If you do catch the flu, COVID-19 or regular flu, the best thing you can do is rest your body as much as possible and keep drinking plenty of non-caffeinated fluids.
Eat light meals based around fresh vegetables and lean protein, such as fish, eggs and lean meat, to give your body some strength to fight the virus.
Evidence-based nutritional support for colds and flu is limited, but the following three nutrients have moderate evidence to support their use:
Vitamin C can reduce the duration of cold symptoms, though it does help if you’ve been taking it regularly before falling sick. There are no studies on consuming vitamin C through a fresh-food diet, but it makes sense that regularly eating vegetables and fruits, which are naturally rich in vitamin C, can help support.
Vitamin D is the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because it is produced in the skin in response to sunlight. Studies have shown it can help prevent upper respiratory infections, a major symptom of COVID-19 and flu viruses. There is less information regarding vitamin D supplementation to help with recovery from flu, but the evidence so far does seem positive. If you are able to safely, get outside in the daylight as much as possible. General advice for supplementation is 10mcg daily during the winter months.
Zinc oral lozenges
Zinc, in oral lozenge form, has been reported to reduce symptom severity, due to preventing viral replication at the back of your throat. It seems that zinc tablets are not effective, and there can be issues with nasal sprays causing permanent adverse effects. Zinc and vitamin C work really well together as they enhance absorption, hence why many supplements have both together.
Other nutritional support:
There is some evidence for the following in helping recovery from the flu:
Garlic, echinacea, elderberry, probiotics (effectiveness varies greatly by person due to everyone having a different gut microbiome), and fresh ginger.
Foods to avoid
Sugar and ultra-processed foods are inflammatory and can interfere with immune function, so minimise as much as possible to give your body a fighting chance to heal. Caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided.
Rest, fluids and fresh food are the best ways to support yourself through illness. Then add in appropriate supplements, a comedy film or uplifting podcast to reduce stress and increase the release of feel-good endorphins, and of course necessary hygiene practices.
Want more ways to support your immune system? Make sure you read our other blogs, including: