If you are like the average American, you may be expecting a slew of colds or sickness this season. No one likes the stuffy noses, scratchy throats, fevers, or general aches and pains, so why not take some time-tested proven preventive measures?
10 Ways to Naturally Boost Immunity Through Cold and Flu Season
Food is medicine, or used to be considered so. Nowadays we are quick to turn to antibiotics after we get sick, but in many cases, we could prevent sickness, or naturally nourish ourselves through viral infections like colds and flus without needing prescription medication. Let’s build a wall of healthful immunity through the magic of your Paleo kitchen!
1. Stay Hydrated
The first tip is perhaps the most obvious, but also the quickest to go when we are feeling under the weather or getting overly busy. Drinking water and staying hydrated will keep your body running smoothly.
When you are properly hydrated, your digestion is more effective, your joints stay lubricated, and your body’s natural detoxifying and perspiring functions perform as they should to clean house and keep you free from infections and germs.
While purified water is a great way to hydrate, you can also drink herbal tea, fresh pressed juices, and other sources rich in electrolytes (like coconut water and kombucha) when you are riddled with the sniffles.
How much water and fluids you should be drinking depends on your daily routines, your environment, and other factors. Starting with the basic eight cups a day works, but most people, especially if they’re active, under the weather, or dealing with chronic conditions will need more than that.
Some experts suggest that half your bodyweight in ounces is closer to your baseline, but the most important thing is to pay attention to how you feel when hydrating and let your thirst signals help determine if you need more water. If you’re fighting an active infection, it’s a great idea to boost your liquid intake, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
2. Warm Lemon Water
Warm water slightly heats the gastrointestinal tract, and lemon is rich in minerals and vitamins. Together, this simple tonic can help to loosen toxins so that they can cruise through (and out of) your body with ease.
Juice one lemon into a glass of warm, not hot, water. Hot water will disable the vitamin content of the lemon, but warm water is just right to provide digestive benefits without neutralizing the nutrient content.
3. Herbal Tea
Polyphenol antioxidants can be found in many herbal teas. Researchers believe that flavonoids in tea encourage cell health and also lubricate the mucus membranes of the throat, easing discomfort and preventing mucus build-up. (1)
The expression “too hot to handle” comes into play when brewing your herbal tea though. Different teas call for different brew times but overall, wait for your tea to cool until you can handle with comfort by hand. Brewing tea too hot will denature the integrity of the tea leaves’ health benefits, cause bitterness, and can even cause damage to the esophagus.
Enjoy four to six cups of herbal tea on a daily basis. Antiviral and throat soothing combinations do not need to be saved until you are sick. Enjoy ginger, lemongrass, lemon balm, sage, lemon verbena, elder flower, elder berry, peppermint tea, and chamomile on their own or as blends to soothe and perk up your immune system and prime your body for a healthy winter season.
4. Bone Broth
Chicken soup is good for the sick soul, but bone broth takes the benefits to the next level. Bone broth is made by adding apple cider vinegar, vegetables, and high quality grass-fed animal bones to simmering water for several hours, about 24 for the good stuff. Chicken, beef, or even fish bones can be used individually or even combined for homemade broth.
Bone broth can help detoxify the body and cleanse the liver. It also contains glycine, which is helpful for mental clarity and can help you sleep. Keeping this sipper on your daily fluid intake rotation will help keep your gut healthy, and can also reduce inflammation and fight respiratory infections in the body.
When making this brew, additions like kombu and astragalus root can amp up the flu fighting benefits of your broth. (2)
5. Raw Garlic
You can take a garlic supplement, but the real deal is better! Raw garlic has flu-fighting components that are more bioavailable than processed versions like pills, powders, or other processed forms.
Raw garlic is so effective thanks to allicin, the active component that gives it is antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. (3) Folks who regularly chow down on fresh garlic have fewer colds and recover more quickly when they do get sick. (4)
You can eat several cloves a day as there is no upper limit of recommendation. Adding raw garlic to a salad or to other dishes can make it easier to get down, but cooking it will deactivate some of the active properties.
6. Fermented Food
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics. Ferments like kraut, sour pickles, and kimchi are not only delicious, but they have immunity boosting properties. You are only as healthy as your gut, so eating foods that benefit healthy and happy digestion is the best way to maintain immunity when cold and flu season arrive.
Kimchi is full of cruciferous veggies, and lacto fermentation makes this dish one of the tastiest ways to support your body’s ability to fight the sniffles. Probiotic-rich food keeps the body running full steam ahead with gut healthy bacteria, or “good bugs” that will keep your digestion on point. (5)
Eat kimchi and kraut on their own, or paired with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and other fish. While certain small-batch brands will contain live and active cultures, it’s also super easy to make your own.
7. Eat Sweet Potatoes
While refined carbs will lower your immunity, the high-fiber and nutritious carbs found in sweet potatoes are excellent health boosters. They are rich in carotenoids which can improve your body’s defenses against harmful toxins and the flu bug. (6)
Carotenoids are also found in other foods, including:
Use these ingredients in a variety of ways in your diet. Steam, roast, bake, puree, turn into soups, and even make Paleo sweet potato pie to get your fill of these health-boosting nutrients.
8. Eat Mushrooms
Vitamin D is essential for health and immunity, and mushrooms are one of the few foods that contain higher levels of this nutrient. Medicinal mushrooms have also become popular as a coffee alternative. Not only can mushrooms of various kinds fight fungal infections and disease, but they even have anticancer properties. (7)
While sun exposure is the best source of natural vitamin D, mushrooms that have been sundried have a more active form of vitamin D. (8)
Mushrooms can be eaten raw, cooked, or added to salads, soups, and more. Mushroom coffee can even easily replace a morning java brew.
9. Eat Greens
This won’t surprise anyone, but eating leafy greens is essential for good immunity. Essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, calcium, and magnesium, not to mention fiber and tons of antioxidants, await you in the produce section. (9)
While all green vegetables will have benefits, the most nutrient dense options include:
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
Protect your bones, reverse inflammation, and heal your gut with these wilted, steamed, raw, and roasted greens. (10)
10. Eat Grass-fed Meat
Home cooked, cozy meals like beef and bison meatloaf, short ribs, and pot roast have more benefits beyond the indulgent, body warming comforts of home cooked classics. Grass-fed beef and other red meats are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, B vitamins, and more. They also contain immune supportive minerals like iron and zinc.
While we can’t always avoid getting a cold or the flu, there are numerous things we can do to boost our natural immunity or nourish our bodies when we are under the weather, not the least of which is eating a healthy diet free from refined and processed foods.