The change of seasons, whether it is summer to fall or winter to spring, is a period during which people are susceptible to colds and fevers. September to November can be a stressful period, as students and workers return to school and work, bringing with them an array of germs and microorganisms that seem to thrive in close quarters and re-circulated air, and stress takes its toll on a healthy immune system.
Add to that the pressures of extra work coupled with deadlines, and you get otherwise conscientious folks skipping meals, or making poor food choices and shortchanging themselves of adequate sleep. As daylight hours decrease and we spend more time indoors, our exposure to sunlight and the vitamin D that it brings is diminished. And then there is the weather itself; a day that starts off like August can seem like November in just a few hours, and we can be caught off guard sartorially. Anyone who has been caught without an umbrella or sweater on an October day while waiting for transit, then stuffed like a standing sausage next to someone with the sniffles is a prime candidate to receive an unwanted cold and to pay it forward.
Even our grandmothers knew that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and determined that the best way to gird your loins is through proper diet, maintaining a reasonable level of activity and exercise and getting sufficient rest; when it comes to diet, choose foods that have been proven to have immune system boosting qualities.
Ensuring that you get enough vitamin C in your diet is a good start. Citrus like oranges, grapefruit and lemons are universally acknowledged sources of Vitamin C, and when push comes to shove, you are better off eating the orange than drinking a glass of orange juice, which is almost as high in sugar as a can of pop. Other great sources of Vitamin C are squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and broccoli, and happily, all of these are delicious, inexpensive and easily prepared.
Honey, ginger, garlic and onion are also great to ward off colds, so adding a little extra garlic and onion to your next batch of chili or spaghetti is a good culinary and a good health choice. A hot drink of honey and lemon (see the ubiquitous cough-drop flavor), especially with a little ginger steeped in is as healthy as it is soothing.
Add some more mushrooms to your next stir-fry or stew. Mushrooms, especially shiitake, help your body to produce cytokines which combat inflammation, trauma and infection. Probiotic yogurt is also great for fending off infection, as this article in Science Friday suggests; the active bacteria like Lactobacillus reuteri have been proven to reduce one’s susceptibility to colds by 25%.
Finally, never discount the efficacy of “Jewish Pennicillin,” Chicken Noodle Soup, which in addition to rehydrating you and offering a kitchen sink of vitamin packed veggies, energy from the starchy noodles as well as fat and protein from the chicken, contains anti-inflammatory agents and mucous producing stimulants to help clear your sinuses.
Omega-3 fatty acids are always a good idea, especially when it comes to boosting your immune system; oily fish like sardines and salmon, flaxseeds and oil, walnuts, tofu and beef are all good eating and good sources of Omega-3’s.
Staying cold-free during the fall is relatively easy if you choose the proper immune boosting foods and don’t push yourself to the brink. Get plenty of rest and a little more exercise, (as we tend to become a little more sedentary in cold months), take care to wash your hands often and this fall should be a cakewalk!