The 2019-20 cold and flu season has already been one of the more intense ones in recent history in terms of duration and numbers of cases. As April has arrived, it appeared that the spread of cold and flu was still was affecting many Americans, most notably various strains of influenza.
At the same time, millions of people have been stocking up more than usual on items such as food, bath tissue, hand sanitizers and medications in anticipation of longer-than-usual home stays, otherwise known as self-quarantining. In terms of what we stock, though – and this should never involve hoarding – it’s important to remember that abundant inventory of food you gather should be healthful, i.e., conducive to bolstering your immune system.
Flu Cases Number in the Millions
The healthier your diet, the better your body is prepared to fend off infectious pathogens that can plant the seeds of a cold or some form of influenza. Per mdlinx.com, at least 2.6 million cases of flu illnesses and 23,000 hospitalizations had been reported in the U.S. through January 30, 2020, with all regions of the country reporting elevated levels of flu activity.
What’s interesting in all this, per webmd.com, is that Americans more and more are turning away from using the usual over-the-counter cold and flu medications. They are instead opting for natural remedies such as echinacea, vitamin C, and zinc, and in the process they are spending about $1.5 billion a year on such healthful supplements and herbs. Many of us get annual flu shots, but our ability to effectively fight off such viruses and infections is increasingly dependent on immunity-boosting foods and supplements
Recognizing the Symptoms of Colds vs. Flu
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu and the common cold both are respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, although they are caused by different viruses. The following CDC chart sheds light on distinguishing the two types of illnesses:
Signs and Symptoms Cold Flu
Symptom Onset Gradual Abrupt
Fever Rare Usual
Aches Slight Usual
Chills Uncommon Fairly common
Fatigue, weakness Sometimes Usual
Sneezing Common Sometimes
Chest discomfort, cough Mild to moderate Common
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Sore throat Common Sometimes
Headache Rare Common
10 Vitamins and Supplements to Fight Cold and Flu
If you believe you might have a flu virus, you should see your physician as soon as possible to be tested and to determine a course of action for healing and recovery. In fact, even if you “just” have a cold (and those can be miserable as well), it’s worth a discussion with your physician or even a pharmacist to get proper guidance on any of these:
- Vitamin A. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified vitamin A as one of a healthy immune system’s most important nutrients. Not only does vitamin A provide a therapeutic effect when treating some infectious diseases, it also fills regulatory roles in cellular immune responses and humoral immune responses.
- Vitamin C. It has long been a go-to vitamin for those wanting to build up and maintain a bolstered immune system, primarily with the intent to fight off colds. Per webmd.com, research regarding vitamin C’s efficacy in boosting immunity is mixed, with the belief it might be most effective in preventing colds in those exposed to cold weather or participating in extreme forms of exercise.
- Vitamin E. This vitamin is typically found in whole grains such as nuts and sunflower seeds. It has been to shown to work together with Vitamin C in bolstering healthy cells for improved pathogen resistance, per NIH.
- Elderberry. Per mdlinx.com, this is usually available in syrup form and has been used for centuries as a “homespun remedy.” Research is mixed on elderberry’s usefulness, with those researchers touting it saying that it can in fact reduce the severity and duration of upper-respiratory symptoms.
- Garlic. This plant-based herb contains allicin, which is a worthy foe to viral-based illnesses because of its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, per medicaldaily.com.
- Ginger. Commonly found in Asian cuisine, ginger boasts antibacterial characteristics that have been shown able to inhibit viral activity in your body, helping to prevent flu, per medicaldaily.com.
- Horehound. Maybe you haven’t heard of it, but mdlinx.com reports that it was the No. 1-selling herbal supplement for mainstream U.S. retailers in 2018. It is commonly found in cough drops and lozenges for its perceived effectiveness in working against respiratory conditions.
- Protein. Scientists have concluded that a deficiency of protein in your body correlates to poor immunity, per National Institutes of Health (NIH). That’s because your immune system depends on protein to help in warding off viral and bacterial infections.
- Turmeric. Its main ingredient, curcumin, packs a wallop as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, that comes in handy in our ongoing battle against cold and flu.
- Zinc. Like with vitamin C, research is mixed on zinc’s effectiveness in battling colds, although a review of 15 studies, as cited by webmd.com, indicates zinc might be able to thwart colds in people who have been supplementing with zinc for at least five months.