Touch any doorknobs today? Have you borrowed someone else's cell phone or pen? If so, you could be exposing yourself to a cold or flu virus left behind by the last person who didn't wash their hands after wiping a runny nose or sneezing into their palms. Washing your hands regularly and avoiding the use of other peoples things (such as pens or cell phones) when cold and flu season is upon us can go a long way in reducing your risk of illness. I know that may seem like common sense, but it is amazing how we forget the simple things sometimes. Think about this too: the next time you have a cold or the flu, try sneezing into your elbow crease instead of your hands, and wash your hands after wiping away the sniffles.
Sugar Isn't So Sweet:
Sugar can suppress the immune system and make you more vulnerable to the viruses that are lurking nearby, so avoid those sweet snacks. In general, a diet focussing on whole foods, fruits and vegetables and adequate lean protein will help to support good health overall, including good immune health.
New Kids On The Immune Block:
Most people have heard of using Echinacea, Zinc and Vitamin C during cold and flu season to help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, but for cold and flu prevention there are a couple of products you may be less familiar with.
NAC (N-ACETYL CYSTEINE):
NAC is a derivative of the amino acid L-cysteine and is used by the body to make reduced glutathione (GSH), an important respiratory system antioxidant. NAC can help to prevent flu symptoms even when you have been exposed to the influenza virus. In a study of 262 patients, half were given 1200mg of NAC per day and half were given placebo tablets during the cold and flu season. 51% of the placebo group developed signs and symptoms of infection vs. only 29% of the NAC group. When the blood of study subjects was tested for evidence of infection by influenza virus, only 25% of those who tested positive for viral infection in the NAC group actually developed any symptoms (on the other hand, 79% of those in the placebo group who tested positive for influenza virus ended up getting sick). This suggests that NAC can help prevent the development of flu symptoms even when a virus manages to enter your system. In addition, NAC is also a mucolytic, meaning that it helps to break up mucus in the body. Because of this ability, NAC is effective in reducing symptoms of bronchitis, a condition in which mucus build up in the respiratory system is a real problem.
Another way to help improve glutathione levels naturally is to ensure adequate intake of proteins rich in cysteine. Whey protein is one very good source od cysteine and human trials have shown that glutathione levels can be boosted in those with reduced levels by supplementation whith whey protein.
Andrographis is a plant traditionally used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine for colds and flu. Multiple clinical trials have shown that Andrographis is safe and effective in both prevention and treatment for upper repiratory tract infections whether they are caused by bacteria or viruses. For colds and the flu, treatment with Andrographis has been shown to ptovide significant improvement in headache, throat and nasal symptoms (including sinusitis) muscle pain, fever and cough.
So there you have it, a few tips to help keep you healthy this cold and flu season. Hopefully this year you will spend less time with the sniffles and more time enjoying the winter season.