Avoiding the Cold & Flu: Part I

17 Dec

Avoiding the Cold & Flu: Part I

by Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

The cold and flu season is most certainly upon us. In this two-part article series, we’ll talk about how significant of an impact your diet has on whether or not you get sick. What’s more, in this first article, we’re going to expose specific foods that make you more susceptible to these debilitating illnesses.

While these two ailments are distinct in their symptoms and severity, how one actually “catches” these viruses are quite similar.

The most common way these viruses are spread is through hand-to-hand contact. That is, you touch the same surface that someone who is carrying this virus also touched—you can wash your hands as much as you want, but you can’t wash other people’s dirty paws=)

As an aside, that’s along the same lines as one of many wise pieces of advice my father gave to me as a child. “You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. But, you can’t pick your friend’s nose.”

Just because you have been exposed to the virus doesn’t mean that you’ll “catch” it. If your immune system was running full-throttle, it could fend off those viruses without ever sensing any symptoms.

So, the real question is…what foods should you avoid that may impair your immune system? The number one food that you should avoid because of its ability to devastate your immune system is (drum roll, please)…SUGAR.

Controlling your sugar intake is key to optimizing your immune system because sugar—especially that nasty, processed high-fructose corn syrup—actually feeds the “bad” bacteria in your gut.

This is important because your gut houses 80% of your immune system, and your immune system function depends largely on an optimal ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria. Anything that decreases this ratio (i.e., increasing “bad” bacteria) will compromise your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to catching the cold and flu.

[Note: There will be more on this in the future, but BioTrust Nutrition released a breakthrough probiotic (i.e., “good” bacteria) supplement called Pro-X10™. Scientific evidence strongly suggests that taking a probiotic daily is more important for your overall health and well-being than taking a daily multivitamin.]

It is really important to limit your overall sugar intake to keep your immune system running at its peak. Some low-fructose fruits—strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, and pineapple—can be included, but don’t overdo it.

Also, refined grains and carbohydrates can act similarly to refined sugars because of the lack of nutrients and fiber. It’s important to limit yourself to whole, minimally processed grains to optimize your immune system.

Other foods to avoid include trans fats and vegetable oils (i.e., soybean oil) that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these fats trigger inflammatory responses, which are under the control of your immune system.

If your body’s immune system is busy dealing with these inflammatory fats, you can bet that you may not be able to fend off the cold or flu virus effectively.

Trans fats are found in fried foods, baked goods, and many pre-packaged processed foods. You’d be well advised to avoid these at all costs because of the many ravaging effects on your health.

Burnt and charred foods (i.e., grilled meats) and refined oils can also be detrimental to your immune system. These foods contain high amounts of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can cause excessive inflammation and free radical damage.

Three other “non-food” lifestyle factors that may dampen your immune system are the following:

  • lack of rest
  • lack of exercise
  • stress

If you eliminate these foods and address these lifestyle factors, you should be well on your way to beating the cold and flu viruses this season.


One Response to “Avoiding the Cold & Flu: Part I”


  1. Avoiding the Cold & Flu: Part II | Fit 4 a King - December 4, 2013

    […] on how your diet can expose you—or protect you—from the cold and flu this holiday season. In part one, we discussed how certain foods can wreak havoc on your immune system and make you more susceptible […]

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