Beat the Flu! Here's How

By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian for SparkPeople

Cold and flu season is upon us! Sometimes, even the most diligent hand-washers end up getting sick. Here are some tips to help you get over any nasty bug you might catch this fall and winter.

"Feed a cold, starve a fever?" Many people say they can never remember whether to starve the cold or the fever. The answer: neither! The best advice is simply to listen to your appetite because being neither hungry nor stuffed will get rid of a cold, flu, or fever any faster. "Starving" an illness is particularly a bad idea. Intentionally restricting calories only makes it harder to recover from an illness.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Drink significant amounts of water - at least 8-12 cups throughout the day. Additional water is needed not only to help fight infection, but also to combat dehydration brought on by fever. If you have flu-symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea also increase your need for water above the normal 8-cup requirement.

Take vitamin C.

Take 250 milligrams each day for 5-7 days. Although vitamin C will not prevent the cold, it may soften the blow, decrease symptoms (such as a runny nose and sore throat), and possibly shorten the duration of the cold by a day or so. Also drink plenty of vitamin-rich orange or grapefruit juice. These provide vitamin C as well as the fluids and calories your body needs.

Have some chicken soup!

Researchers have studied the possible benefits chicken soup may have on colds and flu. While they're not sure what the exact mechanism is, they believe that the benefit comes from something related to the smell or the taste of the soup. Eating chicken soup (or a soup that smells or tastes like chicken soup) may help increase the flow of mucus and clear nasal passages. It will not help cure or shorten your illness, but it may help relieve symptoms temporarily.

Eat garlic.

It may help stimulate your immune system. Include one to three cloves of garlic each day in your diet by eating foods like: garlic bread, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, salad dressing with garlic, and by adding it to pasta salad, soups and stews. Do not use if you are on a blood thinning medication.

Take echinacea.

This herb is a natural immune enhancer. Use caution if you are allergic to ragweed and other pollens, have kidney problems or are pregnant or lactating. Take 500 milligrams (mg) in capsule form, 3 times a day on the first day symptoms occur. Then take 250 mg, 4 times a day for 10 days.

Pamper yourself.

Get plenty of rest and relaxation.

Hopefully, by adhering to a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent an illness from occurring in the first place, or at least lessen the severity if one does arise.

Be sure to always talk with your health care provider before taking any herbal, vitamin, or mineral supplement.

Related links:

The Cold and Flu Survival Guide

Self-Care Tips for Sick Days

Is It a Cold or Allergies?

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