Kick that Cold to the Curb

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Written by Laura Harvey, AHN Student

It’s that time of year again, Gryphons!  The weather begins to get colder, the leaves fall off the trees, and autumn slowly turns into winter.  After surviving long nights in the library and what felt like never ending midterms, you wake up with a stuffed up nose and a cough that doesn’t seem to want to go away.  You head off to class wishing instead to be back in your bed, and once there, you realize that you’re not alone; most of the class is coughing, sniffling, and blowing their nose throughout the entire lecture.  So what exactly is causing all these colds, and is there any way to prevent it?

It’s a common myth that it’s the cold weather that causes us to get sick.  However, it’s actually what we do when the cold weather hits that results in us catching a cold!  As the temperature drops, people tend to stay indoors more where it’s warm, and understandably so.  Without the warm temperature drawing us outdoors to swimming pools, patios, and beaches, we choose to stay inside with a hot cup of tea and a good movie.  Indoor heating recirculates the air, therefore, any bacteria in the air lingers around longer, increasing our chances of getting sick!  During the winter months, people are more crowded together (think back to the movie watching).  Being in such close contact to people increases the risk of a cold or virus spreading.  Last but not least, the cold and dry air in the winter is the perfect climate for viruses to grow.  Since mucosa, which lines the trachea, the back of the throat, and the sinuses are dry during the winter months, germs can invade and begin to grow!

So what can you do to help prevent catching one of these terrible colds?  While frequent hand washing is the very best prevention,  here are a few immune boosting foods to try!

  • Yogurt: yogurt is full of probiotics, which helps to keep your intestinal tract clean and disease-causing germ free!
  • Oats and Barley: these grains contain a type of fibre that contains antioxidant components more powerful than Echinacea
  • Garlic: garlic contains an ingredient called allicin that helps to fight bacteria and infection
  • Shellfish: shellfish helps white blood cells create cytokines, which are proteins that help get rid of flu viruses.  Certain fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring have high amounts of omega-3 fats.  These fats help to protect your lungs from respiratory colds.
  • Chicken Soup: an absolute classic!  This go to soup has multiple cold fighting properties, one of which is the ability to block inflammatory white blood cells from moving into the bronchial tubes.  The salty broth in the soup also helps to keep mucus thin, an ability that cough medicines have.  Adding other immune boosting foods, such as garlic would make this even more effective!
  • Tea: both black and green teas have the amino acid L-theanine, which is a virus fighting property.
  • Beef: beef contains a large amount of zinc, a mineral that helps to produce white blood cells (your immune cells!)  Even just a minor zinc deficiency can increase the risk for infection.  If you’re a vegetarian, yogurt, milk, nuts, seeds, and fortified cereals also contain zinc!
  • Sweet Potatoes: sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which your body then converts to vitamin A.  Vitamin A is important for healthy skin, and skin is the first barrier defense to prevent germs and bacteria.
  • Mushrooms: mushrooms also help to increase the creation of white blood cells, which help to recognize and destroy bacteria, germs, and viruses!

So next time you feel a cold coming on, or just want to stay healthy throughout the winter months, remember to incorporate these nine immune boosters into your meals.  They may not prevent the sickness entirely, but they can help decrease the severity and length of your cold!

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