I agree with an article in the Chicago Tribune by Julie Deardorff, who recommends a sound nutritional offense as the best defense against the flu, and for that matter, I would add, against other respiratory viral ailments.
Obviously, the first line of defense against colds and flu (about which I have blogged before) is frequent handwashing. Ms. Deardorff agrees and adds the old sneeze into your elbow technique to prevent hand-to-hand contamination. Having grown up in the cover-your-mouth-with-your-hand-when-you-cough or sneeze era, I remember being mildly disgusted when our grandsons’ pre-school teachers instructed them to cover it with their elbow, but it does make sense in limiting spread of cold/flu viruses by hand-to-hand or hand-to-toy/table/doorknob/whatever contact. It does leave me wondering about the impact of snotty elbows on all your clothes, but what the hey, they’re washable.
I must take Ms. Deardorff to task, however, when she quotes Alan Zelicoff’s book Microbe: Are We Ready for the Next Plague? to impune doctors’ offices and doctors’ hygeine
Avoid the doctor’s office. Not only are waiting rooms friendly breeding grounds for germs, but “physicians don’t wash their hands (very often), and they’re a primary vector for influenza
When we ran our clinics, we washed our hands after every patient we saw, which during flu season might have been 80 or 90 a day. We also wiped down all door knobs, exam tables, and chairs with disinfectant solution. At least, in our series of 1, the doctor’s office wasn’t the primary vector. The same philosophy should hold true at your home or office to prevent the spread of colds and flu: wash your hands often or use a waterless hand disinfectant and keep handy a canister of disposable antimicrobial wipes convenient to all to wipe down shared phones, door knobs, office machine control panels, and other common use items.
But beyond common sense and cleanliness, Ms. Deardorff correctly goes on to tout such foods as cranberries, which contain an organic acid that impairs the ability of the flu virus (and other microbes) to stick to your cells and infect you, and red wine, which contains resveretrol, a potent antioxidant that seems to block the ability of the virus to take command of your cells’ duplicating machinery to make xerox copies of itself. All of which I heartily agree with, but would modify her advice by adding to that regimen a stout serving of good quality whey protein each day to boost immune function as well.
We have a great recipe in our newest cookbook (The Low Carb CookwoRx Cookbook, Wiley 2005) for Cranberry Orange Power Muffins, made with fresh cranberries, whey protein, and even with a vitamin C kicker from the fresh orange peel. Maybe we should have called them Anti-Flu Muffins? I think I’ll go wash my hands thoroughly and stir up a batch right now. Maybe I’ll save the dose of red wine for dinner, though, and enjoy it with a good blue cheese.