With the outbreak of the flu and other colds or stomach bugs going around, it seems like everyone is getting sick. Some think there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, but if you have a strong immune system, your body’s fighter cells will work hard to get any viruses out of your system before causing symptoms.
The good news is you can keep your immune system strong with food.
First off, choosing fresh, real food over processed or refined foods (especially sugar) automatically gives you a better chance. Your body doesn’t really know how to handle that lunchtime soda or afternoon bag of chips, and continually eating processed foods creates a state of inflammation within your body. If a virus or a cold comes around, there’s less resources to fight it off because your body is already fighting a battle with inflammation.
Even if you have a solid immune system, you may be able to ward off colds with zinc.
Oysters are my favorite source of zinc.
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in immune system regulation, wound healing, growth and development, reproduction and your sense of taste and smell. Zinc deficiency can lead to an impaired immune system, loss of appetite, taste changes, and delayed healing of wounds.
Even mild to moderate deficiencies impairs the immune system, which may put you up in bed sniffling and sneezing after being around someone with a cold.
To keep your immune system strong and ready to fight, you could go shuck a dozen oysters and slurp them down. If you’re not into raw oysters, other meats or seafood, such as beef, pork, chicken, lobster, and crab, are good food sources of zinc. Plant-based sources of zinc (whole grains, legumes) are not well-absorbed because phytates in the foods will bind the zinc to prevent absorption.
Several studies used zinc-based lozenges (to coat the mouth and throat), and results showed the duration of common cold symptoms were significantly reduced. The theory is zinc may inhibit binding and replication of the rhinovirus causing the common cold. Food sources of zinc will boost the immune system, but the zinc lozenges may directly stop the virus from binding and replicating when entering your body from breathing in a virus.
Boosting your dietary zinc intake (oysters have 74 grams in 3 oz compared to crabs with only 6.5grams!) and trying a zinc throat lozenge, may limit the number of sick days you use and get you back on your feet faster. The trick is getting the zinc in within 24 hours from when cold symptoms began. According a Cochrane review, zinc lozenges with at least 13g of zinc for adults and zinc syrup for children were most effective.
Don’t just go popping zinc supplements like candy though, as it can lead to toxicity in large doses. The zinc lozenges are meant to be taken short-term (a few days) because prolonged zinc supplementation at high doses may result in copper deficiency.
Just try zinc lozenges when you notice cold symptoms beginning, and focus on food sources of zinc the rest of the time. Besides food, getting adequate sleep, staying active, and managing your stress can help keep your immune system strong.