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You’ve scheduled your annual flu shot. You wash your hands diligently and thoroughly. You steer clear of sick friends. Is there more you can do to protect yourself from the flu — or to relieve your symptoms if you do get sick?
While no food has definitively been shown to vanquish the flu virus, nutrients in the following four food items may give you the winning edge this year.
A recent study of Japanese schoolchildren suggests that getting a daily dose of vitamin D during winter may reduce the incidence of influenza A, a common strain of seasonal flu.
The children in the study took vitamin D supplements, but oily fish such as salmon is an edible option. Fortified milk and cereals are good sources, too. This nutrient is also made naturally in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, but it’s not always enough when the days grow shorter. Ask your doctor how much vitamin D you need.
Several studies have found that drinking green tea may improve your immune system — but can it battle the flu bug? In one study, participants took capsules containing two tea components. The results showed the capsules decreased the number of people reporting cold and flu symptoms by about a third. There was also a decrease in how long the symptoms lasted.
Probiotics are live microorganisms similar to the “good” microorganisms that live in the gut. They are found in some foods, such as yogurt, and come as dietary supplements.
In a recent study, researchers gave three- to five-year-olds probiotic supplements to see if they would affect flu symptoms. Some children received one probiotic strain, while others received a combination of two. After six months, both groups showed a reduction in the incidence and duration of flu symptoms when compared to a placebo group. The two-strain group had the best results.
Fluids help your body fight infection, and hot liquids like chicken soup may relieve symptoms, too. In a small study, 30 volunteers with cold- or flu-like symptoms drank either a heated or room-temperature fruit drink. Researchers then tested their nasal airflow and asked about six symptoms: runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness and tiredness. While the airflow test showed no significant improvement with either drink, participants who drank the hot beverage reported relief from all six symptoms. Those who drank the cooler drink experienced relief from only three: the runny nose, cough and sneezing.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's nutrition services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about nutrition, read the Nutrition News archive.