Discover ways in which you can beat your cold with these food-based solutions. David Goding explores.

Beat cold and flu with food



Key symptoms: No secrets here: runny nose, aches and pains, sore throat, fatigue, fever etc.

Causes: Contrary to popular opinion most of us don’t catch a cold from breathing in the airborne virus, but touching the virus on a door knob, banister or Eftpos machine, followed by the hand coming in contact with the mouth, possibly via another object, such as a pen. Interestingly, one study found that people who used public transport were less likely to catch a cold than those who didn’t, possibly due to having a battle-hardened immune system.

A lot of the advice on diet and cold and flu prevention has been dubious, at best. When you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time with a cold that has your name on it, there seems little you can do to prevent nature taking its course. But there are some dietary measures worth taking in cold and flu season, both to lower your risk of catching the virus and in decreasing the time it stays with you.

According to two recent Japanese studies taking probiotics, in the form of natural yoghurt (or probiotic supplements), can lower your risk of contracting the flu, apparently due to its immune boosting properties.

A diet high in vitamin A – carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato – can also help to maintain all mucous membrane surfaces such as the lungs and throat, strengthening their resilience during the cold season.

When you do get a cold – no, there is no foolproof defence – there are a couple of things you can do to lessen the severity and length of the virus’ effect. Chief among these is zinc. One study found that taking zinc supplements could lessen the duration of a cold by as much as 40 per cent. Or you could simply shuck zinc-rich oysters for breakfast, Casanova style.

The second approach is to reduce your overall food intake, in the short-term.

“Feed a cold and starve a fever’ is an old proverb that has been misinterpreted in the past to encourage eating voraciously during a cold and abstaining from food only during a fever,” says Mim Beim, lecturer at the Australasian College of Natural Therapies and author of Natural Therapies.  “However, the saying originally meant: don’t feed a cold and you won’t get a fever.”

“Fasting, or eating very little during any short-term illness is old wisdom and is still valid. Sadly, we’ve lost this intuitive response to illness. Appetite will return as soon as your body is ready to digest more solid sustenance.”