This morning a Yahoo! article stated that 5 states are already reporting Flu outbreaks are beginning unseasonably early. Even though our weather really hasn't been that bad so far this season, the 5 states reporting the outbreaks are directly below us. So I thought it may be a good time to pull out some Cold Weather Health tips from doctors that I found on Prevention Magazine and even Oprah.com.
If you feel a cold coming on, should you drink tea or orange juice?
"There's no question that tea is the better choice. Yes, orange juice has vitamin C, but it may actually suppress your immunity and make you more susceptible to colds because of its high sugar content. According to one study, when you consume 100 grams of carbohydrates in the forms of glucose, fructose, sucrose, orange juice, or honey, you significantly reduce the function of white blood cells that contribute to a healthy immune system. So while it's important to drink lots of fluids, stay away from fruit juices. Plus, hot tea clears the nasal passages. Pour a cup—and get your C from a vitamin."—Michael T. Murray, naturopathic doctor and coauthor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Also, new research from the University of Michigan supports the evidence that the antioxidant quercetin may protect against infection by preventing viruses from replicating. Black and green teas are packed with quercetin. Sip a hot cup once a day.
So, then which is better: tea with milk or tea with lemon?
"I wouldn't recommend milk. Studies have shown that the protein it contains counteracts some of tea's health benefits. In my lab we've shown that separately, caffeinated green tea and a high-protein diet can boost metabolism and burn fat. But when we combined them, milk protein lessened the good effects of green tea on metabolism and long-term weight management. We believe the protein binds to the tea's antioxidant polyphenols, making them less available for your body to use."—Rick Hursel, PhD, Department of Human Biology at Maastricht University, The Netherlands
Exercise Indoors or Brave the Cold?
"No matter how low the temperature, I take a brisk walk every day. Exercise boosts the circulation of immune cells throughout the body, and research shows that walking 30 to 45 minutes a day, five days a week in winter can cut your sick days in half." Dr Oz
Should we Bundle up for a winter jog or wear just enough to keep from shivering?
"You should dress as if it's 15 to 20 degrees warmer outside than the actual temperature. It will be chilly at first, but you'll warm up. If you're overdressed, you can overheat, leading to excessive sweating, which can cause leg cramps and put you at risk for hypothermia. For very cold days, I recommend pants or tights, a moisture-wicking top, a hat, and gloves. And a windbreaker is a must—it'll keep out the chill if the temperature drops."—Elizabeth G. Matzkin, MD, surgical director of the Women's Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Avoid Crowds or Hangout with Friends?
Hang out with friends. Friendships counteract the harmful effects of stress hormones, and now new research says the more friends you have, the healthier you'll be. Carnegie Mellon doctors gave 83 college freshmen an influenza vaccine and found that those with larger social networks produced more flu-fighting antibodies than those who hung out in smaller groups. Students who reported feeling lonely produced fewer antibodies, as well.
Have H2O in Flight
Canadian researchers have found that air passengers are over 100 times more likely to get a cold than those who travel by bus, train, or subway. Dr. Oz's rule for holiday air travel: Hydrate. The plane's dry air can sap moisture from the lining of your nasal passages, creating tiny cracks that make you susceptible to infection. Water can help moisten those membranes.
Should we use Echinacea or another supplement?
There's actually no conclusive research proving echinacea to be effective against the common cold. Dr Oz recommends taking Vitamin D. Studies have found that D can stimulate the production of a virus-killing protein, and taking D supplements (aim for 2,000 IU a day) can lead to fewer viral infections.
For the Flu should we take Antibiotics?
"These drugs are not only ineffective against the flu—which is caused by a virus, not by bacteria—but can lead to adverse effects like upset stomach, diarrhea, and even yeast infections. If you get the flu, ask your doctor for an antiviral drug such as Tamiflu. But act fast—studies have found that these drugs work best within 48 hours of the first symptoms." Dr Oz
How can we dodge Germs?
Flu viruses can survive on surfaces for over two hours, but you can't wash your hands 24-7—so when is it most important to scrub up? Scientists from the University of Virginia recently pinpointed the areas of your home most likely to harbor germs: refrigerator handles, remote controls, and doorknobs.
Does chicken soup really work?
Chicken soup really can treat a cold. The hot vapor expands your airways, which helps to clear mucus from the nasal cavity. Plus, University of Nebraska researchers found that chicken soup has an anti-inflammatory effect that may soothe a sore throat.
What about Probiotics, should we use them?
"We recommend taking probiotics—foods or supplements containing bacteria that are good for your health—that include Lactobacillus, because it can reduce the risk of both respiratory and gastrointestinal infections," says Mike Gleeson, PhD, professor of exercise biochemistry at Loughborough University in England. And people taking probiotics were 42% less likely to get a cold than those on a placebo, according to a 2011 meta-analysis of 10 studies
More Ways to Boost Your Immune System
- Exercise: People who exercise five or more days a week spend 43% fewer days with upper-respiratory infections, according to an Appalachian State University study. "I make sure I exercise to stay healthy," says lead author David Nieman, DrPH. "Aim for 30 to 60 minutes daily. It boosts blood flow so that the immune cells circulate throughout the body."
- Sleep: Your immune system needs rest to keep you healthy. In one study done at Carnegie Mellon University, even if people said they felt well rested if they'd averaged fewer than 7 hours of sleep per night, they were almost three times as likely to get a cold as those who got eight hours or more of sleep.
- Eat more garlic: "Allicin, a substance in crushed garlic, helps fight viruses," says Richard Nahas, MD, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa. In a British study, volunteers who took a daily 180 mg allicin supplement caught 63% fewer colds over 12 weeks than those taking a placebo. Garlic cloves contain less allicin (5 to 9 mg), but even two raw cloves a day may help, says Randy Horwitz, MD, PhD, medical director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson.
- Use herbs and spices: The oregano in your spaghetti sauce and the mustard on your turkey sandwich can boost your immune system, says Tieraona Low Dog, MD. In winter, she suggests, flavor bean and poultry dishes with oregano and thyme, and add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric to 1 cup of plain yogurt for a spicy dip.
- Vitamin C: A gram a day of this old standby does help alleviate colds, Dr. Nahas found in a review of studies about integrative approaches to preventing colds. In adults, the result is a modest 8% reduction in symptoms. It doesn't sound like much, "but that can shorten your cold by 1 to 2 days," he says.
- Stop biting your nails......and wiping or rubbing your eyes or nose: You can't always avoid getting germs on your hands, but you don't have to give them a lift into your respiratory system. "When you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you put the viruses right where they want to go to cause mischief," Dr. Nieman says. Keeping your hands where they belong sounds easy, but it's a challenge. Adults touch their faces about 15 times every hour.
- Eat mushrooms: Many kinds of mushrooms may help boost immunity, but medicinal fungi like shiitake, reishi, and maitake may be particularly beneficial because they encourage immune cells to multiply.
- Eat more fruit: "We looked at everything people ate, but the impressive benefit of fruit just jumped out of the data," says Dr. Nieman, who also studied the effects of diet on colds. People who ate three or more servings daily had 25% fewer days with respiratory symptoms during cold-and-flu season than those who ate one or fewer. The vitamin C content may provide part of the punch, but fruit also contains polyphenols, which have antiviral properties.