Ammunition for the fight | January 30, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

- January 30, 2009

Ammunition for the fight

Feed the immune system to fend off colds and flu

The immune system is smart. The immune system, when exposed to new flu and cold viruses, learns to recognize and react to seasonal strains of the invaders. The system also remembers bugs it has seen before. But we're a mobile society-each year, world travel brings new strains of germs and virus home, forcing the immune system to deal with new invaders it has never seen. This is why the Centers for Disease Control makes yearly changes to the flu vaccine, hoping to predict which bugs will arrive in the U.S. on a seasonal basis.

A flu vaccine may help during cold and flu season, but there's no guarantee for full protection. Extra efforts are needed to avoid seasonal germs-including a healthy diet, exercise and nutritional supplements.

* Diet can make a difference. Prevention Magazine recently published a list of immunity-boosting foods, including: lean beef in moderation for its zinc content; orange vegetables including sweet potatoes and carrots (for vitamins A and D); mushrooms such as shitakes, which may help white blood cells act more aggressively against foreign invaders; and a cup of black or green tea daily, which provides powerful anti-oxidant activity. Also included in the list was yogurt containing active probiotic cultures, which help balance the immune system in the digestive tract.

* According to ABC news, turmeric, a rich, flavorful spice, "has been used for centuries as part of Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicines, in addition to being used for cooking. Turmeric is found in every yellow curry, and its golden color is the result of curcumin, a polyphenol with strong cold and flu-fighting properties.

"Although the mechanism is unclear, a 2008 study published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications found that curcumin prevents some immune cells from responding to stimulants and so has modulating and anti-inflammatory effects. Other studies have also shown the immune-boosting properties of curcumin in turmeric, however these have not been confirmed in humans."

Turmeric is found naturally as the rhizome part of the turmeric plant and it looks very similar to ginger. The powdered spice is made by boiling, drying and grinding the root. The powder has antiseptic qualities when applied topically and often is used on cuts, burns and bruises. This spice is available as an encapsulated supplement at health food stores.