No one likes to be sick. It’s not fun taking a day off to stay in bed and cough non-stop or attend to other unhappy matters in the bathroom. The good news is there is a lot you can do nutritionally to improve your overall health to both prevent getting sick and to get better sooner if you’re already sick.
To some extent occasionally getting sick is unavoidable, however most individuals do not have to get sick as often, for as long, or to the extent that the do. Nutrition has been found to play a significant role in a person’s immune system. Being well nourished can significantly reduce the likelihood of a bacteria or virus infecting a person. Proper nutrition has also been shown to reduce the duration of ailments, as well as their intensity. During cold and flu season it’s particularly important to take an active role in your nutrition.
One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to drink 2 cups of water first thing in the morning prior to any foods or beverages. Not only does this account for 15% of your fluid intake for the day, but it helps rehydrate the body, wakes up all the systems in the body, flushes toxins, aids in regularity, and can even boost your metabolic rate. Best of all it’s free. Start with 1 cup of water and work your way up to 2 cups by increasing it an ounce each day.
BOTTOM LINE: Aim for 8 to 10 cups of water/fluids a day and make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Track your total fluid consumption for 10 days. Make a note of the amount and types of fluid you consumed and how you felt at the end of the day. This will help you find the right amount of fluids for your body. Make sure to remind your family members to drink more fluids as well. Setting large glasses of water down at each meal can help the whole family get on track.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Essential fatty acids are fats the human body needs for optimal health and basic functioning, but is unable to make on its own. These fatty acids lubricate the human eye and joints. They also give fluidity and thus tensile strength to cell walls in the human body. That means a cell can take an impact, rather than break or tear open. These same fats are needed for brain function, heart health, repairing tissues and overall immunity.
BOTTOM LINE: Take a fish, flaxseed or comparable oil supplement daily. Incorporate fish, seeds, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables into your regular diet.
Protein is needed to provide structure, create enzymes and repair tissues. Not getting enough protein over a long period of time means not having the material to make antibodies, repair minor tissue damage and to create a physical defense barrier to bacterial and viral invaders. A person doesn’t need tons upon tons of protein to stay healthy, however a small amount of protein at every meal and snack can significantly improve a person’s overall health.
BOTTOM LINE: Regularly incorporate healthy, protein rich foods such as lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds and beans into every meal and snack.
Vitamin A and its precursors (carotenoids) are essential to the human immune system. Vitamin A is needed to keep cells that line things healthy. Skin, hair, eyes, nasal passages, mouths, the entire GI tract and more are lined with epithelial cells. Vitamin A and carotenoids are readily available in fall colored fruits and vegetables; green, yellow, red and orange. Vitamin A can be dangerous in high doses, so it’s best to get it from food. Over dosing on vitamin A rich foods just makes your skin turn orange. Overdosing on supplemental vitamin A can be quite dangerous.
BOTTOM LINE: Mama was right! Eat your fruits and vegetables, especially those that are red, orange and yellow. Get your vitamin A from foods, not supplements.
Vitamin D has made the news in a big way! That’s because vitamin D is needed in over 200 functions in the human body and many individuals are deficient! In Wyoming we do not get the proper rays to create vitamin D from the sun from October to March. That’s 6 months of deficiency. What’s more obesity, aging, dark skin, medications, medical conditions, sun screen and more all decrease our vitamin D stores or prevent vitamin D production. Vitamin D is vital in preventing both short term and long term ailments. Having healthy vitamin D stores can prevent the common cold and colon cancer.
BOTTOM LINE: You cannot get enough from the sun year round (without risking skin cancer) or from food, take a vitamin D supplement. Current recommendation of the Vitamin D Council is 1,000 IU for every 25 pounds body weight. Have your vitamin D status checked as soon as possible. A healthy blood level is between 50-80 ng/dl. See your healthcare professional for low levels.
It’s no secret that vitamin C can help stave off a cold, flu or other infection. Vitamin C is key to a healthy immune system. Large dosages are not recommended as it can cause kidney problems for some. The good news is it’s easy to get enough of the vitamin C you need in a day from the same brightly colored produce you’d find vitamin A in; red, orange, green and yellow produce. Isn’t nature a genius? Interesting fact, strawberries and bell peppers have just as much, if not more, vitamin C as oranges.
BOTTOM LINE: Eat those brightly colored fruits and vegetables of fall hues. Fresh or frozen produce has more vitamin C than canned or dried.
Zinc has found its way into the cold isle for good reason. It’s VERY effective in fighting off a cold. Once you have a cold, zinc lozenges/drops may help shorted the duration and intensity of the cold.
Regularly eating zinc rich foods and taking a multi that has some zinc in it, will help prevent colds. Zinc is found readily in red meats, dark green leafy vegetables, yogurt, pumpkin seeds and squash.
BOTTOM LINE: Eat healthy foods containing zinc on a regular basis. If you’re going to get zinc from red meat; pick lean cuts, eating serving sizes and limit the frequency you have red meat to 3 or less time per week. If you’re going to purchase a zinc supplement, avoid the nasal swabs as they can cause irreversible damage to your sense of smell.