5 easy ways to help prevent colds and flu

October 2, 2015

Getting a cold or flu is never pleasant. Here are 5 easy ways to help you avoid getting blindsided by these preventable illnesses.

5 easy ways to help prevent colds and flu

1. Get some sun

Researchers from New York University published a recent paper suggesting that vitamin D protects against influenza and that lack of vitamin D — correlated with the lack of sunshine in winter — helps explain why winter is peak season for colds and flu.

  • Researchers also noted that vitamin D is an important component in keeping the immune system from over responding, thus reducing inflammation and oxidation (which are responsible for cold and flu symptoms).
  • Vitamin D appears to dramatically stimulate the production of cells that line the respiratory tract and help prevent infection.
  • From their findings, spending 20 minutes a day in the sun with your hands, face, and arms exposed seems to put about 20,000 IU of vitamin D into your body within two days, compared to the 98 IU or so you get from milk.

2. Take a daily garlic supplement

British researchers found when they gave 146 volunteers either daily garlic capsules or placebos from November through February (the primary cold season), that there were 24 colds in the garlic group versus 65 in the placebo group, a significant difference.

  • Overall, the placebo group's colds lasted longer and appeared more severe than the garlic group's.

3. Set a timer to exercise during the week

Only 45 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week, is all the time you need to spend over a year to reduce your risk of colds by more than threefold. Why? Because reducing your stress decreases the likelihood of becoming ill. It's a well-known fact that stress and illness are linked.

  • Moderate exercise, such as walking or biking at an intensity level that still enables you to talk, is one of the best ways to prevent viral infections.

4. Take 200 IU of vitamin E daily

A study at Tufts University in Boston found that when elderly people supplemented their diet with 200 IU of vitamin E daily for a year, they had significantly fewer colds than those who didn't take supplements.

  • If they did get colds, the symptoms didn't seem to last as long as they did in people who took placebos.

5. Take some vitamin C

There's a lot of controversy over the benefits of vitamin C when it comes to preventing or treating colds.

  • By itself, vitamin C won't make much difference in treating colds or reducing their severity or duration.
  • A large Japanese study found, however, that people who took daily doses of vitamin C over five years had many fewer colds than people who skipped the extra vitamin C.
  • If you choose to take supplements, take about 500 milligrams a day after consulting with your doctor. Participants taking this dosage were observed to be one-third less likely to have three or more colds during the study period than those taking 50 milligrams.

A cold or flu can put a real damper on your plans, and winter is high season for both. Taking these simple preventative measures can help ensure you stay healthy and happy all winter long. Of course, as with all supplements, consulting with your doctor is always a wise idea.

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