Cold and flu season ramps up in February and I want staying healthy to be at the top of your list! So here are my top tips for using food and supplements to stay strong, avoid colds and flus, and enjoy a productive start to 2017. With a little planning we can all arm ourselves to make the rest of this winter healthy and happy.
Immune Boosting Eats
- Garlic: Raw garlic is a powerful antimicrobial and antiviral agent. If you’re cooking with garlic, first smash or chop the clove and then let it sit for 10 minutes before you cook with it. Studies have shown that this process maximizes allicin, the health promoting compound in garlic. If you’re happy to go raw, you can even eat a garlic clove per day for prevention — slice it up and put it on apple slices!
- Ginger/lemon tea: Ginger and lemon can both keep viruses at bay. (Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, then add 2 inches of peeled fresh ginger, sliced. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add lemon, and optionally, raw honey. If you get sick, drink this tea every 2-3 hours to reduce the severity and length of your cold.)
- Turmeric: Turmeric, along with its active ingredient, curcumin, is a powerhouse antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Cook with turmeric and try turmeric milk at night. Seriously! (One cup of unsweetened almond or hemp milk, whisk in 1-2 tsp turmeric, a dash of cayenne, a dash of ginger, and 1-2 tsp raw honey. Bring to a boil, and simmer until well combined. Enjoy and turn in for the night!) If you’re not a fan, then you can take a curcumin supplement too.
- Chicken broth or bone broth: Chock full of vitamins, minerals and the building blocks of collagen — you’ll be helping your immune system and your gut lining too! Check out this blog post for recipes!
- Probiotic or Fermented foods: Since 2/3 of your immune system resides in your gut, this is an important front line of defense! Fermented foods fortify your gut with health boosting bacteria to make you more resilient and to keep viral and bacterial foes at bay. I add a tablespoon a day of raw sauerkraut to my meal. That single tablespoon contains a multitude of probiotics to build gut health. Try other unpasteurized fermented foods like kimchi, miso, kombucha or organic greek yoghurt or kefir.
- Make sure you eat protein with each meal: The immune system requires amino acids from protein sources to mount immune attacks on invading organisms.
- Veggies, veggies, and more veggies: Eat multiple servings of dark greens per day. OR drink a green juice or add a high quality greens powder into your morning shake. Add in cruciferous veggies and other colorful veggies and fruits to get a full array of immune building nutrients.
- Keep your sugar intake to a minimum! A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that white blood cell activity was reduced by 50% for 5 hours after ingestion of 100 grams of sugar.
Supplement wisely! Here are a few protective supplements I recommend to stay in fighting shape for the winter.
- Vitamin D3: Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the rate of upper respiratory infections. It’s best to get your vitamin D levels checked for accurate dosing, but for many of us Vitamin D can be taken at a dose of 1,000IU/day safely and effectively. I like Vitamin D Synergy. Make sure you periodically get your levels checked. Or, take two tablespoons of cod liver oil per day for vitamins D and A. It’s an old fashioned remedy that really works!
- Probiotic supplements: While we are continually learning about the bacteria in our gut and how they affect our health, we know that a diversity of good gut bacteria helps immunity. Certain strains have been shown to increase natural killer cell activity, white blood cell activity and antibody responses. For a good daily preventative probiotic, look for a brand with a solid delivery mechanism like Probiotic Synergy, which you can take for one month.
- Natural anti-viral/anti-bacterial Immune Boosters: There are many herbs that have potent immune boosting effects. These include astragalus, echinacea, green tea extract, elderberry, monolaurin, mushrooms, and beta 1, 3 glucan. I give my family and friends a broad-spectrum immune booster called Immunitone Plus as a preventative every winter. It works wonders!!!
- Multivitamin/Mineral: Taking a multivitamin ensures that there aren’t any nutritional gaps, and that your body has all it needs to stay in fighting shape. Twice Daily Multi by Designs for Health is a great everyday potent multi vitamin.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C’s role in supporting the immune system has long been known. Vitamin C deficiencies are known to cause immune system suppression and an increased risk of infections. I take Stellar Vitamin C religiously throughout the winter — about 500 – 1000 mg once or twice a day with meals.
Your Body Will Thank You…
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially warmer fluids: Consuming adequate fluids supports all of your body’s functions including the immune system. Make a soup or broth (see recipe) and have it throughout the week. Begin the day with lemon and ginger tea. Add a drop of echinacea or elderberry for an additional immune boost. Keep a bottle of filtered water with you at all times. Avoid concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages, as the sugar content is harmful for the immune system.
- Get sufficient ZZZ’s! We all know sleep restores and heals the body. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible! Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
- Enjoy regular exercise: Mild to moderate exercise (for approximately 30-45 minutes) at least 3 days a week helps boost the immune system. You should feel energized from your workout and ready to do it again — not depleted or tired as too much exertion can lower your immune defenses.
- Sweat It Out: Get yourself into a sauna as often as you can. Raising your body’s core temperature helps to kill off any potential pathogens.
It is critical to support your immune system through natural means to help prevent getting sick. For more on how to stay healthy this flu season, feel free to schedule a consultation at 310-650-2825.