Autumn is in full swing in the Northern hemisphere, the holidays are just around the corner, and the weather is getting noticeably cooler in many areas.
With the cold comes flu season – or more correctly, “respiratory infection season,” since colds and other respiratory woes tend to increase during the autumn and winter. But here’s something many people miss: it’s not medicine that keeps you well or gets you over your illness; it’s your immune system. So strengthening it should be your first response in staying healthy.
That’s what these seven remedies for preventing and shortening the duration of colds and flu are all about. Unlike drugs, they are excellent for your bones, and actually help your body heal and stay well rather than just mask symptoms. Plus they taste delicious!
1. Get Plenty Of Zinc
Zinc is listed as one of the Foundation Supplements in the Save Our Bones program. This crucial mineral regulates bone turnover and is present in the hydroxyapatite crystals found in bone matrix. One of its most important roles in bone health is the part it plays in the proper functioning of bone alkaline phosphatase, which is an enzyme that helps mineralize bone by aiding osteoblasts and Vitamin D3 performance.
Pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt, tahini, turkey, and chickpeas are good sources of zinc. But when it comes to warding off colds and flu, zinc lozenges are your best bet, according to a recent study.
Researchers recognized that cold and flu viruses tend to proliferate in the throat, so they hypothesized that lozenges, which deliver zinc directly to this area, would be effective at shortening colds. To examine this more closely, they instructed 199 participants between the ages of 20 and 50 to consume a zinc lozenge every two to three hours, resulting in a dosage of 80 to 92 milligrams of zinc per day. There was also a control group that did not take zinc.
Interestingly, the participants who took zinc and came down with colds experienced symptoms for almost three days fewer than the average seven-day cold for those who did not take the zinc.1
The study authors point out that the optimal lozenge in terms of dosage and composition has not yet been determined; but they end with an encouragement to treat your cold with zinc lozenges.
That’s not all – zinc also appears to be effective against the flu.
The influenza virus invades human epithelial cells, which causes structural changes to its DNA, a biological mechanism known as the cytopathic effect. These changes eventually cause the cell membrane to rupture, resulting in apoptosis, or cell death. The virus is then released into the surrounding tissues.
In the case of a flu virus, the epithelial cells in the throat and nasal passages are invaded, a process that was replicated in vitro by scientists in a 2009 study.
Amazingly, when the virus-infected human cells were treated with zinc, the DNA fragmentation that normally progressed into apoptosis was markedly decreased and “the release of the virus into the culture medium was inhibited.”2
While the RDA ranges between 8 and 12 milligrams per day, it’s best to take at least 25 milligrams of zinc daily.
2. Make Sure You Take A Daily Dose Of Vitamin C
Here’s an old stand-by for colds, and detailed research shows why. Once again, it involves taking a closer look at how viruses operate.
Many pathogens, including those that cause cold and flu, utilize a certain enzyme called neuraminidase. This enzyme blocks one of the body’s primary defense mechanisms against viruses, which is to confine the virus by “coating” it with inhibitory mucins. Neuraminidase is employed by the virus to render these mucins ineffective. It’s quite a molecular war going on! But Vitamin C provides the your immune system with another weapon: sialoresponsin.
Sialoresponsin acts as a decoy receptor, thus inhibiting neuraminidase and preventing the virus from disabling the mucins coating. A portion of the sialoresponsin molecule is made up of ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C.3
The daily intake recommended in the Save Our Bones program is a minimum of 500 mg a day of Vitamin C, and of course, it’s also a good idea to eat foods that contain it. Many are Foundation Foods, and include citrus fruits, pineapple, cantaloupe, broccoli, and many more.
Although the Vitamin C cold remedy is likely a familiar one to many of you, its role in bone health may be lesser-known. Like zinc, Vitamin C is a Foundation Supplement, acting as an antioxidant and a vitamin. It plays a direct role in bone formation by suppressing osteoclasts and stimulating osteoblasts during the remodeling process, and interestingly enough, Vitamin C works as a team with Vitamin D to build strong bones. This brings me to the next immune-boosting, bone-building remedy this season:
3. Take Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D’s importance in building bone is well known, so it’s not surprising that this vitamin is also a Foundation Supplement. It acts as a hormone as well as a vitamin, and receptors for Vitamin D can be found in the brain, muscles, and other areas of the body.
Vitamin D is also an essential component of a functional immune system. Noting that Vitamin D levels decline in the fall and winter due to lack of sun exposure, scientists investigated this in light of the potentially correlative increase in viral respiratory infections.
They followed 198 healthy adults during the fall and winter of 2009 and 2010, none of whom knew that the researchers were evaluating their Vitamin D levels. The participants were assessed as to the incidence of viral respiratory infections during that time period, and the results showed a clear association between high serum Vitamin D levels and a “two-fold reduction in the risk of developing acute respiratory tract infections” and “a marked reduction in the percentages of days ill.”4
It’s notable that the researchers did not supply Vitamin D supplements to the participants. Rather, the participants’ serum levels were simply measured without any change in behavior or habits. Unfortunately, this pointed to the fact that Vitamin D deficiency is all-too-common among the general population, with dark-skinned individuals, the obese, and pregnant women at greater risk.
An update on the connection between Vitamin D deficiency and infections (including influenza) was recently published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, and it underscores the prevalence of deficiency as well as the clear “association between vitamin D deficiency and common infections”5 such as influenza.
So as sunlight becomes less of an option during colder, darker weather, it’s a good idea to get at least 2000 IU daily of Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol.
4. Eat Basil And Other Foods That Contain Apigenin
If you’re following the clinical nutrition plan described in the Save Our Bones program, and if you’re a regular visitor to this site, then you most likely know about the many bone health benefits of basil. This aromatic plant is full of antioxidants and no fewer than five Foundation Supplements (Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and Vitamin C). It’s excellent for your bones and your immune system.
A specific type of basil called holy basil (Ocinum sanctum L.) has been closely studied in relation to immunity, particularly with regard to the strain of flu known as H1N1.
Like other cold and flu viruses, H1N1 utilizes the protein neuraminidase, as discussed above, and another protein called hemagglutinin, to invade human cells and proliferate. But when these H1N1 proteins were “screened with phytocompounds isolated from Tulsi plant (Ocimum sanctum L.)”6, a key phytocompound was identified as effective at inhibiting these proteins: apigenin.
Apigenin is a class of polyphenol (plant chemical) called a flavonoid, and it has an estrogenic effect on the body. Apigenin also increases osteoblast growth and the collagen content of bone cells, and it’s also found in common foods such as parsley, apples, bell peppers, beets, and cauliflower.
Like other polyphenols, apigenin is rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation and stop excessive bone resorption due to oxidation. In fact, polyphenols in general are often-overlooked nutrients in bone health and immunity.
5. Load Up On Foods Rich In Certain Polyphenols And Antioxidants
Another polyphenol, resveratrol, found in red grapes, blueberries, and other foods, not only provides antioxidants; it actually improves balance, thus preventing fractures by decreasing the likelihood of falling.
The master antioxidant, glutathione is present in every cell in the body, and it is found in red grapes, broccoli, avocados, artichokes, spinach, and oranges. Glutathione is a definite immune system booster, and is exceptional at detoxification.
Many of the same foods that contain resveratrol – and additional foods like cranberries, celery, and apples – contain yet another polyphenol known as quercetin. This remarkable plant chemical aids immunity by decreasing cortisol, a human stress hormone that destroys bone and hampers the immune system at chronically high levels.
While it’s known that these and other antioxidant polyphenols reduce inflammation and support the immune system, research points to their specific role in warding off the flu. Ingesting a variety of antioxidants as a preventative and “throughout the duration and recovery” of an influenza infection (specifically, H5N1) shows great promise in decreasing the duration and severity of the flu.7
Back to antioxidant-rich holy basil, an excellent source of apigenin and other plant nutrients. It is a delightful herb to cook with that you can grow indoors during the winter, and you can even make it into a delicious tea. Speaking of tea…
6. Drink Green Tea
Before I delve into the bone-health, immune-boosting properties of green tea, I want to clarify its role in the Program’s clinical nutrition guidelines. Yes, green tea is acidifying and contains fluoride; but it does offer many healthful benefits that place it in the category of bone-smart foods. To reap the benefits, a prudent idea is to keep your green tea consumption in moderation – for example, drinking a few cups of this tea a week from an organic source will provide excellent bone-building polyphenols and other compounds without compromising your bone-smart diet.
One of those “other compounds” is epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate, or EGCG, an influenza-fighting polyphenol found in green tea. When Japanese researchers introduced EGCG to the H1N1 influenza virus, they observed a 24-fold increase in anti-virus activity.8
Taking this concept further, participants in a study on the effects of Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) on colds and flu, took green tea capsules or a placebo twice a day. After three months, the number of participants who experienced colds and flu, the duration of the illnesses, and the number of participants who sought medical treatment were evaluated. Not only did they find that colds and flu were prevented in those who took the supplements compared to the placebo group, but they also discovered that green tea enhances T-cell function.
The scientists concludes that:
“This proprietary formulation of CSF [Camellia sinensis] is a safe and effective dietary supplement for preventing cold and flu symptoms, and for enhancing gammadelta T cell function.”9
Green tea is not the only drink that wards off viruses. As you’ll read next, I’ve saved one of the most delicious remedies for last!
7. Have A Cup (Or Two) Of Hot Cocoa
Another study was conducted in Japan, this time on the flu-fighting abilities of cocoa. Researchers wanted to look more closely at the antimicrobial activity of cocoa, and to do this, they prepared a hot chocolate drink consisting of cocoa powder and boiling water. This concoction, referred to as a cocoa extract (CE) in the study, inhibited the flu virus in vitro.
For a human trial, two groups of participants were given cocoa for three weeks, while the other group did not ingest cocoa. Both groups received the flu vaccine. The increase in “natural killer cell activity” was substantially more elevated in the cocoa-ingesting group. This lead the researchers to conclude:
“Drinking cocoa activates natural immunity and enhances vaccination-induced immune response, providing stronger protection against influenza virus infection and disease onset.”10
I’d like to clarify here that at the Save Institute we never recommend getting the flu shot. Drinking a cup of polyphenol-rich hot cocoa will activate your immune system without it as well, and it’s also excellent for bones. In fact, dark chocolate is a Foundation Food on the Save Our Bones program. Yes, it’s acidifying; but balanced with alkalizing foods, dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) is a delicious addition to a bone-smart, virus-dodging diet!
Isn’t It Fascinating To Know That You Can Build Your Bones And Also Strengthen Your Immune System?
Of course, the Save Our Bones program is about saving bones – reversing bone loss, rejuvenating bone tissue, preventing fractures, and overcoming the fear and myths surrounding osteoporosis. But the Program’s clinical nutrition-based approach is holistic in nature, including all other body systems.
If you’re following the guidelines in the Save Our Bones program, you’re building your immunity as well as your bones. And you’re reaping all the wonderful, scientifically-proven benefits of a pH-balanced diet.
Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss
Join thousands of Savers from around the world who have reversed or prevented their bone loss naturally and scientifically with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Here’s to a healthy, delicious fall and winter!
1 Hemila, Harri, et al. “Zinc acetate lozenges for treating the common cold: an individual patient data meta-analysis.” BJCP. 82. 5. (2016): 1393-1398. Web. October 25, 2016. 10.1111/bcp.13057
2 Srivastava, Vikram, et al. “Influenza a virus induced apoptosis: inhibition of DNA laddering&caspase-3 activity by zinc supplementation in cultured HeLa cells.” Indian J Med Res. 129. 5. (2009): 579-86. Web. October 25, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/zinc-may-inhibit-influenza-virus
3 Rotman, D. “Sialoresponsin and an antiviral action of ascorbic acid.” Med Hypotheses. 4. 1. (1978): 40-3. Web. October 26, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/antiviral-property-vitamin-c-may-be-due-fact-it-inhibits-viral-enzyme-neuraminidase
4 Sabetta, James R., et al. “Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d and the incidence of acute viral respiratory tract infections in healthy adults.” PLoS One. 5. 6. (2010): e11088. Web. October 26, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/vitamin-d-concentrations-38-ngml-or-more-healthy-adults-are-associated-significant-two-fold
5 Watkins, Richard R., Lemonovich, Tracy L., and Salata, Robert A. “An update on the association of vitamin D deficiency with common infectious diseases.” Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 93. 5. (2015): 363-8. Web. October 26, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/review-details-association-between-vitamin-d-deficiency-and-common-infections
6 Alhazmi, Mohammed I. “Molecular docking of selected phytocompounds with H1Ni Proteins.” Bioinformation. 11. 4. (2015): 196-202. Web. October 26, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/apigenin-could-be-alternative-oseltamivir-and-zanamivir-improved-predicted
7 Friel, Howard, and Lederman, Harvey. “A nutritional supplement formula for influenza A (H5N1) infection in humans.” J Nat Prod. 66. 8. (2003): 1124-7. Web. October 26, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/various-antioxidants-may-be-preventive-and-therapeutic-treating-influenza-h5n1-infection-eg
8 Mori, Shuichi, et al. “Enhanced anti-influenza A virus activity of (-)-epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate fatty acid monoester derivatives: effect of alkyl chain length.” Nutr Cancer. 62. 6. (2010): 789-94. Web. October 26, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/egcg-polyphenol-found-within-green-tea-exhibits-anti-influenza-h1n1-activity
9 Rowe, Cheryl A., et al. “Specific formulation of Camellia sinensis prevents cold and flu symptoms and enhances gamma,delta T cell function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” 26. 5. (2007): 445-52. Web. October 26, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/green-tea-safe-and-effective-preventing-cold-and-flu-symptoms-and-enhancing-t
10 Kamei, Masanori, et al. “Anti-influenza virus effects of cocoa.” J Sci Food Agric. 96. 4. (2016): 1150-8. Web. October 26, 2016. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/drinking-cocoa-could-activate-natural-immunity