Amidst all of the COVID-19 news that has consumed media outlets this year, it’s easy to forget that it’s flu season. While you are following safety measures, such as washing hands and wearing a mask, to prevent coronavirus, there are also precautions you should take to prevent the flu, as well.
Besides getting a flu shot, there are other measures you can take that will prevent the illness – one of them being certain foods to avoid during flu season.
This applies to more than just the flu; poor diet can affect your immune system, which overall makes you more susceptible to contracting illnesses. Here are foods that can cause – or prevent– catching the flu virus.
Soda/Drinks high in sugar
We all know sugar is bad for you and is linked to other health conditions, such as diabetes. But did you know consuming sugar in excess is actually weakening your immune system?
In an interview for CNET, Dr. Michael Rozien, M.D. explained how consuming sugar can temporarily weaken your immune system. “Too much sugar in your system allows the bacteria or viruses to propagate much more because your initial innate system doesn’t work as well. That’s why diabetics, for example, have more infections,” he said in the article.
Similar to sugar, processed foods can also deteriorate the immune system. In a piece for EatThis.com, Dr. Anna Cabeca says that while practices such as hand washing are important, what you eat plays a big role in combatting viruses like the flu.
“If pathogens enter your body, the immune system will dispatch white blood cells to fight it off and will not stop until the threat is gone,” Dr. Cabeca says. “If your immunity is weak or compromised in some way, the immune system has a tough time doing its job—and your susceptibility to catching the coronavirus, the flu, a cold, or other infection increases.”
Some of the biggest offenders are anything made with white flour (white bread, cookies), candy, potato chips, and beer.
Speaking of beer, alcohol is one of the best ways to lessen immunity. “Alcohol has diverse adverse effects throughout the body, including on all cells of the immune system, that lead to increased risk of serious infections,” said Dr. E. Jennifer Edelman in an article for Healthline.com.
Alcohol can kill off healthy gut bacteria, as well as preventing your body from fighting off infection. When you drink, your body prioritizes breaking down the alcohol as opposed to the virus infecting you.
While drinking occasionally is fine, we all know that alcohol in mass quantities takes a toll on your body in more ways than one – so try to limit the wine and liquor during flu season.
What you can do :
Exercise, sleep, supplements. These are the keys to keeping a healthy immune system that is ready to combat any virus that comes its’ way.
“Eating a well-rounded diet high in pretty, colorful veggies and fruits will give your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to fight off illness. These foods help your body regulate and stabilize to work at peak performance,” says Samer Blackmon, M.D., an internal medicine specialist at Piedmont. “Believe it or not, what you put in your mouth serves as one building block to a strong immune system.”
Sleep is critical to fighting off illness. Those who get eight hours of sleep per night have a higher chance at fighting off a disease compared to those who don’t, so prioritize getting rest, working out, and maintaining a healthy diet while also taking vitamins and supplements.
With so many disease going around this year, be kind to your body and make smart decisions– such as food choices — to prevent catching the flu virus. (And get your flu shot!)