Fighting the Flu

Flu season is rearing its ugly head, surrounding us with a cacophony of sniffles, sneezes, and coughs. It’s a good opportunity to build on last week’s post with a more generalized theme: the common cold and flu. It is important to know how to keep your immune system strong to fight off sickness. So, whether you’re sick or trying to stay healthy, here is what you need to know about warding off diseases.


chicken brothAs simple as it sounds, a well-balanced diet is vital to keeping your body healthy. Your immune system relies on a wide variety of minerals and vitamins to function efficiently. Research has not identified any vitamin or nutrient that can single-handedly boost your immune system, so it’s important to consume a recommended balance of micronutrients. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, and low in added sugars and saturated or trans fats, should keep your body well-supplied. Multivitamins are beneficial to this end but should not be relied on or used to excuse a poor diet. Probiotics, found in active-culture yogurts and miso, also contribute to immune and digestive function. Of course, other healthy habits – sleeping well, exercising regularly, reducing stress, etc. – and proper sanitation – washing your hands, covering your cough, disinfecting surfaces, etc. – are also crucial.


Unlike gastrointestinal illnesses, colds and flu do not impact your digestive system enough to call for a severe change in diet. Nonetheless, there are a number of foods that will assist in symptom relief as well as combat your virus at a cellular level.

  • Gargling warm water with salt for one minute helps relieve sore throats. Salt reduces inflammation by extracting moisture from tissues and membranes and prevents bacteria from growing after flushing them out.
  • Spicy food helps thin mucus and is a natural decongestant. Garlic, cayenne, and paprika are common spices that can easily be added to any dish for this purpose.
  • Honey – in warm water or by the spoonful – soothes sore throats due to its consistency and antibacterial properties.
  • Lemon, typically used in combination with honey, has antibacterial properties, fights mucus, and can relieve pain in sore areas of the throat.
  • Warm, clear liquids soothe sore throats, thin mucus, and keep your body hydrated. Teas and broth-based soups are the best examples of this. Soup can also be a great source of nutrients because vegetables become easier to digest once they have been cooked down in broth.
  • Milk has been found to thicken phlegm, although whether or not it generates more phlegm or mucus has been debated. Avoidance is a personal decision, and consumption won’t seriously impede recovery.

Given the sensitive condition of your body, you should pay attention not only to what but to how you eat. Eat frequently to sustain your energy but in smaller portions, so as not to overwhelm your body by forcing it to break down a large meal while it’s trying to fight an infection.

Eat up and get well soon.