What to eat to avoid flu — and if you get it

With flu season in full swing, everyone is looking for ways to prevent the nasty bug.

And while frequent hand-washing, getting plenty of sleep and getting a flu shot (even now) are important pieces in warding off the flu, another key to staying healthy starts in your kitchen.

One of the best ways to fend off the flu is through “flutrition” nutrient-rich foods that help prevent illness. Eating healthy foods, including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, can also help people with the flu get back on their feet again, according to experts.

Dr. Timothy Horton, pediatrician, offers the following tips to boost your immunity to try and stave off nasty colds and flu. He also provides tips on what to eat, and other measures to ease symptoms and help get better. (Horton has a practice in Vidalia and also works in telemedicine with MedZed (www.mymedzed.com.)

Yogurt is a good choice when it contains live cultures and probiotics. Most studies agree that probiotics are very helpful during and after using an antibiotic to prevent some of the side effects of antibiotics. I suggest consuming yogurt with live cultures or adding probiotics to food at the end of an antibiotic course and continuing for two weeks at one serving per day.

Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals that make up our immune system.  I suggest five to seven servings a day. You should also try to have a colorful plate of food – at least three varieties for a well-rounded meal.

Salmon and fish are also a good source of fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega 3 consists of anti oxidants that are important for cell damage repair and prevention. Some fish can be high in toxins, like mercury, so we are limited to two servings a week. Most nutritionists suggest supplementing your diet with fish oil daily.

We are just starting to understand how important Vitamin D is and how supplementing your diet with Vitamin D can be critical for disease prevention.  The dose varies by age and location, but most studies suggest 400-800 IU a day.

What should you eat if you catch the flu:

1)      The most important thing you should remember to do while you have the flu is to drink plenty of fluids, specifically water. Liquid foods such as soup are also great.  There are a few studies that show that chicken noodle soup can actually speed you to recovery when you are sick, shortening your cold by 10 percent.  Ingesting fluids are critical in cold treatment to replace the fluids lost from coughing and sneezing and to flush other toxins out of the body. I suggest 10 oz/per day/per year of age of extra fluids when someone is sick (obviously up to 10 years of age then 100 oz/day for adults). It’s also best to avoid caffeine and alcohol when you’re sick because it will make you more dehydrated. Avoid hard foods to digest (ie. fatty foods, fast foods and heavy processed foods) because they are stripped of nutrients.  Your body is stressed when you are sick, so there is no need to stress it out more.

Other remedies when you’re sick:

2)      Showers, vaporizers, humidifiers and positioning your head upwards are great to help congestion

3)      Scented products like vapor rubs can hurt, so I suggest avoiding them

4)      Lots of fluids and lots of rest

5)      I suggest avoiding the hyper-vitamin products such as Airborne and Emergen-C.  The high levels of vitamins in these products can actually be dangerous with extended use and have not been studied enough for safety and effectiveness

6)      Maintain a healthy diet