Sick Food: Eat Your Illness Away


Down a Sports Drink

Not only will guzzling Gatorade help your body recover from a tough workout, but it may also protect you from the latest strain of the flu. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition, when 10 triathletes drank more than 1 cup of sports drink every 15 minutes during intense exercise, they had significantly better immune response than they did when they drank a placebo. (But if you're going to exercise, here are nine ways to avoid germs at the gym.)

Wine, then Dine

Drinking wine with your meal, in addition to being good for your heart, may help ward off food poisoning before it happens. Scientists at Oregon State University recently found that wine can put the kibosh on three common food pathogens: E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. In lab studies, the wine's combination of ethanol, organic acids, and low pH appeared to scramble the bugs' genetic material. All wines have some effect, say researchers, but reds are the most potent.

Feel the Burn

Several animal and laboratory studies have shown that capsaicin—the compound that gives chili peppers their fire—can help stop sickness before it starts. Mice in one study were given a daily dose of capsaicin and had nearly three times more antibody-producing cells after three weeks than those given no capsaicin. More antibodies mean fewer colds and infections.

Results of other studies suggest that eating food containing hot components such as capsaicin may improve immune status, says Rina Yu, Ph.D., of the University of Ulsan in South Korea, the lead researcher. The point is, it can't hurt. At the very least, a dash or two of hot sauce might help flush out some toxins.


Change Your Numbers Game

Losing a little extra baggage will not only reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but also will help shape up your immune system. Researchers at Tufts University asked a group of slightly overweight people to cut 100 to 200 calories from their daily food intake.

The result, in addition to weight loss and a drop in cholesterol counts? Participants boosted their immune system response to disease-causing microorganisms. Researchers aren't exactly sure why, but speculate that the benefit comes from a combination of effects. One thing is certain: Cutting 200 calories out of your daily diet is easy. At your next restaurant meal, ditch the baked potato with sour cream and order steamed vegetables instead.

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