Foods to Boost the Immune System
Dear Dr. Mahler:
I want to know what I can do to prevent chest infections this coming winter. Each winter season I seem to get 1 or 2 flare-ups of my COPD which are due to bronchitis. Each time I am treated with an antibiotic and prednisone, and it can take up to a month for me to recover completely. I have had COPD for about 8 years, and take Symbicort inhaler in morning and evening along with ProAir for breathing problems. I get a flu shot every fall and have received both pneumonia shots. I am willing to try new things. Many thanks.
Ralph from Morris, IL
Your question is important for everyone who has COPD. Avoiding chest infections is “key” for feeling well and keeping active throughout the winter months. Some people who have a flare-up (called an exacerbation) find that recovery from an episode may take weeks to months, and that prednisone may need to prescribed for longer than the usual 5 – 10 days.
You didn’t mention whether you smoke or not. Remember, cigarette smoking and inhaling irritants in air damage the lining of the breathing tubes (airways) that make it easier for viruses and bacteria to infect the chest. So, it is important that you do not smoke and avoid inhaling smoke, dust, fumes, etc.
Here are some foods to consider which can boost the immune system:
- Button mushrooms – contain selenium, riboflavin, and niacin
- Blueberries, elderberries, and acai berries – have antioxidants
- Oysters – contain zinc
- Watermelon – has glutathione, an antioxidant
- Low fat yogurt – contains probiotics, or good bacteria, which may ease the severity of colds.
Spinach – has folate and vitamin C
- Tea – contain polyphenols and flavonoids
- Sweet potato – contains beta carotene
- Broccoli – has vitamins A and C as well as glutathione
- Garlic – contains allicin, a sulfur compound responsible for health benefits
- Miso – has probiotics
- Chicken soup – contains carnosine
- Pomegranate juice – contains punicalagins, an antioxidant, and folate
- Ginger – has antioxidants
I encourage you to try 1 or 2 of these different choices every day in order to boost your immune system. Also, stay active and avoid touching your face with your hands.
Donald A. Mahler, M.D.