A season for sharing, but not the flu

You may think that the common flu has a single season, but this is not always true.

Influenza, viral infections, and sinusitis, can be a problem anytime of year, especially in the Caribbean. Here where we are bomb-barded with new viruses and bugs, delivered to us by visitors from all over the world, illness may be more common. Also a stressful lifestyle due to work, time lines, and social engagements, can lead to an irregular diet putting a potential damper on the immune system.

Good nutritional habits are critical for a body to stay healthy. If your diet lacks fresh fruits, vegetables, and nutrient balance, as well as has an increased amount of restaurant foods versus home cooked meals then you may be more at risk. The result is ‘flu-tag’, passing the same cold around the office for months and through entire families. What to do about it is really quite simple and summed up in a word: Prevention.

Prevention means protecting our bodies through good nutritional and lifestyle habits. Improving your immune system, and promoting others around to do the same, by eating nutritional food options, following a meal schedule, getting regular physical activity, and adequate rest is essential.

Your diet and lifestyle dramatically influences your ability to fend off invading illnesses and reduce both the intensity as well as the duration you are sick. To understand how the immune system works, we look at it as a two-part story. Firstly there is the outer defence that includes the skin, mucosal linings such as: the sinuses, lungs, and intestine. Nutrients directly affect the proper functioning of these defence systems as they are the workers defending off the germs.

The next response involves the blood system, specifically the white blood cells, which are able to encode what the invaders look like and set up defences to destroy them when ever they try to enter the body. This response is very effective if the body is fed the nutrients necessary for it to work effectively.

From A to Zinc, here are helpful foods to add into the diet:

Vitamin A- red/yellow fruits and vegetables, V-8 juice, melon, and carrots
Vitamin B2- Mushrooms, spinach, almonds, dairy, meats
Vitamin B6- banana, beans, chilli, potato, salmon, watermelon(anti Inflammatory)
Vitamin C- papaya(best source), grapes, dried fruit, melon, fruits/vegetables
Vitamin E- Vegetable oils, avocado, seeds, nuts
Folacin- Spinach, broccoli, asparagus, beets, beans, chilli
Zinc-oysters, shellfish, wheat germ, tuna, chilli, cashews, seeds, chicken, bagel, egg
Water- Last but by no means the least, it is essential drink water- 96ounces per day.

These foods may be helpful to eat especially if you, your co-worker, spouse, child, or close relative are constantly suffering from ‘flu tag’. Protect, then prevent. Stop the progression of your symptoms before or when they start. Also talk to your family physician and/or pharmacist about your symptoms and if flue shots are available.

Tara welcomes questions in relation to nutrition and exercise, to be answered in the weekly column ‘Food and Fitness Matters’. If you have a question please email it to [email protected]