Bronchitis and chest pain

What to do for bronchitis

Although this upper respiratory infection may last longer than the common cold, it usually doesn’t warrant antibiotics or medical treatment.

Image: decade3d/iStock

Published: January, 2017

We all know the common cold very well; the average adult has several every year. “Chest colds,” or bronchitis episodes, are much less frequent, affecting only 5% of adults per year. Perhaps because bronchitis is accompanied by a persistent, nagging cough, we tend to think of it as a more serious illness. It is the fifth most common reason people see their primary care provider.

What is bronchitis?

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi—the tubes leading from the trachea, or windpipe, to the lungs. Bronchitis often begins as an infection in your nose, sinuses, ears, or throat, and moves into the bronchi.

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7 Home Remedies for Bronchitis

It’s possible to treat acute bronchitis at home using natural remedies. Many of these methods may provide additional health benefits as well.

1. Ginger

Some researchers have found evidence that ginger can have an anti-inflammatory effect against respiratory infection. You can take ginger in several ways:

  • Chew dried, crystallized ginger.
  • Use fresh ginger to make tea.
  • Eat it raw or add it to food.
  • Take it in capsule form as directed.

It’s safest to use ginger in a natural form, rather than in capsules or supplements. You may be sensitive to ginger, so take it in small amounts if you’re not used to it. Eating occasional ginger is safe for everyone, but do not take ginger as a supplement or medication if you:

  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have diabetes
  • have heart problems
  • have any type of blood disorder

Learn more: What are the benefits and side effects of ginger water? “

2. Garlic

Garlic is said to have countless healing properties. Results of a 2016 study show that garlic effectively inhibited the growth of infectious bronchitis virus. This finding suggests garlic can be used as a natural remedy for bronchitis.

Fresh garlic is best, but if you dislike the taste you may take garlic in capsule form.

Use garlic with caution if you have a bleeding disorder. Always take it in small amounts to make sure it doesn’t upset your stomach.

Learn more: Foods with healing power: The benefits of garlic “

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice often used in East Indian foods. A 2011 study found turmeric provided more anti-inflammatory effects than ginger. Turmeric also increases antioxidant activity. That means it may help reduce irritation and boost your immunity.

To take turmeric:

  • Add fresh turmeric to salads or use it to make pickles.
  • Mix 1/2 teaspoon of powdered turmeric with 1 teaspoon of honey to make a paste. Consume the paste 1 to 3 times per day while symptoms last.
  • Take turmeric in capsule form as directed.
  • Use powdered or fresh turmeric to make tea.

Using turmeric as a spice in food is usually safe unless you are sensitive. Do not use turmeric as a medication if you have:

  • stomach issues
  • gallbladder issues
  • bleeding or blood disorders
  • hormone-sensitive conditions
  • iron deficiency

If you’re pregnant or nursing, don’t take turmeric in large amounts.

Learn more: 7 ways turmeric tea benefits your health “

4. Steam

Steam helps break up mucus so you can expel it more easily. The easiest way to use steam is in the bath or shower. Make your shower as hot as you can handle, step in, then breathe deeply through your mouth and nose.

The hot water will also help relax muscles that may be tense from coughing. You can also visit a steam room at a gym or spa, if one’s available and you have enough energy. It’s best not to soak in a hot bath if you feel ill or short of breath.

Another steam option involves putting hot water in a bowl, covering your head with a towel, and inhaling the steam. Some people add a mentholated vapor rub to the hot water to help with moving mucus. The bowl-and-towel method can be dangerous, though, because the water could be hotter than you intended, which could cause the steam to burn your airways. Do not stay over the hot water for more than a minute or two at a time, and don’t continue to heat the water.

5. Salt water

Gargling salt water may help break up mucus and reduce pain in your throat. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water. Sip small amounts of the salt water and gargle at the back of your throat. Do not swallow the water. Instead, spit it out in the sink. Repeat as often as you like. Afterwards, you may want to rinse your mouth with plain water.

6. Sleep

Get plenty of sleep and allow your body to rest. It may be difficult to sleep soundly while fighting a cough, but take care to avoid any unnecessary activity. It is during the deep stages of sleep that you repair and enhance immune function so your body can better fight the inflammation.

7. Lifestyle changes

A healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with the prevention of illnesses. It can help you recover faster when you’re sick, too. A minor illness may even be your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take it easy.

The following changes may help improve your recovery and reduce your risk of getting sick in the future:

  • Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke environments.
  • Avoid polluted environments.
  • Wear a surgical mask if you’re exposed to pollution.
  • Boost your immunity with a healthy diet.
  • Exercise at least 3 times per week for a minimum of 20 minutes each time.
  • Wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Use a humidifier and clean it regularly following the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Signs & Symptoms of Bronchitis, Bronchitis Treatment

Bronchitis Signs and Symptoms

The first sign of bronchitis is usually a persistent dry cough (associated with an upper respiratory infection). Eventually, coughing brings up sputum from the lungs that may be thin, clear, and white. As infection progresses, the sputum becomes thick and yellow, green, or brown. A thick, pus-filled discharge suggests a bacterial infection.

Other symptoms include the following:

  • Burning pain, wheezing, and crackling in the chest
  • Painful and difficult breathing
  • Malaise (generally feeling unwell)
  • Low-grade fever (101ºF–102ºF)

Insomnia can develop with persistent nighttime coughing. Symptoms usually last 3 to 7 days; a dry cough commonly persists several weeks after the infection resolves.

Complications of Bronchitis

Left untreated, acute bronchitis can occasionally progress to pneumonia and chronic bronchitis, particularly in people with suppressed immune systems or lung disease. Chronic bronchitis is associated with long-term constriction of airways, bacterial infection, and other diseases, including asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Bronchitis Diagnosis

Diagnosis is made by the health care provider taking a careful history of symptoms and performing a physical examination. A stethoscope is used to listen to the lungs. If symptoms are prolonged or severe, a chest x-ray may be performed to check for a more serious condition.

Treatment for Bronchitis

Viral bronchitis usually resolves without treatment. Increasing fluid intake helps reduce congestion and is necessary when fever is present. Rest is also helpful, and fever and back and muscle pain may be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Over-the-counter cough suppressants and expectorants and steamy showers can temporarily relieve symptoms by thinning mucus and opening airways, allowing for easier expulsion of mucus.

Bacterial bronchitis is treated with antibiotics, such as tetracycline, erythromycin, and amoxicillin (in children), depending on the causative bacteria. Side effects of these medications are usually mild and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Gemiflaoxacin mesylate (FACTIVE) has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat drug-resistant bacterial bronchitis. This antibiotic medication, which is taken orally in tablet form, is administered once daily for 5 days. Side effects include diarrhea, rash, and nausea.

Rest is beneficial until exertion is easier. Afterwards, moderate cardiorespiratory exercise may help the lungs regain normal function and expel mucus.

Prevention of Bronchitis

Good hygiene can reduce the spread of viral infection. Immunizations against influenza and pertussis can reduce the risk for bacterial bronchitis. Avoiding smoking cigarettes, second-hand smoke, and heavy fumes can hasten recovery, because the lungs’ task of filtering pollutants is made easier.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Jun 2002

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015

I felt this burning mass in my chest

MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE:After a series of lung tests, the diagnosis was mild asthma, writes CLARE DOWLING

IT CAME OUT OF the blue in 2008 when I was 40, following a viral chest infection I picked up from my son. It did not start off as typical asthma; I had no real shortness of breath, no phlegmy cough. My symptoms were a chronic “burn” in my chest and chronic tiredness. I had repeated bouts of bronchitis.

To have something so suddenly and inexplicably happen to me was a real shock. I was on a deadline for a book, which I missed wildly. I was tested for a series of lung issues over six months and it was a bit of a surprise to be finally diagnosed with “mild asthma”. It didn’t feel anything like “mild asthma”.

I was prescribed the usual inhalers and a leukotriene inhibitor. While it stopped the bronchitis attacks, I was still having symptoms 24 hours a day. I would be flat out on the couch, completely aware of my lungs – you would not give normal lungs a thought, but I was so aware of this burning mass in my chest.

My doctor was very patient and I had a further full investigation. The regular asthmatic medicines did not seem to have any significant impact apart from keeping the bronchitis away. At that point, I knew I had to investigate something else. The internet is a blessing and a curse, as it sent me down all sorts of roads.

The Buteyko method, which is about controlling your breath and has worked wonders for some asthmatics, was one of the first things I tried. It is hard work, and I stuck at it for six months, but it did not do anything for me.

Then I tried acupuncture and herbs for three or four months and those did nothing for me either. I was really impatient to feel better and that is always a danger when you are approaching alternative medicine. It takes far longer than conventional medicine and I was in a big, big hurry.

I moved on to the raw food diet and six weeks was as long as I could stick it. I was eating so much food – anything raw and uncooked, essentially vegetables, seeds and nuts – but I was never full.

I was completely miserable. Everybody else would be tucking into bowls of spaghetti Bolognese and I would be there with cold puréed pea soup.

I was reading asthma blogs but felt my experience was different to others. I believed my problem lay in an immune imbalance, which I suppose is at the root of asthma.

A lot of asthmatics talked about the water diet, which I did for a number of weeks. It was eight glasses a day, each one taken with a quarter of a teaspoon of salt to help retain the water. The biggest change was the number of times I got up to go to the toilet! It did nothing for my asthma.

Then I tried a supplements regime. I went on a high dose of vitamin D, and within a week the edge had been taken off my asthma, but I was nowhere near curing it.

I also started taking fish oil. At least there is scientific research behind fish oil and vitamin D and that is important when you are desperate.

I also tried turmeric, grape-seed extract, magnesium and others. At one point I was spending €100 a week on quality supplements.

Even though I have been a vegetarian for 20 years, I had a brief flirtation with the Paleo diet, because it was recommended by an asthmatic who seemed to have symptoms like mine. It is a hunter-gatherer diet based on meat, fish, fruit, berries and nuts, and I made just over a week with that.

My lowest point was when I strongly considered buying bovine colostrum off the internet. The first milk from cows after they have calved is supposed to have immunomodulatory benefits (that is, positive effects on the immune system).

During all this I noticed that whenever I went away from Ireland, my asthma would clear. This apparently is quite common. I was seriously considering moving abroad, but I knew that after a while I would become sensitive to new allergens and have to move again.

My significant improvement in health came about by sheer fluke. I got an adult acne condition and I went to the GP who prescribed antibiotics. Over a week, my asthma suddenly got significantly better and I pinned it down to the antibiotics, which have an anti-inflammatory effect.

My pulmonologist was open to trying something new and last September he agreed to give it a go. I have cut down my antibiotic use to a very low dose and am still very well. I am also on conventional asthma medications and I suppose it is the combination.

I would describe my condition now as “mild asthma”, which was my original diagnosis. I have recently done a 10k run, which I could never have dreamt of six months ago, and I am doing Irish dancing once a week. I am a transformed person.

In conversation with Sheila Wayman


Asthma is most commonly a childhood condition, but when diagnosed for the first time in people aged over 20, it is called adult-onset asthma. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, cough and wheezing.

It is not known what causes asthma, but women are more likely than men to develop it, possibly due to hormonal changes. Obesity is also believed to be a risk factor.

At least 30 per cent of adult asthma cases are triggered by allergies and many adults first experience asthma after a bad cold or flu. The two main types of medication used to control asthma are bronchodilators and anti-inflammatories.

Medical History

Your doctor may ask whether you have had:

  • A recent respiratory infection or flu-like illness
  • A recent heart attack or injury to your chest
  • Any other medical conditions

If you have chest pain, your doctor will ask you to describe how it feels, where it’s located and whether it’s worse when you lie down, breathe or cough.

Physical Exam

When the pericardium is inflamed, the fluid between the sac’s two layers of tissue increases, so your doctor will look for signs of excess fluid in your chest. A common sign is the pericardial rub, the sound of the pericardium rubbing against the outer layer of your heart. Your doctor will listen for this by placing a stethoscope on your chest.

Your doctor may hear other chest sounds that are signs of fluid in the pericardium (pericardial effusion) or the lungs (pleural effusion). Both are more severe problems related to pericarditis.

Diagnostic Tests

Your doctor may recommend tests to diagnose your condition and its severity. The most common tests are:

  • EKG (electrocardiogram). This detects and records your heart’s electrical activity, with certain EKG results suggesting pericarditis.
  • Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray takes pictures of the inside of the chest, including your heart, lungs and blood vessels. The pictures can show whether you have an enlarged heart, which can be a sign of excess fluid in your pericardium.
  • Echocardiography (PDF). This test uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart, showing its size and shape and how well it’s working. It can show whether fluid has built up in the pericardium.
  • Cardiac CT (computed tomography). This X-ray that takes a clear, detailed picture of your heart and pericardium and helps to rule out other causes of chest pain.
  • Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). A cardiac MRI uses magnets and radio waves to form detailed pictures of your organs and tissues. It can show changes in the pericardium.
    Your doctor also may recommend blood tests to find out whether you’ve had a heart attack, the cause of your pericarditis, and the extent of inflammation in your pericardium.

Also in this section:

  • What is pericarditis?
  • Prevention and Treatment of Pericarditis

Learn more:

  • View an animation of angina


Bronchitis means an inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the bronchi and bronchial tube. It is a breathing disorder affecting the expiratory function. In most cases , some infection also occurs in the nose and throat.

The bronchi are narrow tubes leading from the windpipe( or trachea) connecting the upper respiratory tract, nose, throat and sinuses, to the lungs. It is usually the spread of an infection downwards from the nose and throat to the bronchi, that causes bronchitis.

Bronchitis is the most common disease of childhood next to indigestion and diarrhoea. It is especially prevalent in children who are just starting to mix with other children at playgroup or nursery school. They have no in-built immunity till then to all the infections they are likely to contact for the first time. And, so, coughs, colds and bronchitis can occur with monotonous regularity in his age group, particularly in allergic children.


Bronchitis may be acurte or chornic. In chronic cases, the disease is of long duration. It is more serious than the acute type, as permanent changes may have occured in the lungs thereby interfering with their normal movements.

In most cases of bronchitis , the larynx, trachea and bronchial tubes are acutely inflammed. The tissues are swollen due to irritation. Large quantity of mucous is secreted and pourted into the windpipe to protect the inflammed mucous membranes. There is usually a high fever, some difficulty in breathing and a deep chest cough. Other symptoms are hoarseness and pain in the chest. The breathing trouble continues till the inflammation subsides and mucous is removed.


The chief causes of bronchitis in children is run-down condition of the system due to wrong feeding habits. The consumption of excessive quantities of starchy foods in their daily diet in the form of refined cereals, white bread, puddings, pies and cakes as well as sugary foods in the form of white sugar, jams and sweets, in particular, leads to weakening of the child’s system. The impurities which arise in the system as a result of the daily excessive ingestion of foods of this nature invariably affects the mucous membranes of the upper part of the body, especially in the bronchial tubes, throat, nose and air passages. This gives rise to bronchitis and other diseases of lungs and throat.


The child-patient should be kept in a room with warm and even temperature. He should not be given any solid foods till the acute symptoms are present. He may be given plenty of fruit juices. Orange juice diluted with water will be especially beneficial. In case of constipation, the child-patient should be given warm- water enema to cleanse the bowels. If he shows reluctance, a glycerine suppository may be applied. Often this simple treatment is all that is needed for a mild attack. Steam inhalations will be valuable, if the wheezing is pronounced and particularly troublesome. A kettle of boiling water kept in the room for a while can moisten the atmosphere sufficiently to give relief.

After the acute symptoms are over, the child may be given milk, other liquid foods and fresh fruits for further one or two days and thereafter he may be allowed to gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet, according to his age. He should avoid meats, sugar, tea, coffee, condiments, pickles, refined and processed foods. He should also avoid soft drinks , candies, ice-cream and all products made from sugar and white flour.

Certain home remedies have been found useful in the treatment of bronchitis. One of the most effective of these is the use of the turmeric powder. A quarter teaspoon of this powder should be administered with 30 ml. of milk two or three times daily. It acts best when taken on an empty stomach.

Another effective remedy for bronchitis is the mixture of dried ginger powder, pepper and long pepper taken in equal quantities of a quarter teaspoon three times a day with honey. The powder of these three ingredients have anti-pyretic qualities and are effective in dealing with fever accompanied with bronchitis. They also tone up the metabolism of the patient.

Onion has been used as a food remedy for centuries in bronchitis. It is said to possess expectorant properties. It liquifies phelgm and prevents its further formation. The intake of half a teaspoon of raw onion juice first thing in the morning will be beneficial in such cases.

A soup prepared from drumstick leaves is also highly beneficial in the treatment of bronchitis. This soup is prepared by adding a handful of leaves to 150 ml. of water which has been heated to a boiling point. The water is allowed to boil further for five minutes. It should then be removed from fire and allowed to cool. A little salt, pepper and lime juice may be added to this soup. This drink should be taken first thing every morning.

Hydrotherapy can be employed beneficially in the treatment of bronchitis. Hot towels wrung out and applied over the chest are helpful. After applying three hot towels in turn for two or three minutes each , one should always finish off with a cold towel. A wet pack or heating compress may also be applied to the upper chest several times daily in case of acute conditions. The procedure for this application has been explained in Appendix . In acute cases, full warm bath for 10 to 15 minutes will be beneficial. In irritable cough with expectoration, sipping very hot water, and gargling with hot water will be useful. In painful cough, hot fomentation should be applied to the chest and throat every two hours, followed by heating compressed. Copious drinknig of hot water will also be beneficial in both acute and chronic cases of bronchitis.

Food and Nutrition

Foods to be taken

  • Drink plenty of fluids, herbal teas, and soups.
  • Unsweetened lemon water is beneficial for the treatment of bronchitis
  • Strawberries are very good for bronchitis patients.
  • Increase the intake of fatty acids as it helps reduce the inflammation caused by bronchitis. Walnuts and cold water fish are rich in fatty acids.
  • Drinking lots of water will help the body flush out accumulated toxins.
  • Juicy fruits like grapes, oranges, apple, and strawberries
  • Berries, broccoli, spinach, and carrots are rich in antioxidants
  • Onions are an old folk remedy and have anti-inflammatory properties, so eat them often.
  • Add garlic or ginger for flavour and immune support.
  • To reduce phlegm, have some hot barley soup

Foods to be avoided

  • Should avoid meats, sugar, tea, coffee, condiments, pickles, refined and processed foods, soft drinks, candies, ice cream and products made from sugar and white flour
  • Carbohydrate rich food can cause flatulence, dyspepsia, and its intake should be restricted.
  • Bananas should be avoided as they stimulate mucus production.

Yoga and Exercise

  • Regular physical activity reduces the workload on your lungs by building your endurance. Try doing light exercises like walking, swimming that do not place excess strain on your muscles
  • Deep breathing exercises work to strengthen the lungs. For example, a breathing exercise called pursed lip breathing is thought to be very good for someone with bronchitis.

YOGA Bronchitis can be controlled by Yoga asanas when practiced from the initial stages

  • Half spine twist watch video
  • Sukhasana watch video
  • Pawana Muktasan

Home Remedies

  • Rest until the infection settles down
  • Do not smoke or expose yourself to smoke as smoking irritates the bronchial tubes and lowers their resistance
  • Wash your hands often to avoid spreading viruses and other infections
  • Use a humidifier
  • Drink plenty of fluids

lungs, pulmonary, cough, Bronchitis dos & donts, Bronchitis nutrition plan, foods to avoid for Bronchitis, Like Loading…

They say you are what you eat, so it makes sense that eating healthy foods can help you stay, er, healthy.

“You can’t underestimate the importance of good nutrition when it comes to…your immune system,” says Karen Ansel, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants — these are what keep your body strong, and without them you’re not giving your body the edge it needs to ward off infection.”

And we’re not talking just fruits and vegetables: Foods from every food group are represented here. Make them a part of your diet for your best defense against colds and flu.


Oily fish—including salmon, tuna, and mackerel — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, compounds that help reduce harmful inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation prevents your immune system from working properly, and can contribute to colds and flu as well as more serious diseases.

Omega 3s may fight colds on more than one front. In a placebo-controlled 2011 study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, medical students who took fish oil supplements for three months had lower inflammation levels and also fewer symptoms of anxiety — a condition that can itself weaken immune function.


Zinc, an essential mineral, has a strong track record of fighting the common cold. A comprehensive review of the research, published in a Canadian medical journal in 2012, concluded that taking zinc lozenges appears to shorten the duration of cold symptoms in adults.

Zinc supplements carry a risk of side effects such as nausea and headaches, however. A better bet, says Ansel, may be to get zinc straight from your diet. Oysters contain more of the nutrient per serving than any other food — but if you’re concerned about staying healthy, you might not want to eat them raw. “Uncooked shellfish could contain harmful bacteria that could make you sick in other ways,” Ansel says.


These pungent cloves do more than just flavor your food. Garlic also contains allicin, a sulfuric compound that produces potent antioxidants when it decomposes.

A 2001 study in the journal Advances in Therapy found that people who took garlic supplements for 12 weeks between November and February got fewer colds than those who took a placebo. And of those who did get sick, those who took the garlic supplement felt better faster.

Garlic packs the biggest antioxidant punch when eaten raw. Flavor too strong for you? Consider taking aged-garlic extract capsules.

Anise seeds

These licorice-flavored seeds, which have antibacterial properties, have been shown to ease coughing and help clear congestion from the upper respiratory tract.

Anise seeds can be eaten (in rolls and cookies, for instance), but for cold-fighting the delivery method of choice is usually tea. According to the American Pharmaceutical Association’s Practical Guide to Natural Medicines, a typical recipe is to add one cup of crushed anise seeds to one cup of hot water, and flavor with sugar, garlic, cinnamon, or honey (if desired). Sip this concoction up to three times a day.

Citrus fruits

Recent research suggests that vitamin C may not be as useful in preventing colds as once thought. However, studies do show that taking the vitamin at the first sign of illness may reduce a cold’s duration by about a day, which can feel like a lifetime when you’re suffering.

Eating lots of citrus — whether that entails digging in to orange and grapefruit slices, or using lemons and limes in recipes — will provide plenty of this powerhouse nutrient. Don’t worry about overdoing it, since it’s very hard to overdose on vitamin C. Anything your body doesn’t use is just washed right out of your system.


Like anise seeds, fennel is a natural expectorant, and can help clear chest congestion and soothe a persistent cough. The two foods have similar flavors, in fact, and in supermarkets fennel is sometimes referred to as anise, even though they’re different plants.

Fennel can be eaten raw or roasted, but you may get the best cold-fighting benefit from drinking a tea made from fennel seeds. Try Yogi Tea’s Throat Comfort, or make your own with 1.5 teaspoons of fennel seeds and one cup boiling water. Steep for 15 minutes, strain, and sweeten with honey to taste.

Yogurt and kefir

We usually think of bacteria as a bad thing, but some of these microorganisms are essential for good health. Eating probiotic foods, such as yogurt and kefir, is a good way to replenish beneficial strains of bacteria, which promote digestive health and help prevent stomach ailments. “There are over 10 trillion bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract, so you want to make sure the good ones outnumber the bad ones,” Ansel says.

The benefits of good bacteria may go beyond our gut. A 2011 review of the research found that consuming probiotics — whether in food or supplement form — lowers the risk of upper respiratory tract infections better than a placebo.


Everyone knows a steaming hot cup of tea can help break up chest congestion and soothe a sore throat, but the benefits may run deeper.

All tea — black, green, or white — contains a group of antioxidants known as catechins, which may have flu-fighting properties. In a 2011 Japanese study, people who took catechin capsules for five months had 75 percent lower odds of catching the flu than people taking a placebo.

Need another reason to turn on the kettle? Other research suggests catechins may help boost overall immunity, rev metabolism, and protect against cancer and heart disease.

Red peppers

Like citrus fruits, red peppers are high in vitamin C. In fact, one red pepper has 150 milligrams of the nutrient — that’s twice the recommended daily allowance for women. (A large orange, by comparison, only has about 100 milligrams.)

Even that may not be enough, however, as studies suggest you need much more than that to harness the nutrient’s cold-fighting benefits. “If you’re sick, you should be eating a lot of vitamin C throughout the day — 400 to 500 milligrams,” Ansel says.


Much of the vitamin D that our bodies need to build strong bones, defend against heart disease, and — you guessed it — bolster our immune system is produced when the sun’s rays interact with our skin cells. But this key vitamin is also found in fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereal.

Getting your daily dose of vitamin D may keep colds at bay. A 2009 study from Massachusetts General Hospital found that lower vitamin D levels were associated with a greater risk of upper respiratory infections. In 2012, the same researchers found that Vitamin D supplements can help ward off kids’ winter colds, as well.


When it comes to mushrooms, your choices are many: White button, Portobello, shiitake, and Maitake are just a few of the varieties you’ll find in your grocery store. Fortunately, just about all mushrooms contain some form of immune-boosting antioxidants, along with potassium, B vitamins, and fiber.

Shiitakes, for example, contain lentinan, a nutrient that is thought to have anticancer properties. Other varieties, such as certain brands of Portobello, are grown in ultraviolet light to spur vitamin D production.

Skinless turkey breast

Lean proteins, such as turkey breast with the skin removed, are high on Ansel’s list of flu fighters. “We think we need protein to build muscle, and we do — but actually, we need it to build antibodies and fight infection in the body, as well,” she says.

Chicken, turkey, and pork are all good sources of protein, but you can also get plenty from meatless sources such as beans, nuts, and dairy.

Leafy greens

The darker the greens, the higher the nutrient content. So when you’re shoring up your defenses for cold and flu season, choose arugula and kale over iceberg lettuce.

Bitter greens like arugula may even help relieve chest congestion, sniffles, and coughs. How? It’s not entirely clear, although a 2011 British study found that mice that were fed green vegetables had more infection-fighting white blood cells in their intestines than those who were not.


These antioxidant powerhouses are bite-sized immunity boosters, especially when they grow in the wild. In 2007, Cornell University scientists found that wild blueberries contained the most active antioxidants of any fresh fruit, thanks to their high levels of anthocyanins — one of the most potent antioxidants.

Dark chocolate

Ounce for ounce, pure cocoa contains more of the disease-fighting antioxidants known as polyphenols than most berries — and it’s loaded with zinc, to boot.

Too often, however, the nutritional benefits of cocoa are overshadowed by the sugar and saturated fat found in chocolate bars and other treats. To reap the immunity-boosting benefits without the unhealthy extras, stick with bite-sized portions — about one quarter-ounce per day — of dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher.

Brazil nuts

These rich, creamy nuts are high in protein, healthy fats, and selenium, a mineral that’s essential for proper immune function and may help guard against infections and flu. In a 2001 study, University of North Carolina researchers found that mice infected with the flu virus showed higher levels of inflammation if they were deficient in selenium.

Your body only needs a small amount of selenium, though, and getting too much may actually raise your risk for certain diseases. Just one nut contains more than a day’s recommended value, so eat these treats sparingly.

Carrots and sweet potatoes

Orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, are rich in beta-carotene. When we eat these foods, our bodies convert this organic compound into vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining a strong immune system.

Vitamin A is especially important for areas that go haywire when we catch a cold: It keeps the mucous membranes that line our nose and throat — one of the body’s first lines of defense — healthy and functioning properly.

Sunflower seeds

These crunchy snacks are among the best natural sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cell walls from damage; a single one-ounce serving contains 30% of your recommended daily intake. (For a healthier choice, be sure to choose dry-roasted seeds over those roasted in oil.)

Vitamin E may be especially important for the health of our lungs, where it appears to fight the harmful process known as oxidative stress. A 2003 study in Scotland found that people with diets high in vitamins C and E had greater lung capacity and produced less phlegm.


Whether you eat them in a bowl or a bar, oats contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan, known for its cholesterol-lowering and immune-boosting properties.

Animal studies have shown that beta-glucan from oats can help prevent upper respiratory tract infection, and a few controlled trials have suggested that beta-glucan consumption can alter white blood cell activity in humans, as well.

For more from

  • How to Stop a Cold in Its Tracks
  • 31 Superfood Secrets for Longevity
  • Healthy Chicken Soup Recipes

Foods to eat and avoid if you have bronchitis

Dr Nedra Downing, an alternative doctor from Clarkston in Michigan recommends the following:


Try to drink plenty of water as this will help to thin out mucous and offer some relief. Carry a water bottle around with you, while running errands or travelling to work or elsewhere, as a reminder to hydrate.

Avoid dairy products

If you find that dairy products (such as milk), make you produce more mucous, then try to avoid such products during this time that you are experiencing acute bronchitis. When you are feeling well again, you can resume your normal diet plan. Not all people may experience this, so it may or may not be applicable to you.

Spicy foods

It seems that spicy foods can help to “break up plugs of mucous in your bronchii so that you can cough them out”, says Dr Downing. Try, therefore, to increase your consumption of these foods when you experience the first signs of bronchitis. Examples of such foods include onions, hot peppers, garlic and horseradish.

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Refined sugar should be avoided as it tends to weaken the immune system. Remember that refined sugar can also be found in products such as cakes, biscuits, chocolates, sweets and other desserts or confectionary.

Always consult your doctor regarding what other foods should be avoided and ingested when suffering from acute bronchitis.

Source: Alternative Cures, Bill Gotlieb

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.

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