You can’t escape hearing about the Flu or Coronavirus right now. (My daughter lives in Beijing, China, so this is information I’ve sent to her as well.) But knowing that pathogens are always lurking and understanding what you can do to prevent infection is important to know. There are very effective means of fighting back naturally and building up your immune response. Obviously the following should be practiced:
- Frequently washing hands and nails with warm water and soap is important as is refraining from touching your face and eyes.
- It’s okay to NOT shake hands, instead, squeeze an elbow.
- Stay home if you don’t feel well and encourage others to do the same.
- Drinking a lot of water is beneficial in keeping you hydrated and flushing of toxins.
But did you know? Food significantly impacts the immune system’s response against pathogens. For starters, sugar and refined grains can actually depress the immune system for 4-6 hours (that’s with just 1 T sugar). So, eliminating foods made with refined flours and sugar can allow for better immune response. Also, dairy products are often mucus forming, which becomes a favorable environment for pathogen growth. Eew! You don’t want to make it comfy for them.
Thankfully, some foods have specific immune modulating effects and increasing their consumption during the times when your immune systems are bombarded can reduce your susceptibility and improve our risks of getting sick.
Some of these foods include, garlic, onion, ginger, and medicinal mushrooms. Incorporating them into meals is ideal. See a Chimichurri bowl here. But also focusing on foods high in vitamin C, zinc, selenium, antioxidants and probiotics are key to supporting the immune system. See this immune boosting tea.
Try to incorporate foods that contain specific Immune boosting nutrients:
- Vitamin C is important for immune, antioxidant, cellular function. Food sources: peppers, broccoli, berries, mangoes, rose hips, cranberries, cherries, citrus
- Zinc enhances the immune system and may reduce the intensity of cold symptoms as well as the duration of colds. Plant Food sources: lentils, peas, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raw cacao
- Selenium is important for many functions in body including the formation of the master antioxidant, glutathione, and proper thyroid hormone conversion, and immune system function. Plant food sources: Brazil nuts, mushrooms, mustard seed, chia, oats, goji berries, sesame seeds, lentils, carob
- Phytonutrients are so important for boosting immune system and the darker the color the higher the nutrient density available. “Eat the Rainbow” Food sources: sweet potato, red and yellow peppers, dark leafy greens, red cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, beets, squash, berries
- Probiotics found in gut influence the immune system, so making sure you have a good population is important. Acidophilus and bifido-bacterium make a big difference in immune response and recovery time – Food sources: kefir, active cultures yogurt, miso, tempeh, raw krauts and pickles, cultured vegetables and fruits.
There are also specific foods that have direct immune boosting and anti-pathogenic properties:
Shiitake mushrooms possess benefits ranging from anti-cancer to immunity-boosting and stress relief. Also in China and Japan, they are a long standing remedy for colds and flu. Shiitake mushrooms add a delicious meaty flavor to soups and dishes.
Garlic is a strong antimicrobial food and boosts the immune system. Garlic has a full spectrum effect as antibiotic, anti-virusal, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic. It’s important for colds AND flu. Garlic is most potent if chopped or crushed and allowed to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before eating. This significantly increases the amount of allicin it produces. Allicin is the component responsible for its powerful affects. Try it in hummus, pesto, garlic paste on toast or Juice it and add it to other juices, or make this Immune Vinegar.
Onions are natural sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has shown to suppress the rhinoviruses which are the underlying cause of the common cold. Add to vegetable sautes, salads, soups and roasted vegetables or heat on med low heat to caramelize and use as a topping for almost anything…so good.
- Onion honey cough syrup – Cut onion into slices, place in a jar, cover with raw honey and allow to sit overnight (8 hours), strain off onions and seal, jar keeping in fridge for a month. Onion and honey are active against microbes and pathogens commonly found in the throat or pharynx and often associated with sore throats or infections that cause cough.
Ginger is a spicy root that can promote digestion, quell nausea, lessen headaches, reduce pain, fight intestinal infections, and is particularly famous for treating cold and flu. Ginger can be stewed in boiling water to make ginger tea. Use 2 tablespoons ginger powder in bath to induce sweating and break a fever, while sipping ginger/mint tea.
Certain supplements may also help, look at adding a vitamin D3 and zinc for fighting infections and improving immune response. But remember whole foods provide many more nutritional cofactors and phytonutrients that help nutrients work optimally and improve the body’s assimilation of those nutrients. To ensure you get plenty of immune-boosting nutrients, eat fruits and vegetables, fresh or frozen. Eat vegetables raw or lightly steam them for best nutritional density. Avoid frying anything as this introduces harmful free radicals that increase your toxins and inflammation.
Herbs and spices are also helpful agents against the cold and flu. Try different herbal teas, but the following have historically been used in these circumstances:
- Fever: Ginger, mint or catnip teas
- Cough/sore throat: Throat coat tea*, single or blend of Chamomile/slippery elm/licorice/marshmallow root, lemon and honey tea, or thyme tea
- Flu: Echinacea/golden seal, green, garlic, or ginger tea
Green Tea is known to help prevent flu and the common cold. Catechins, the same compounds that are responsible for green tea’s weight loss promoting properties, have been shown to inhibit the activity of the common cold adenovirus as well as certain influenza viruses. To maximize the release of catechins, add a bit of lemon juice or other vitamin C rich juice to your tea
Golden milk has some powerful herbs and spices that are great immune modulators: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper in warm plant milk. See recipe HERE
Rose Hips are high in vitamin C, and great if used in teas, smoothies, cooked into pies and cobblers. Reconstitute dried hips with warm water.
Essential oils are another natural source for fighting pathogens. Many oils have pathogenic properties. Here are a few to consider: Eucalyptus oil, Thyme, Rosemary, and Wild Oregano.
You can help your body fight effectively against whatever-is-going-around by using foods, herbs and spices and essential oil that naturally have anti-pathogenic and immune boosting properties. I hope this information helps with your strategy to stay healthy this time of year.