What should we eat and drink when we have the flu or cold?

Popular wisdom tells us that if we get through the flu without medication, it will last about a week, and if we take medication, it will last seven days (although the cough and runny nose will stay with us for another week). So-called acute upper respiratory tract infections, including colds and flu, are very common in adults and children and, unfortunately, have no cure; once we have them, no treatment can get rid of them.

Instead, our body’s immune system must fight a battle over several days to eliminate the pathogen and regenerate the affected tissue. During this time, we experience nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, cough, general malaise, and sometimes fever.

The foods and drinks we eat may not affect how long the flu or cold lasts, but some foods can help provide the body with the nutrients it needs to heal and cope with symptoms.

Flu, colds and vaccines

The common cold can be caused by more than 200 different viruses, with rhinovirus being the most common. Cold symptoms appear gradually and include sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. Fever symptoms are rare when adults get a cold. The treatment of colds is mainly symptomatic, as there is no specific antiviral treatment.

Influenza, on the other hand, is caused by the influenza virus and is characterized by the sudden onset of symptoms such as high fever, severe muscle pain, extreme fatigue, headache, and dry cough. It is more serious than a cold and can lead to serious complications, especially in older adults and high-risk groups. For influenza, there are antiviral drugs such as zanamivir, oseltamivir, or peramivir that can shorten the duration and prevent serious complications.

To prevent influenza, vaccines are developed every year because influenza viruses are constantly mutating. When you have a cold, there are no other preventive measures than washing your hands and avoiding touching your face, especially after contact with other people, because the mouth and eyes are the gateways for viruses.

The viruses that cause colds and flu attack the mucosal lining of the throat and cells of the epithelial tissue of the respiratory tract. They act as “factories” for the virus to replicate itself and ultimately kill the virus.

Indispensable nutrients

The viruses that cause colds and flu attack the mucosal lining of the throat and cells of the epithelial tissue of the respiratory tract. These cells act as “factories” where the virus replicates itself and ultimately kills the virus. The immune system responds by causing inflammation, free radicals, and sometimes fever.

All of this consumes significant resources, including energy and the organization’s “building materials.” Here’s why it’s so important not to be deficient in certain nutrients in your diet (even in larger amounts than normal):

  • Water: All chemical reactions in cells use water, and we must make sure we get enough fluids, although flu and colds won’t make us any more dehydrated than normal.
  • Proteins: Cells that die in infection must be regenerated, and for this proteins are the basic materials of this process.
  • Zinc: Research shows that taking zinc supplements when symptoms occur can shorten the duration and severity of the common cold, and as a supplement can prevent the common cold. The best source of zinc is oysters, but red meat and chicken are also rich in zinc.
  • Vitamin C: Although vitamin C does not help prevent a cold or flu, taking it during an infection can reduce the severity of symptoms.
  • Antioxidants: Different studies have shown that a combination of compounds with antioxidant properties can prevent and reduce the duration of the flu. The formula includes the aforementioned Vitamin C, Vitamin A, B2, B5, B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin K1, Magnesium, Selenium, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Resveratrol, Curcumin, and Quercetin.

However, other nutrients associated with health performed less well. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, but this may not be good at the beginning of a cold or flu because we need a certain level of inflammation to kill the virus. In experiments on mice, high doses of omega-3 supplements increased the severity and duration of influenza. However, following an “anti-inflammatory diet” that includes turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, saffron, fruits and vegetables, and vitamin C can help reduce the symptoms and duration of infection, according to a review of research.

Dead cells in infection must regenerate, and for this, proteins are required as the basic building blocks of this process.

Soup, honey and other home remedies

Knowing all of the above, it’s easy to understand why certain home remedies have been recommended for years. Here are some of them:

  • Chicken soup: This traditional remedy contains many of the nutrients mentioned above. Specifically, the vegetables and chicken used to make chicken soup provide vitamins and minerals that regulate inflammation (rather than prevent it). In experiments, homemade soup performed better than commercial soup.
  • Honey: Honey has antibacterial and antiviral properties and a teaspoon of honey has been found to be effective in reducing coughs in children.
  • Yogurt, sauerkraut and fermented foods: Although not a very traditional remedy in Spain, foods fermented with bifidobacteria can activate the immune system’s natural killer cells and reduce the severity and duration of flu and colds.

What not to take

Instead of helping us reduce the symptoms and duration of the flu or cold, some foods and drinks can have the opposite effect.

While colds and flu are not serious in healthy people, older adults or people with other health problems may develop complications. As we battle illness, our bodies use up energy to move, maintain internal temperature, and even think. That’s why we want to hide under a blanket and let someone bring us something warm. This is what we have to do to avoid infecting other people at work or on the street, but beyond that, this soothing psychological effect also affects accelerated recovery. In any case, we should not forget that when symptoms persist for longer than a reasonable time, the correct response is always to consult a doctor.

*Darío Pescador is the editor and director of Quo magazine and the author of the book best self Oberon posted.

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