I love New York, but it can be hard to appreciate the amazing allure of the city at this time of year when it’s cold, dreary, and just plain slushy. The subway echoes with the sounds of sniffling, coughing and sneezing, and the common cold seems to lurk around every corner. A cold, like the flu, is viral and therefore resistant to antibiotics. But unlike the flu, which is a much more serious concern, the common cold is usually pretty mild, lasting between 7 to 10 days. That said, it shouldn’t be trivialized because it is the leading cause of doctor’s visits, sick days, and can put a real damper on your quality of life.
Since we are still at the peak of the cold and flu season (I know, I know, will it never end?), it’s a perfect time to talk about ways to prevent the common cold from occurring in the first place.
#1. Get your zzzzz time. Back in April, the Bushwick Nutrition blog looked into sleep for weight control. Not surprisingly, sleep has even more benefits as people who do not get enough sleep (less than 7 hours), are 3 to 5 times more likely to develop a cold. This makes total sense since sleep is an important predictor of immunity. So make sure to put sleep as your number one priority during these cold months!
#2. Eat more fresh garlic. Garlic is a popular folk remedy but recent studies have shown that eating garlic can boost the number of T-cells in the bloodstream, which play a vital role in strengthening the immune system and fighting viruses like the common cold. Tip: Garlic must be fresh. as the active ingredient is destroyed within an hour or so after smashing. Compress, smash, or juice/blend the garlic to maximize benefits. Try Raquel’s, owner of Pitanga Juice, remedy of fresh garlic, raw honey, cayenne pepper, and lemon (see pic). Talk about a serious immune boost! Tip: For easier digestion, mix the above with a little aloe vera juice.
#3. Hydrate! Not only do liquids prevent dehydration, but hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, soothe inflammation in the nose and throat area, and keep the gut moving. You want to aid your immune system by helping it work better especially during these dry months, and water forms a part of every cell in the body! Try elderberry or herbal teas with honey and lime.
#4. Get your green on. Juicing or blending can be a great way to incorporate amazing greens like kale, bok choy, and arugula (to name a few) into your diet. They are naturally high in vitamins A and C that help keep your immune system strong, while also aiding with inflammation. Note: Taking large doses of vitamin C has NOT proven to help combat a cold. That said, it is beneficial to meet your daily needs – about 75 to 90mg a day (a little different than the 1000mg megadoses!).
#5. Keep your gut healthy with pro/prebiotic rich food sources. The gut plays a huge role in keeping your immune system strong. After all, 70% of immune cells are found in the gut! Therefore, eating foods like Greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, and sourdough bread, which all have “good bacteria”, as well as prebiotic food sources that feed the healthy bacteria, like whole grains, bananas, artichokes, onions and leeks, will only make you stronger.
#6. Mushrooms are the immune system cheerleaders. Mushrooms are antiviral and antibacterial. They also encourage your immune cells to multiply. Reishi mushrooms are particularly beneficial for respiratory conditions, so eat up!
#7. Work it out. Chronic stress suppresses the immune cells and exercise is a great de-stressor. By exercising regularly you are not only helping your heart, your metabolism and your digestion, but you are also helping your immune system do a better job! A study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that people who engaged in regular to moderate activity lowered their risk of flu by 33%! That said- if you are already feeling sick, skip the workout and save your energy.
How do you keep the common cold at bay?
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD, CDN
Photographed by Pitanga Juice.
Edited by Tamara Cabrero & NYHRC Team