foods which contain prebiotic substances. Proper gut health including its microbiota help with decreasing acute upper respiratory infections as well as duration and antibiotic use:
“Probiotics were better than placebo in reducing the number of participants experiencing episodes of acute URTI, the mean duration of an episode of acute URTI, antibiotic use and cold-related school absence”. A happy tummy really helps the immune system. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Feb 3; (2): CD006895.
This is a great find as the research shows what naturopathic medicine has been saying for a very long time, that gut health is an integral part of overall immune function and supporting it helps with disease prevention and treatment.
So for cold/flu season taking in adequate amounts of:
can help you and your family stay healthy and active through this up and coming season.