Fall is my favorite time of year – watching the leaves change colors, pumpkin spice lattes, and…influenza. In the US, flu outbreaks generally start around October and peak in December, although the ‘flu season’ can sometimes last as late as May. Vaccination, via injection or nasal spray, is the best preventative measure we have against the flu. Many different viruses can cause the ‘flu’ in humans – the vaccine contains proteins from the strains that experts think will be the most prevalent in any given year.
But even vaccination can’t guarantee protection – so what other tools do we have at our disposal to keep ourselves flu-free?
Sometimes the simplest solutions are also the most effective. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching doorknobs in public places to significantly reduce your chances of infection.
Chicken soup contains an amino acid called cysteine, which can help to reduce the severity of flu symptoms and may help your immune system clear the infection more quickly. Homemade is your best bet, so break out Grandma’s recipe and make your chicken stock from scratch by cooking down the bones left over from a roasted chicken.
Some studies have shown that supplementation with zinc can reduce the duration of cold symptoms, as long as you start taking it within 24 hours of symptom onset.
Mega-doses of Vitamin C
Some people believe that taking large doses of vitamin C (more than 1,000 mg), can support the immune system and help fight off cold and flu viruses. Although vitamin C does play a role in proper B and T cell functioning, there is no need to take such excessively large amounts – as with any water-soluble vitamin, the body eliminates any extra via the kidneys.