Fight the flu with these helpful guidelines

The rainy season ushers in flu and bacterial, viral and fungal infections. While we can’t do much about the rains, we can certainly beat the bugs by strengthening our immune system.

Fight the flu with these helpful guidelines

The simplest way to boost immunity is through good diet, plenty of exercise, yoga, adequate rest, sleep and stress control. A healthy immune system requires a number of nutrients, including proteins, essential fats, vitamins and minerals.

Conversely junk food, refined sugar and fats and white rice are low in vitamins and minerals, and if taken in excess can weaken the immune system.

Proteins play an important role in boosting the immune system, which is responsible for fighting infections. Inadequate amount of protein prevents the body from making the necessary antibodies.

Other nutrients that aid in immunity are beta-carotene, B complex vitamins, vitamins C and E, minerals like selenium, zinc, iron, copper and magnesium, folic acid and prebiotic and probiotic foods.

Fight the flu with these helpful guidelines

Vitamin A and beta-carotene are the first line of defence against bacterial, parasitic and viral attack. Good sources include greens like spinach and broccoli, and yellow and orange foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, mango, butter, egg yolk, cheese and fish liver oils. But a diet with excessive amounts of vitamin A does lower immunity.

Vitamin C deficiency lowers immune response to infection. Vitamin C is needed for lymphocytes and other cells of the immune system to function properly. It also acts as an antioxidant, which protects against harmful reactive chemicals (free radicals). Good sources of vitamin C include amla, citrus fruits, tomatoes, green peppers, leafy vegetables, kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries.

Vitamin E also boosts immune functions through lymphocyte activity. Vitamin E is present in wheat germ, whole grains, nuts, seeds, apples and leafy vegetables. Zinc too is vital for immunity. Good sources of zinc are nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Fight the flu with these helpful guidelines

Selenium too is an important mineral and antioxidant. It plays a key role in boosting the immune function and fighting infections. Selenium can be found in brown rice, wheat germ, whole wheat bread, poultry, fish, garlic, meats and seafood. Other immune-boosting foods include probiotics and prebiotics.

Probiotic, the friendly bacteria, in adequate amounts promote the body's natural immunity and helps in digestion. They are essential and help keep harmful bacteria suppressed. Probiotics are found in yogurt, buttermilk and lassi. Prebiotic, a substance that feeds probiotics, is found in whole grains, pulses, beans, vegetables, fruits and seeds.

Fight the flu with these helpful guidelines

Special Dietary guidelines for Flu:

- The diet should be light in fat and easily digestible.

- Oily, rich food should be avoided.

- Bakery products and food made of refined flour should be avoided.

- Hot liquids, like soups, broths, hot milk, hot water and tea infused with ginger provide relief and help fight infections.

- Anti-inflammatory foods such as coconut, fenugreek, garlic, onion seeds and turmeric should be consumed.

- In the initial stages of a cold, ginger with honey provides relief, prevents accumulation of phlegm and has anti-expectorant effects.

- A half teaspoon of turmeric boiled in milk has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

- Two-three cloves of crushed garlic help boost immunity and act as a decongestant.

- If symptoms persist, probiotic supplements and foods are useful to boost immunity.
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