It’s that time of year again. The long winter months and getting sick seem to go hand-in-hand every year.
Here are some of my favorite immune boosting foods, supplements and tips to help keep you healthy all year long.
Prebiotics & Probiotics:
Research has shown that our gut health is directly linked to our mood and overall health and digestion. With approximately 70% of our immune system lying in our digestive tract, regular consumption of both prebiotics (non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for our good gut bacteria) and probiotics (live bacteria and yeasts that are good for overall health, and our digestive tract) whether through food or supplementation is an important part in keeping our immune system strong. Who doesn’t want to reduce the likelihood of getting bacterial infections such as strep throat, ear infections, or cold and flu symptoms. Along with having a healthier immune system you will reap many other benefits such as healthier cholesterol levels, improved digestion, lower inflammation and autoimmune reactions, hormonal balance and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Both prebiotics and probiotics can be found in many food sources. Some prebiotic-rich foods to consume regularly are chicory root, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus as well as pulses. When choosing prebiotic foods to add to your diet I like to recommend choosing raw as often as possible as cooking these vegetables can affect their fibre content. However, when it comes to pulses always make sure they’re thoroughly cooked. If using pulses from a can I recommend purchasing BPA free cans and making sure the pulses are rinsed and drained prior to serving. Probiotics on the other hand come from our fermented foods such as pickles, kefir, live-cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, tempeh, kombucha tea (a fermented drink) and kimchi (a spicy fermented cabbage). When choosing yogurt I personally like homemade (which can easily be done in your crockpot) or if you’re at the grocery store you want to look at the labels so as to find one that lists only skim milk and live/active bacterial cultures. Many yogurts out on the shelves are full of unnecessary starches and fillers that can easily be avoided by reading the labels.
Along with getting pre and probiotics through food sources supplementation can be very beneficial especially for those suffering from Crohn’s, Colitis or IBS. With all the supplements available I recommend a human strain formula looking specifically for a minimum of a 6 billion multi-strain probiotic with BIO-tract delivery to ensure the probiotics are being delivered to their optimal location in the gut.
Most of us are naturally deficient in vitamin D, especially here in our northern latitude where getting enough sun can be hard. Keeping our vitamin D levels high isn’t simply to help us fight the winter blues, and help our bodies absorb calcium, it also aids in increasing our immune system. Our immune systems naturally have vitamin D receptors so it’s likely that if you are deficient in vitamin D your immune system could also be suffering. I personally tak a minimum of 1000IU-2000IU/day, while others who may be deficient could be taking up to 5000IU/day or more. It’s always best to get blood tests done regularly and ask your family doctor how much to take.
Garlic is immune boosting and helps maintain cardiovascular health. When taken while we’re ill, it helps to open clogged sinuses and ward of the common cold. Add garlic to your soups, stews, stir-fry’s and also consume a soft gel supplement. Look for 1000mg in the odorless variety so as not to ward off your friends. 😉
Like garlic, mushrooms are known to help fight off infections. Again add mushrooms anywhere just like garlic. Great in sauces, soups, and stews. Kids don’t like mushrooms? Add chaga mushroom powder to almost anything and reap all the wonderful health benefits of mushrooms without actually having to “see” them!
I love making ginger tea; it’s super easy and super healthy. Literally just simmer fresh sliced ginger in a small pot for a natural pain and fever reducer. Ginger is also a mild sedative so you’ll rest easier allowing your body to heal itself.
Lemon Chicken Rice Soup:
Good old soup. Not canned though, from scratch…yes, grandma was right; homemade is always better. Homemade broth is important because it provides numerous cold and flu fighting vitamins and minerals. A hot cup of lemon chicken rice soup helps decrease mucus buildup and L-cysteine (an amino acid released from the chicken during cooking) helping to keep arteries and airways open. It also activates many important functions of the immune system.
An antioxidant well known for years to fight off colds. Vitamin C is found in all citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, red bell peppers, papaya and brussel sprouts.
Have a sore throat? Just suck on a zinc lozenge and you’ll soon feel better. Zinc can be found in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains and dairy products. It’s known to ease cold symptoms, speed up recovery and may help stop the virus from spreading.
Pure Oregano Oil:
Natural and safe to use, a couple drops a day underneath your tongue may be a solution to many health issues including the common cold. Oregano oil is known for its powerful antiseptic, antiviral and antifungal properties. Make sure when you head to your local health food store you get a brand of oregano oil that does not contain alcohol but contains a high level of carvacrol which is the antifungal compound found in oregano. Tip: The taste of oregano oil is very powerful, so I don’t recommend giving it to your children. Instead, just rub a few drops on the bottom of their feet and put their socks back on each night. Doing this will reduce their symptoms and the cold will go away a lot faster!
Known for giving you an energy boost, rich in antioxidants and aiding the respiratory system, bee pollen has been a superfood for years. Most importantly, it’s known to help aid in digestion and its antiviral properties make it quite the immunity booster! Add bee pollen onto yogurt with fruit and honey and get that quick pick me up between meals to help you maintain energy through the day while fighting off viruses.
Unpasteurized honey has amazing nutritional benefits and is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. Sore throat with a nagging lingering cough? Try mixing 1 tbsp of honey with 1/4 tsp of cinnamon twice a day for three days. Cinnamon, like honey, is antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal. Try this mix next time you’re feeling a cold coming on and you’ll feel better sooner than expected.
Along with the above foods and supplements, managing stress is another major piece to this immunity puzzle. People who tend to live high stress lives usually suffer from exhaustion due to the lack of sleep and tend to eat poorly thus depleting their healthy gut flora. The solution is taking it one day at a time. Drinking plenty of water, balancing your diet as much as possible with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, including regular movement and rest is key to overall health and increased immunity.
With lots of immune building love,