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The 5 best soup ingredients to beat a cold

Bolster your immune system with these delicious soup ingredients that help fight off the common cold and flu.

By Matthew Kadey, RD

1. Pumpkin seeds

Forget the medicine cabinet. If you really want to fend off a cold or flu, find comfort in a healing bowl of soup. Grandma’s chicken noodle remedy isn’t the only soup to lift your spirits when sick. Research shows a number of foods (which also make for some delicious soup ingredients) can boost your body’s natural defences against viruses. Keep your immune system in fighting shape and feed that pesky cold by slurping up soups infused with these immunity-boosting, sniffle-busting good guys. 

These jack-o’-lantern castoffs are brimming with zinc. A number of studies suggest that loading up on zinc – which aids in the function of immune cells – can help reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms when under the weather. 

Soup’s on: Toast handfuls of pumpkin seeds and sprinkle them over squash soups or bowls of creamy potato or mushroom soups. 

2. Miso

A staple in Japanese kitchens, miso is made from fermented soybeans. The fermentation process produces a healthy army of probiotic bacteria, which can cut down the number of days a cold or flu will leave you symptomatic. Dutch scientists attribute this to the probiotic’s activation of certain genes in the walls of the intestines. 

Soup’s on: For a quick immune system–enhancing soup, simply whisk some miso with warm water and dried mushrooms, and let it steep for five minutes. A miso broth is also a great base for soups full of chicken, noodles and Asian greens. 

3. Barley

The soluble fibre found in oats and barley is already hailed for helping lower cholesterol, but it can also keep your nose from dripping like a leaky hose. University of Illinois scientists discovered soluble fibre increases the production of an anti-inflammatory protein that strengthens the immune system. Beta-glucan, the main soluble fibre in chewy barley, has been found to slash the number of sick days taken by those with upper respiratory tract infections. 

Soup’s on: Barley and zinc-rich beef make a dynamic soup pairing. Also try serving barley in soups with chunky vegetables, lentils, mushrooms or turkey. 

4. Carrots

It’s likely that Bugs Bunny wasn’t knocked off his feet by a cold or flu too often. His orange-hued vegetable of choice is brimming with beta-carotene. In the body, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A. In addition to supporting vision, one of vitamin A’s many roles is keeping your immune system running smoothly. A more robust immune system is a surefire way to help send a cold packing. 

Soup’s on: Try this immunity-friendly creamy carrot soup made with sweet potato, another beta-carotene powerhouse. Consider using toasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish. Also work chunks of carrot into beef and barley soups. 

5. Salmon

Is a regular rotation of winter sniffles getting you down? Then be sure to reel in salmon – one of the few foods that brings vitamin D to a pot of soup – to keep future runny noses at bay. An Archives of Internal Medicine study involving nearly 19,000 subjects found those with the lowest average levels of vitamin D were 36 percent more likely to develop upper respiratory infections than those with higher levels of the sunshine vitamin. Similar research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases found subjects with better vitamin D status were less likely to take sick days from work than those who were given placebos. Washington State University researchers also suggest that astaxanthin – the pigment that gives salmon its pink glow – can increase immune cell activity. 

Soup’s on: Use fresh or even canned salmon in seafood chowders. Or grab your chopsticks and slurp up a soup replete with salmon, soba noodles, bok choy and miso broth. 

Avoid these ingredients when you’re sick

While you should take in plenty of fluids when fighting a cold or flu to stay hydrated (the main benefit of chicken noodle soup – thanks, Grandma!), it’s best to abstain from imbibing alcohol. Wine, beer, and liquor may compromise your immune system and reduce the body’s ability to fight infection.  

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5 Ways to Combat Flu in Your Home

By Ted Myatt, Special to CNN      Fri November 15, 2013

Editor’s note: Ted Myatt is a senior scientist at the leading consulting firm Environmental Health and Engineering, Inc. and Director of Research Compliance at University of Rhode Island. He is also a lecturer in Environmental Sciences at Brandeis University.

(CNN) – Now that we are in the height of cold and flu season, it’s time to defend yourself against the flu virus, starting with your home.

Your home may feel tidy once the carpets and floors are vacuumed and counters dusted, but millions of flu particles can linger in the air and on the surfaces we touch each day.

We have all heard time and time again to wash our hands and cover our mouths when we sneeze – and that the flu vaccine should always be our first line of defense – but below are five ways to decrease flu survival on surfaces and in the air that you may not have considered at the home or office

1. Control humidity

In the winter months, temperatures and humidity levels plummet to as low as 10%, which is as dry as the Sahara Desert. People also spend significantly more time indoors, which contributes to the spread of the flu, but recent scientific literature suggests that the low humidity levels may be contributing to the virus’ survival

A review of nearly 40 peer-reviewed studies conducted over the last decades shows that homes kept at 40-60% relative humidity are likely to have fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces like sink faucets, door handles, and countertops.

Available at most hardware stores and online retailers, hygrometers provide a digital readout of the relative humidity in your home and are compact and low-cost. Homes can be kept at the optimal 40-60% relative humidity level through the use of a portable humidifier. In this humidity range, the flu virus survival in the air can be decreased by up to 30%.

There’s an added benefit too – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a cool mist humidifier throughout the winter months to help relieve congestion and coughs.

2. Use UV lights

Many people may ask “how can light kill bacteria?” But if you purchase the germicidal type of UV lights, they are capable of inactivating microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

There’s a variety of lightweight disinfection devices that use ultra-violet light on the market. You simply spread the light over the surface you wish to clean for the directed amount of time and the virus and bacteria will decrease substantially.

This type of tool may be handy for keyboards, a computer mouse, and other hand-held devices, but keep in mind the flu virus also lives in the air, so disinfecting large areas is not as feasible.

You can also look for gadgets like humidifiers with a UV light chamber that will kill the flu virus, mold, and other bacteria potentially living in the water. This germ-free technology is an added safeguard for homeowners that may not always remember to change their water or filters.

3. Purchase an air purifier

Regular surface cleaning with a disinfectant labeled as “kills bacteria and viruses” will help remove particles that have landed on your floors, faucets, and countertops, but it is important to consider the air you breathe in your home.

During the winter months, most people keep windows sealed and the heat on full blast, causing stagnant, recycled air that can harbor airborne allergens and bacteria.

Consider using a portable air purifier in the rooms you spend most of your time. Most air purifiers circulate air several times per hour, cleaning the air. Look for a model with a HEPA filter, which is what most allergists and doctors recommend.

Air purifiers can remove the smallest microbes in the air, reducing harmful airborne germs that not only include cold and flu viruses but also dust, pollen, mold spores, pet dander and smoke particles. Those can aggravate allergies as well.

4. Disinfect surfaces

This idea is likely one you’ve heard before, but it is still one of the most effective and easy flu prevention methods. When disinfecting, think beyond the countertop and focus on the objects used most throughout the home, such as the family tablet, TV remote, or doorknobs.

Cleaning works by using soap and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. It’s important to note that you’re not killing germs with this process though — you’re mainly removing them and lowering their numbers.

Use a registered disinfectant that states the EPA has approved the product for effectiveness against influenza A virus. And, finally, always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants.

5. Wash linens

The flu virus can live on surfaces for several hours — and even longer on more porous surfaces like towels, washcloths, blankets and linens. While linens don’t need to be washed separately, it’s important that they’re not shared without being cleaned thoroughly.

Wash bedding, towels and clothes with household detergent in hot water and tumble dry on a hot setting. Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling them.

source: CNN

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How to Treat Cold and Flu Symptoms

Natural Ways to Kick a Cold

WebMD Feature     By Paige Axel      Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

Trying to get over a cold? There are lots of things you can do to ease the symptoms as you get better. Here some easy ones.

Turn Up the Heat

When a cold strikes, chicken soup and hot tea can ease your symptoms. The reason: heat. As the warmth moves down your throat toward your stomach, it helps loosen mucus, making it easier to cough out.

Steam works the same way. Sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower running can relieve your stuffy nose and head.

Stay Hydrated

When you have a cold, your body makes more mucus. Making mucus uses up your body’s moisture.

Getting extra fluids thins out mucus and makes it less sticky, which makes it easier blow or cough out. Limit drinks with caffeine and alcohol, as they can be dehydrating.

Soothe Your Skin

You blow your nose a lot when you have a cold. The result can be red, chapped skin on and beneath your nose.

Add a dab of petroleum jelly to the raw area, or use facial tissues that contain lotion.

Gargle Salt Water

If you have a sore throat, make a salt-water gargle by mixing a teaspoon of salt in a small glass of warm water. The salty-warm combo provides short-term relief.

Consider Supplements

Some supplements have been found to shorten — but not cure — colds. Ask your doctor about zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea.

Tell your doctor before starting any new supplement or medication. Your doctor will make sure it won’t interact with any other drug you’re taking.

Prevent the Spread

You should stay home while you’re getting over your cold. If you have to go out, try to limit the number of people you come in contact with.

Cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze to keep from getting germs on your hands. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Hang in there. The common cold usually goes away in about a week, so take it easy, take care of yourself, and you’ll be back to normal before you know it. 


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Immune-Boosting Foods May Add to Flu Defence

January 18, 2013 | By Health Editor

FRIDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) — As U.S. health officials recommend flu shots and frequent hand washing for protection during this season’s influenza outbreak, dietitians point to another significant defense weapon: healthy foods.

Immune-boosting foods can improve your ability to ward off the flu and other health problems, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Even a small nutritional deficiency can affect the body’s ability to stay healthy, said Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian and academy spokesperson.

“A strong immune system doesn’t guarantee your body can fight off every flu bug, but it is a powerful defense,” said Mangieri in an academy news release. “Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune response.”

Mangieri provided the following overview of foods that may boost the immune system:

Protein is an essential part of your body’s defense system. Sources of protein include seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.

Vitamin A helps prevent infections by keeping the skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, lungs and intestines healthy. This nutrient, found in sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach and red bell peppers, also helps the body regulate the immune system.

Vitamin C triggers the production of immune-boosting antibodies. Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries and tangerines are among the foods rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that may provide a boost to the immune system. People who want to get more vitamin E in their diet should eat sunflower seeds, almonds, sunflower or safflower oil, hazelnuts, peanut butter or spinach.

Some believe that zinc, a nutrient found in lean beef, wheat germ, crab, wheat bran, sunflower seeds, black-eyed peas, almonds, milk and tofu, may also improve functioning of the immune system.

If you’re unsure about what foods to eat to boost your immune system, Mangieri said a registered dietitian can help.

“A registered dietitian can help ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to function and protect itself,” Mangieri explained.

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Cold and Flu: When Should I Call Our Doctor?

You’ve nursed yourself and your family through a few cold and flu episodes in your time. But how do you know when you need to call in for a consult? What are the signs that signal it’s time to see a doctor?

More often than not, a cold or flu will resolve itself. No matter your age, you’ll likely sniffle through congestion, suffer through sore throat pain, or groan your way through the body aches of the flu. But sometimes it comes to a point where you should call the doctor. And though adults and children share many of the same cold and flu symptoms, the signs that signal when to see a doctor can differ.

When an infant gets a cold, a parent must act quickly. A newborn’s cold can swiftly turn into something more serious or make it difficult for a baby to properly nurse or to be bottle-fed. See a doctor as soon as you notice symptoms.

Babies older than 3 months of age:
Seek your doctor’s advice if you notice:
changes in wetting habits
eye or ear symptoms
coughing or nasal discharge that refuses to go away
a fever over 38.1°C that lasts longer than one day
a fever that persists for more than 3 days
Urgent symptoms include:
difficulty breathing
refusal to feed
coughs that cause vomiting, bloody mucus, or a change in skin colour

Seek a doctor’s help for:
cold or flu symptoms that last 10 or more days
a fever that peaks at or above 39.4°C
a fever that persists for more than 3 days
fast or laboured breathing or wheezing
ear pain or discharge
listlessness or irritability
vomiting or abdominal pain
changes to skin colour

Teens and adults:
Head to the doctor for:
symptoms that persist beyond 10 days
a prolonged fever of 38.9°C accompanied by aches and fatigue
glands in neck or jaw that feel very swollen
laboured breathing or chest pain or pressure
confusion, disorientation, faint-headedness
severe vomiting
intense sinus pain

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, division of Johnson & Johnson Inc. 2010

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Are colds and the flu most contagious before or after you start showing symptoms?


Myths about contagion are a regular part of life. Remember when AIDS could be transmitted by a handshake? Most fictions regarding how you can catch diseases aren’t quite that bizarre and off the mark — they usually sound pretty reasonable, which is how a lot of them get passed through generations as unquestioned truths. Many of us understand that when it comes to a cold or the flu, we’re most contagious before we start feeling sick; that by the time we’ve got a runny nose, sore throat and achy muscles, the damage to the people around us has already been done. In fact, many of us are completely wrong.

3d rendering of the influenza virus. ©iStockphoto/EraxionIf you think about how a virus works, it makes sense that we’re most contagious when our symptoms are at their worst. Viruses like influenza and those that cause the common cold (there are a couple of hundred of them) have anincubation period once they get into your body. The virus gets into a group of healthy cells and then goes about requisitioning their survival apparatus from the inside. During this incubation period, while the virus is multiplying inside those infected cells, you have no symptoms — no sore throat, no runny nose, no achy muscles — and no virus spreading like wildfire throughout your body so that every drop of saliva or mucous you produce contains it. And that’s how a virus spreads from one person to another: By a healthy person coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, whether those fluids are airborne (as from a sneeze) or left on a doorknob by a sick person who just wiped his nose. So if you have no symptoms yet, it’s a lot less likely that you’re going to spread the virus to another person.

Once the cells that have been taken over by the virus start to die, that’s when all hell breaks loose. Here’s when you start having symptoms, and you start spreading it to everyone you know if you’re not careful. Some of those symptoms are caused by the virus itself (runny nose and sore throat, for example), and others are caused by your immune system (fever and exhaustion, for instance). When the virus breaks out of those dead cells and starts infecting tons of other cells throughout your body, your immune system recognizes that something is wrong and begins its counterattack. All of this can take days to happen. With the flu in particular, the time between exposure and the onset of symptoms is usually between one and four days.

So, when are you most contagious? Most experts agree that adults with a cold or the flu start being contagious about a day before they start experiencing symptoms. For the flu, the contagious period then lasts five to seven days into the illness. For children, the contagious period for the flu can last up to two weeks after they start feeling sick, even if they start feeling better before that. The contagious period for a cold lasts about three to four days into the illness. As a general rule, people with a cold are most contagious about three days after their initial exposure to the virus.

source: discoveryhealth

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Flu shots less effective on obese patients: Researchers

By Sharon Kirkey, Postmedia News October 25, 2011

Obese people may face a higher risk of getting severely sick or dying from influenza because flu shots are less effective in the obese, U.S. researchers are reporting.

The study is the first to show that the antibodies produced in response to flu shots plunge dramatically in the obese compared to patients with healthy weights.

The researchers also found that obese people produce defective killer T-cells — cells that are vital in fighting infections.

The twin findings might explain why obese people were more likely to experience severe complications, hospitalizations and death during the H1N1 pandemic two years ago.

Even without a pandemic outbreak, influenza kills up to 500,000 people every year worldwide, the researchers write in the International Journal of Obesity.

What’s more, “obesity is a growing health concern of epidemic proportions in many countries.” In Canada, 24 per cent of adults are obese, according to Statistics Canada. As rates of obesity climb, deaths from flu could rise too, the researchers say.

Their study involved 499 healthy weight, overweight and obese adults who were vaccinated during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Blood samples were taken before the shots and then 30 days later so that the researchers could measure antibody levels. Their blood was checked again 12 months post-vaccination.

In an unexpected finding, obese people initially mounted a slightly more robust response to the shots than healthy weight people. But their antibody levels dropped far more rapidly over time.

At 12 months, more than 50 per cent of the obese patients experienced a four-fold plunge in antibody levels, compared to their one-month post vaccination.

Fewer than 25 per cent of healthy weight people showed the same drop over time.

Next, the researchers exposed the patients’ blood samples to a flu virus in the lab 12 months after vaccination and checked their CD8 T cells — white blood cells that, if a person does get infected with flu, kill infected cells, clear the virus faster and lessen the severity of disease.

Obese people had fewer functional CD8 cells in response to influenza. About 75 per cent of healthy weight people’s CD8 cells were still churning out infection-fighting proteins 12 months out, versus 25 per cent of obese people.

Flu season can run from October to April in the northern hemisphere, said first author Patricia Sheridan, a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “If you get your vaccine early, if the antibodies decline you may not be protected” while flu is still circulating, she said.

The researchers don’t know exactly when that large drop in antibodies to the flu shots occurred in the obese, or why it happens.

But “we have the first set of information to know that the vaccine response in obese people is different,” Sheridan said.

Fat cells produce chemicals and toxins that impair the body’s immune response, especially in cases of abdominal obesity, said Dr. David Lau, president of Obesity Canada and professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Calgary. For the immune-compromised flu can be lethal, which is why Lau says that it’s even more important that obese people get vaccinated — even if obesity makes the shots less effective.

Should obese people get two flu shots? “Our data don’t suggest that’s a good idea,” Sheridan said.

“For now, one vaccine is still the best option.”

Other studies have shown that tetanus shots are less effective in obese children, and hepatitis B shots are less effective in obese adults.


source: Vancouver Sun