nutrition to prevent swine flu?

Swine flu.  Here in Texas where the first two U.S. deaths occurred it has been in the news constantly.  Officially called H1N1, it was called swine flu because some of the genes resembled those of a flu virus that affects swine in North America; but because it also contains genes from avian influenza (bird flu) and regular human flu it’s not quite accurate to just blame pigs for this bad bug. 

Can you get H1N1 from eating pork?  Nope!  So go ahead and grill up that pork tenderloin this weekend, and just be sure to cook it until the juices run clear, over 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Can you eat anything to prevent getting H1N1?  A quick survey of the internet will have you taking megadoses of vitamins D and C, fish oil supplements, amino acids, and a daily serving of kimchi.  However, an coalition of supplement experts warns that while supplements are a great addition to a healthy diet and can improve general health, be aware of marketers that are just trying to sell snake oil to cure swine flu.  That said, what can you do to boost your immune system?

1) Eat your antioxidants.  Eat at least 5-9 cups of fruit and vegetables each day, with at least 1 of those servings being fresh fruit or veggies.

2)  Limit your sugar and saturated/trans fat intake.  These foods can actually suppress your immune system and keep it from responding properly.

3) Choose supplements that support a healthy diet.  Let’s face it – sometimes it is difficult to eat perfectly, and a multivitamin can be a great addition to make sure that your bases are covered.  Megadoses of any vitamin, mineral, or other nutrient should be prescribed and monitored by a qualified health professional as self-treatment can cause a range of problems from diarrhea, other nutrient deficiencies, or worse.

4) Wash your hands before eating.  And when you first arrive home.  And when you are done using the bathroom and before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.  This one can be tricky with kids, but handwashing is one of the best lines of prevention for almost any contagious disease.

5) While they have nothing to do with nutrition, sleep and stress can make or break your immune system!  Aim for a regular bedtime, exercise 3-5 times a week for 30 minutes, and take a deep breath to relax if you start getting stressed. 

If you do start coming down with symptoms of the flu or even a cold, try one of my favorite “teas.”  Add boiling water to a slice of lemon, 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger, and a tsp of honey.  Sometimes I’ll trade out a lime for the lemon, molasses for the honey, and add a dash of cayenne to “kick it up a notch” as well.  Let it steep for a few minutes and enjoy!  

Of course, if you do have any of the warning signs listed on the CDC’s H1N1 website then contact your doctor.  H1N1 may not turn out to be as deadly as we once thought, but it’s always wise to take precautions with any flu bug, especially one that qualifies as a pandemic.

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