Flu season is upon us, and every year there is a new way to help fight the flu. Runners hate being sick, it impedes training efforts and delays big workouts and even races, so with that in mind, they tend to take avoiding the flu very seriously.
Health shots are a commonly advertised way to fight the flu. A health shot is usually some form of blended or pressed juice with ingredients like ginger, turmeric, cayenne or lemon. These shots are suggested to be immune boosting and retail for around $5 to 6 CAD for a 30 mL bottle, but how effective are they really?
Melissa Piercell, ND, says that health shots aren’t bad for you, but they’re certainly not the immune boosters that they’re advertised as. “In terms of numbers, the flu shot is about 60 percent effective. There’s not a lot that is more effective than the flu shot when it comes to preventing the flu.”
Piercell says that health shots are beneficial for your health for four reasons: they usually have some vitamin C, they’re alkalizing, they’re anti-inflammatory and full of anti-oxidants. She explains that while these are all health buzzwords, and none of these side effects are bad for runners, none of these things are hugely immune-boosting. “Ingredients like cayenne pepper can improve circulation and help heal tissues, but I wouldn’t say that there’s a strong effect on the immune system.”
In terms of foods which can promote immune health and assist in recovering from the flu, Piercell says that there’s something to be said about chicken soup. “Funnily enough, there is some research about chicken soup being effective. It’s warming, it’s hydrating, it has salts. You’re looking for foods with lots of vitamin C and zinc. For example, berries, papaya and spinach are all full of vitamin C. Zinc is found in pumpkin seeds.”
Piercell encourages runners to avoid foods the are mucus producing. Those include dairy, soy and bananas. Bananas are a tricky one, because runners are obsessed with bananas.
Consider making your own soup with bone broth as the base for your chicken soup. Bone broth is a stock made up primarily from the bones or connective tissue of an animal or fish. You make bone broth by combining bones of your choice with vegetables, usually carrots, onions, garlic and herbs, and cooking for roughly 10 hours. Once cooked, the broth is filled with collagen which is the structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues.