Every winter, we enter the cold and flu season and with new threats like the Coronavirus, this year is no different and perhaps a bit worse depending on where you are in the world.
The main food that feeds our good bacteria is fiber. Fiber is also good for diabetes and heart disease prevention and treatment. We can also eat fermented foods that help us keep up our good bacteria population.
Research has shown us that supplementing with probiotics (supplements with good bacterial strains) actually decrease the incidence and severity of cold and flu symptoms during winter months. Similar findings are emerging for the role of fermented foods.
Here are a few key points:
1- Optimize your microbiome defenses! Eat fiber to keep up your healthy bacteria populations, most good fiber comes from whole fruit not juice and vegetables and whole grains. Take a good probiotic supplement that has at least 10 different strains of researched bacteria on a daily basis. Eat fermented foods like kefir milk or unflavored unsweetened yogurt (can add berries and nuts), kimchi, tempeh, miso, saur kraut and healthy forms of kombucha.
2- Maximize your sleep and water intake. Whenever I am about to get sick, I suddenly feel very tired, this is a viral prodrome when you can still fight back, one way to do this is to immediately bolus yourself with water and get more sleep. Avoid things that dehydrate you or keep you awake like caffeine, alcohol and also avoid foods that feed virus and bad bacteria like sugar and refined carbs.
3- Optimize your key supplements. When you are getting that first sore throat or cold symptoms or even when you have people in your family that are getting sick, try some of these evidence-based herbal remedies.
- Take vitamin C regularly, research shows that this helps prevent colds, but only if you take it every day, 1 gram would be a good minimum to take. It’s not as effective once you have a cold so this is a good one for prevention.
- Take Zinc– zinc is depleted with cold viruses and lower zinc levels from a lack of intake of nuts and seeds makes us more susceptible to viruses. Eat these foods and take a zinc supplement during cold and flu season to keep yourself healthy.
- Umcka– Umcka biloba has been clinically proven to reduce cold severity and duration, for best results take it when you are starting to get sick with that first sniffle or sore throat.
Elderberry syrup– also clinically researched and shown to reduce incidence and severity of cold and flu symptoms, take 1 tablespoon twice daily during winter months or all year long, it’s full of antioxidants and has other health benefits as well.
- Echinacea– take this when you are sick or when you feel you need a boost for your immune system for no more than 10 days at a time, then take a break, this has been clinically studied to show increase white blood cell count and fight off infections.
Dr. Shad (Farshad Fani Marvasti, MD, MPH) is a Stanford-trained medical doctor, associate professor in academic medicine, speaker, and author with expertise in nutrition and culinary medicine, wellness, public health and prevention.
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