We are right in the thick of cold and flu season. Recently both clients and friends of mine have been struggling with varying degrees of “the crud.” Many of us easily make the connection between the food we eat and calories and weight gain or loss and tend to focus our attention there. We often miss the even more important connection between the foods we eat and our lifestyle and its ability to boost our immunity to illness and help us stay well.
Recently, I met with a client who had been sick with a cold for about 10 days and was considering a second round of antibiotics. This client originally came to me for help with weight loss and other issues including pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc. I tried to make the connection with him how important the food we eat is and how we treat our bodies everyday impacts our ability to keep from getting sick, and when we do get sick with something like a cold, how long it lasts. I’ve said it before, food is medicine.
Many of us feel a little touch of a sore throat or the sniffles and reach for the mega dose of vitamin C. Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot of real scientific evidence that vitamin C alone in high doses actually is effective in knocking out a cold. There is some evidence though that vitamin C, in conjunction with other nutrients, along with everyday lifestyle habits – like regular exercise, enough sleep, and our ability to manage stress can positively impact our immunity.
Certain nutrients seem to be the superstars when it comes to immune boosting. Zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E have been shown to have positive effects on the immune system in studies on animals. Their effect on the human immune system is promising, but still being studied. So, the question is, where can you find these nutrients?
Instead of zeroing in on one beneficial vitamin or mineral or another, I think it is more practical to take a wider view and think about what is the best overall diet as a whole. In general, these immune boosters can be found in all of the foods I talk about all of the time in my blogs – beans, peas, nuts, lean meats, whole grains, leafy greens and other vegetables, as well as citrus fruits, berries, and other fruits.
Don’t be fooled by product claims for “immune boosting” products. If you feel you are lacking in certain dietary areas a good multivitamin is your best bet versus mega dosing on any one vitamin, mineral, or herb. We tend to think more is always better, but it isn’t. A multivitamin, of course, doesn’t take the place of healthy eating, but it can help.
Supporting our immune system is important to not only stave off seasonal colds and flus, but also to protect our bodies from chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Just one more reason to incorporate balance and variety often, even if it means making small steps to do this little by little. Up next…a blog on lifestyle factors and their impact on immunity.