Boost your Immune System & Kick that Cold to the Curb!
Does it feel like everyone around you is sick right now? You hear it everywhere, people hacking and sneezing, blowing their noses and you figure there is no way you aren’t going to catch something.
I’m not one to take medications, or off the shelf cold remedies, and not just because I’m a nutritionist and self proclaimed health nut, but because they often contain a number of ingredients that I was told by my doctor not to take because of my previous heart condition. So the more I read labels, and seen all the other chemicals, preservatives colorings and crap in products that proclaim to make me healthy the more I said “forget it!”.
Besides, all these products do is mask your symptoms to get you through the day or night. I want to share with you tips to improve and support your immune system so hopefully you won’t catch the flu or a cold in the first place!
Here are several ways to strengthen your immune system to not only better your chance of not getting sick in the first place but if you do happen to catch one of those nasty bugs a happy immune system can shorten the duration and intensity of the cold or flu.
Get plenty of these Immune Boosting Foods
Oh my… this could be a blog post on it’s own! Here are my top food choices that will help knock back the sickies this year.
Chicken soup. Yup, it’s true what our Mothers and Grandmothers always said. Chicken soup is a good source of fluids, calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. It is also a natural decongestant and may block cells that cause coughing and a stuffy nose.
Bone Broth. Drinking broth is a delicious and nutritious way to stay hydrated, and it also acts as a natural decongestant when hot…and bonus, it’s also supportive for our hormonal system!
Garlic. This superfood fights bacteria, viruses and stimulates the immune system. Garlic helps you avoid illness and recover faster when you get sick.
Ginger. Best known for it’s anti-nausea properties ginger also acts similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. So think of ginger next time you feel like you need an advil or tylenol! It’s also demonstrated to be an antioxidant, antimicrobial and have anti-cancer effects.
Spicy foods. Many people report that eating spicy foods that contain capsaicin causes a runny nose, breaking up mucus and clearing out the sinus passages.
Avocados. This super food is full of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that can decrease inflammation and stimulate the immune system.
Salmon. This fish is one of the best proteins to eat when you are feeling under the weather. As well as protein, salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which fight inflammation and boost immune function.
Load up on Immune Boosting Nutrients.
This includes vitamins C, Zinc and vitamin A & D, which is especially important during the cold, winter months.
Zinc is incredibly immune boosting, and ladies and gents, this mineral is vital for hormonal health! Zinc is found mostly in red meat, poultry, egg yolks, and shellfish. Some plants can also provide zinc such as beans and nuts.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that your body doesn’t store it. You have to get what you need from food or supplements. The best foods that are high in Vitamin C are the citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruit), broccoli, tomatoes, berries and leafy greens. There are studies that say when we are sick vitamin C is taken into our cells and used within 2 hours of ingesting. Ever wonder why you crave oranges when you’re sick?
Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, organ meats, cod live oil, mushrooms and egg yolks and from spending time in the sunshine…you’ll hear more about that next.
Get outside and breath fresh air
This time of year it’s so easy to stay inside and cozy up with a good book (which is important too) but we need to move our bodies and get a natural burst of the sunshine vitamin D. Our bodies naturally make vitamin D when we are outside in the sunshine.
Moving the body is imperative to support the immune system. Many cells of the immune system travel around the body via the bloodstream and the lymphatic system. Our blood of course is pumped by our incredible hearts but the lymphatic system is flushed and drained by the movement of our muscles. While I don’t recommend you “sweat it out” if you are full blown sick, moving the body gently (try yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong) is an important preventative measure. If you have a full blown cold or flu – then rest!
Support Your Gut
Your immune system lives in your gut so it only makes sense to load up on probiotics foods that introduce good bacteria into the gut. Foods highest in probiotics are fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut – my favorite!), yoghurt, miso (try this easy miso soup), kefir, kombucha, tempeh and kimchi.
Don’t forget you also need some prebiotics (plant fiber that nourishes the good bacteria already in the large bowel or colon). This is easy to get by eating bananas, artichokes, onions and garlic just to name a few.
Drink plenty of liquids
In addition to the ever so healthy bone broth it’s extremely important to stay hydrated, particularly if you have a fever, sweat a lot or have vomiting or diarrhea, which can cause you to lose a lot of water and electrolytes.
Coconut water. Besides being sweet and flavorful, it contains glucose and the electrolytes needed for re-hydration.
Hot Tea. Just like chicken soup, hot tea acts as a natural decongestant, helping clear the sinuses of mucus. Tea is high in tannins which in addition to acting as antioxidants, tannins also have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Raw Honey. Ok not a drinkable liquid but added to your tea makes it so. Raw and unpasteurized honey has potent anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects, likely because of its high content of anti-microbial compounds. Some evidence suggests that honey can also stimulate the immune system.
Here’s one of my favorite sick busting hot drinks – Lemon and Ginger Tea
From supporting liver health and fighting inflammation, this connection is the perfect blend! Ginger’s potent anti-viral properties prevents the adhesion of viruses to the upper respiratory mucosa. BUT…you do need take in A LOT!! And if you take it at the first sign of sickness, you can generally kick the cold to the curb rather quickly.
Juice (or grate on a fine setting) 1–2 pounds of ginger; place juice in a jar and refrigerate.
Place 4-8 tbsp of ginger juice in a mug with the juice of one-half lemon and a large tablespoon of raw honey.
Add 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 6 ounces of hot water.
Drink 2–6 cups of this a day, sipping slowly throughout the day.
Try some essential oils
Oil of oregano is my go to essential oil. It is anti-microbial and anti-viral which means it can fight off bacteria and other cold and flu viruses. My yoga instructor of over 20 years takes a few drops daily under her tongue and I have never seen her sick (could be she does yoga all day too!). Be forewarned though… oil of oregano can burn the tastebuds (& it tastes awful!) so make sure you hold your tongue up for as long as you can then chase with a big glass of water. You can also add to water or other drink but it is very strong so I find getting it down this way is the easiest.
Try some of these essential oils in your diffuser or in a hot bath to relieve congestion and help you relax.
Tea tree oil, eucalyptus essential oil and peppermint helps you fight the congestion and the resulting discomfort caused by the cold or the flu.
Pine essential oil helps to clear the nasal passages. It also can be helpful in relieving sore throat pain.
Lavender essential oil has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, and it is very relaxing.
Last, but perhaps the most important – Rest!
You’ve probably heard someone tell you when you’ve been sick “go work out…sweat it out!”… and maybe it works for those few folks in their early 20’s but for most of us we are already too busy and often getting sick is our body’s way to say “slow down and rest!” When you’re sick, nothing beats sleeping, slowing down, and relaxing. Your body needs the time to heal, so it’s vital that you clear your calendar and spend the time focusing on self care.