Ways to Fight Colds and the Flu

By June Rousso
June Rousso
June Rousso
I am a New York State licensed psychologist and a nutritional consultant with an M.S. degree in holistic nutrition. My interests have expanded over the years to the field of nutrition, which I often integrate in my work as a psychologist. I love to write and educate people about nutrition so that they can make more informed choices about their health. I believe that dietary and lifestyle changes are so important in our lives to support a healthy lifestyle.
October 23, 2014 Updated: October 23, 2014

With the cold and flu season upon us, we must think about boosting our immune system, and fending off viruses and bacteria. One of the basic ways is to make sure that we have adequate levels of stomach acid that work to help eliminate bacteria and viruses that they come upon. Our body makes less stomach acid with age, but there are ways to increase it.

• Consume a ½ lemon or a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of room temperature water approximately fifteen minutes before meals.

• Take a ¼ teaspoon of digestive bitters before or after meals to stimulate acid production. Consult with your health practitioner beforehand if you are taking other medications. As an aside, bitters can help to reduce food cravings.

• Antacids decrease stomach acid, which can compromise the immune system. Most people, in fact, complaining of heartburn symptoms, indigestion, stomach bloat, and the like have low stomach acid rather than excess acid.

• Eat meals in a relaxed manner, which helps to produce stomach acid and prepare the body for digestion.

• Chew food well so that the stomach does not have to work so hard at digestion.

• Stomach irritants can interfere with the production of stomach acid. Common ones include alcohol, coffee, spicy foods citrus fruits, and certain medications such as non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-biotics. Common allergens include wheat, dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy.

Along with managing stomach acid production, there are other considerations for the cold and flu season, or any season for that matter. George Mateljan, in his book, The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating, reports the following foods as essential in maintaining a healthy immune system:

• Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids including salmon, tuna, sardines, and cod. Omega-3 fatty acids contain compounds that help regulate the immune system.

• Organically grown fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, and help to boost immune functioning.

• Onions have anti-biotic and anti-inflammatory properties, and can reduce the severity of congestion of the common cold.

• Garlic contains sulfur, which can help to fight colds and the flu.

• Shitake mushrooms contain a compound known to boost the immune system.

Mateljan also points out foods that should be avoided to maintain a healthy immune system:

• Cooking oils exposed to high heat can damage the immune system.

• Excess consumption of calories and fat can weaken immune functioning.

• Refined grains, white sugar, and processed foods deplete the body of vitamins and minerals needed for building up the immune system.

• Refined sugar, in particular, reduces the responsiveness of the immune cells and lowers immune defenses.

I also would add coconut oil and Manuka honey to the essential list of anti-cold and anti-flu foods. Coconut oil has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties while Manuka honey is anti-bacterial. Fire Cider is an age-old remedy has been used as a tonic to boost the immune system and for energy. Daily shots are recommended during cold and flu season. Typical ingredients include organic apple cider vinegar, oranges, lemons, onions, ginger, horseradish, garlic, tumeric, and habanero pepper.

A further essential to fight colds and the flu is high quality pro-biotic supplements, which has been shown to boost the immune system’s responses to viruses and bacteria. Foods containing pro-biotics can be part of the diet as well, including kefir, Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, micro-algae, pickles, miso soup, tempeh, and kimchi.

In terms of vitamin levels, there appears to be an association between Vitamin D deficiencies and the ability of the immune system to fight infections. I have observed myself getting sick during times of low Vitamin D levels. Fatty fish, beef liver, and egg yolks are good sources of vitamin D, and it also can be taken as a supplement.

It never ceases to amaze me how many remedies for boosting the immune system, and reducing the risk of colds and the flu are at our kitchen door. Wishing you a happy and healthy anti-cold and anti-flu season!