Oranges, chicken soup, ginger: Are there foods that help our body fight viruses during an infection? Researchers are investigating this question
Cough, cold, hoarseness. A cold can be really annoying. All the faster they want to get rid of the cold. The complaints can often be alleviated with remedies from the pharmacy. A little exercise shouldn’t hurt either – as long as it’s a walk and you don’t have a fever. And after that, it is best to lie down on the couch and wrap yourself up warm.
But what about nutrition? Does it influence the immune system? It does, scientists say. The body’s own defence system is a complex network of specialised cells, messenger substances and proteins. In order for it to function properly, the organism must also be sufficiently supplied with nutrients. Research is still underway to find out which ingredients play an important role in this process.
Vitamin C is a radical scavenger
A lot is already known about the effect of vitamin C. The body cannot produce it itself, so it has to take it up with food. Vitamin C is an antioxidant substance that intercepts free radicals and makes them harmless.
During a cold, these aggressive substances form in the course of the immune response increased. “Vitamin C prevents the radicals from taking over and thus protects the body from their negative effects,” said Professor Axel Lorentz, who works at the Institute of Nutritional Medicine at the University of Hohenheim.
It therefore makes sense to obtain sufficient vitamin C – not only during a cold. “It is found, for example, in citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, peppers and broccoli,” explains Dr. Patricia Haberl, nutritionist from Munich.
For example, you can cover your daily needs with a juice made from two freshly squeezed oranges or a red pepper. In addition to vitamin C, other vitamins also play a role in the immune system. These include vitamins A, D and E as well as B vitamins.
Zinc for colds?
The trace element zinc is also important for the immune system. “It also serves as a radical scavenger,” explains Lorentz, who is scientifically involved with nutrition and immunology. In addition, many enzymes in the body need zinc in order to function properly.
“Vitamin C and zinc work often only in combination with one another , so the expert. Therefore you should also pay attention to take enough zinc to itself. The trace element is found in fish, milk, cheese and oat flakes.
Whether it helps more to take Vitamin C and zinc as food auxiliary means in pill form, is still not completely clear. However, a major survey by the Cochrane Collaboration has shown that vitamin C can reduce the symptoms and duration of a flu-like infection a little.
This also applies to zinc tablets if the person with a cold takes them right at the beginning of the infection. The Cochrane Collaboration is an independent organisation that examines scientific studies and summarises and evaluates their results.
Does chicken soup really help?
Chicken soup is an old household remedy for the common cold. However, why it should relieve the cold and cough is still largely unknown. After all, there are some suspicions: “Certain ingredients from chicken meat, for example carnosine, may have an effect on the immune system,” says Lorentz.
The various vegetables in the soup may also influence the immune system. A hot soup promotes blood circulation and warms, while the hot steam dissolves the mucus from the upper respiratory tract,” says Haberl. This at least subjectively alleviates the symptoms of colds.
There are many more home recipes. Some people swear by elderberry, horseradish or ginger. Elderberry blossom tea is said to have a sweat-inducing effect and thus put an end to the infection. Here, too, the hot liquid probably plays a role. Elderberry juice contains a lot of vitamin C. Therefore also this tasty drink is quite suitable. But caution: Who heats it too long, destroys the sensitive vitamin for the most part.
Ginger warms from the inside
There’s mustard oil in horseradish. They have an antimicrobial effect and stimulate blood circulation in the mucous membranes. This frees the stuffy nose at least for a short time. Ginger is also a spicier. “It also promotes blood circulation and creates a pleasant feeling of warmth,” explains nutritionist Haberl.
Apparently fatty acids from food also have an effect on the immune system. So-called omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish and rapeseed oil, are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Who is cold, should pay attention thus to eat sufficient Vitamine, mineral materials and trace elements. You can do this by eating a lot of fruit, vegetables and wholemeal products.
Prepare easily digestible food, such as soup, and avoid foods that are difficult to digest and rich in fat. This would otherwise overtax the damaged organism. “In addition, supply your body with sufficient fluids – preferably with warm drinks,” advises Lorentz. Unless, because of additional other illnesses something speaks against it.
The best hardening methods against colds and flu
In autumn and winter the temperatures fall and we freeze. Is the cold the main reason for a cold?
The cold alone does not make us sick. However, cold can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to cold viruses. That’s why we have to make sure we wear the right clothes when temperatures drop.
For example, scarves, caps and gloves protect cold-sensitive parts of the body such as the throat and ears. The “onion-shell look” can also prevent sweating and cooling, especially during the transition period.
Ideally, we successfully protect ourselves against a disease. How can our readers best prevent infection?
Most infections are caused by a smear infection. The viruses are transmitted by touching door handles or shaking hands. A thorough hand hygiene is therefore one of the most important measures to protect against infections.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap several times a day. The palms, backs and fingers should be soaped and cleaned for at least twenty seconds. However, I do not recommend a special antimicrobial soap as it could damage the protective skin flora. You can also find out about further preventive measures on our portal erkaeltet.info.
A strong immune system is also advantageous. In this context, however, there are also many myths, for example about hardening methods. How useful, for example, is alternating showering?
By changing showers, the body can adapt better to fluctuating temperatures and the sensitivity to cold is reduced. This is why alternating showers are particularly recommended in the transition from warm to cold seasons. However, they cannot actually protect against colds.
What about saunas? Do they also make sense if you already have an illness?
Sauna sessions are also a good preventive measure because they harden the body. However, I advise against this in the case of an existing illness. During the cold, the immune system is already working at full speed. In this case, the sauna would be an additional strain on the body. This can also delay the recovery process.
What role does a balanced diet play?
A healthy and balanced diet provides the organism with many necessary vitamins, minerals and trace elements and is essential for a strong immune system. And a strong immune system is the most important prerequisite for staying healthy.
How important is adequate sleep?
Healthy and adequate sleep creates more defense cells and invading pathogens can be combated better. Even a slight sleep deficit can weaken the immune system and make it more susceptible to cold viruses.