With all the media hype over the flu outbreak this year, it’s enough to send anyone in a panic running for the hills or else caving in and getting a flu shot. I don’t recommend doing either but a better way to deal with winter colds and the dreaded flu is to boost your immune system naturally. Ok, sounds good, you say, you probably hear it all the time, but how the heck do we do that?
I am a firm believer in healing your body with whole foods and healthy lifestyle practices and using the occasional homeopathic or herbal remedy to get you through the tough times. First of all, eating nutrient rich foods is a great way to keep healthy and boost your immune system naturally. More than 200 viruses can cause cold symptoms. That’s alot of bugs and healthy winter eating can boost your immune system to ward off illness. So I’ll start with food-here’s a few top immune boosters:
1). Eat Fish. Consume at least two servings a week of fatty seafood, such as sardines, salmon, herring, and mackerel. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish and in other foods such as walnuts and flax seeds are known to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body.
2) Zinc. This mineral which is abundant in meats like calf’s liver, beef and lamb, works with the protein found in meat to help to strengthen the immune system. Choose organic, free range meats. Vegetarian? You can get your zinc from whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals and tofu.
3). Plant Foods. Eat a variety of fruits and veggies at meals and for snacks to ensure that you get plenty of phytonutrients. These compounds help boost your immune system, strengthen your heart and blood vessels, and even fight some cancers. Most markets now offer a wonderful array of winter squashes, pumpkin, greens and root vegetables. You can always reach for frozen fruits and vegetables any time of year. Local fresh is best but frozen fruits and veggies are processed just after harvest, and may actually have more nutrients than produce that has spent days in transit. Apples and pears are good for the respiratory system and will relieve congestion, stuffy nose and cough. Cinnamon w/warm pear juice can also relieve the tightness and cough from a chest cold or allergies and it tastes good too!
4). Citrus. Indulge in leafy greens, bell peppers and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, all rich in vitamin C. This vitamin inactivates histamine, the substance responsible for your runny nose and congestion, and helps reduce the inflammation that accompanies colds and viruses.
5). Go Nuts. Reach for a handful of nuts or seeds for a snack. They are a rich source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant which fights respiratory infections, including colds. It boosts the responses of antibodies and certain immune system cells when we’re under stress – and who isn’t?
Which nuts and seeds are best? One quarter cup of sunflower seeds has almost all the vitamin E you need daily. One quarter cup of almonds provides 50% of your need. Brazil nuts pack a whopping dose of selenium, a mineral that works with vitamin E to boost wintertime defenses.
6). Spice it Up. Onions, garlic, mushrooms and ginger are from nature’s pharmacy containing anti-viral, anti-bacterial properties. In addition to fending off colds, they’re also helping defend you from cancer and heart disease – not a bad side activity at all.
If a cold does catch you and you get stuffy, a clove of raw garlic will also help clear your nose (cut it up like a pill and swallow pieces whole to avoid smelly breath).
7). Water water everywhere. In winter (as well as when we age), we tend to not “feel” thirsty so we don’t drink as much water as we do in the summer. Dehydration can lower your defenses. Drink 1/2 your body weight in oz/day and if you’re already sick, drink more. Also the body may mistake the feeling of thirst as mild hunger. Next time you think you “feel” hungry have a glass of water and wait a minute. You may just be thirsty. (Adapted from 7 Foods that Fight Back www.lifescript.com)
There are many more winter foods to keep you healthy in addition to several key wellness practices that I swear by that can ensure you stay healthy all winter long: simple self care tools, tricks and tips, home remedies and natural homeopathic remedies that stop any bug or virus dead in its tracks. For my complete guide to winter wellness go to: Winterize Your Body audio/e-book CD package.