As I sit here on this chilly winter day, I'm reminded (not that I could forget) what an important time it is for us all to focus on immune health. This cold and flu season seems to have hit everyone hard this year. Whether you are included in that or are crossing your fingers to avoid the plague that is sweeping friends/family/coworkers/just about everybody, it is of utmost importance to dispel some of the myths around what is good for immune support, and what is actually effective in getting and staying healthy all year round!
First of all, lets take a look at the major players in weakening our immune systems. Basically, our immunity can be compromised by varying sources of stress. Stress can manifest is physical, mental, and emotional ways. Emotionally and mentally, being in that consistent go-go-go or "fight or flight" mode is a stress on the body that can pump extra cortisol and stress hormones at an unhealthy rate, compromising our immune system and other systems, as well. Physically, stress can stem from too much refined sugar, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, and inflammatory foods in the diet (and/or eating foods we are sensitive to). While attitude and the mental aspect of stress management goes a huge way in keeping our immune systems strong, lets look at some of the things we can also do dietarily and preventatively, before running to the drug store to buy something to simply mask the symptoms!
- The best immune boosting foods include garlic (raw, if possible), ginger, and turmeric. All have strong antibacterial/antimicrobial/
antiviral affects. You can make a tea out of fresh ginger, use all three in a curry (turmeric can be freshly bought as the root or purchased dried), or sprinkle raw garlic over a salad or in a dressing. Lots of options here!
- Contrary to popular belief that downing tons of orange juice is the best remedy for vitamin C, stick to the following whole food sources, instead. Orange juice will also provide your body with a sugar spike that can actually work against you in trying to fight a cold. Foods highest in vitamin C include papayas, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, pineapple, brussel sprouts, kiwi, oranges, cantaloupe, and kale (in that order).
- Homemade bone broth! Or veggie if you're not a meat eater. See my previous newsletterfor more info on this and why it is so incredibly effective!
- I know we've all heard it but its not to be underestimated, plenty of sleep! Preventatively and even more-so if we are sick, sleep is of utmost importance.
- Lastly, here is a wellness tonic from my nutrition colleague, Mary Vance, that can be brewed at home. I've purchased the herbs in the bulk section of rainbow, but any health food or herb store that sells bulk herbs will work. Or, buy them online. Drink 1 cup in the morning and 1 at night, and sweeten with a touch of raw honey if desired.
Dried elderberries (high in vitamin C)
Dried yarrow root (effective for mucous and colds)
Dried or fresh peppermint (also effective for congestion and has many calming effects)
Place 1 tablespoon of each herb (or double/triple the recipe if you'd like more) and cook in a saucepan with about 3 cups of filtered water. Bring to a simmer, then cook on a very low heat for about 20-30 minutes. Strain herbs and drink!
References: whfoods.com, maryvancenc.com