According to recent news, we’re only halfway through this year’s cold and flu season. That means there are plenty more germs to come – yikes! So, how can we fight them off?
Well, we’re pretty lucky because our immune system is like our guardian angel. It keeps us strong in the midst of illness and always has our back. That being said, that doesn’t mean we should take it for granted and not take care of ourselves otherwise. Here are a few tips on how to keep your immune system strong all year long.
Sugar is considered an “anti-nutrient” because it doesn’t contain any nutrients essential for health. It doesn’t contain any nutrients for that matter, and is often referred to as “empty calories.” Sugar is also highly inflammatory, which makes it the ideal fuel for all sorts of infections and viruses. This means that the more sugar we consume, the more susceptible our body is to illness. In fact, 1 tsp. of sugar can suppress your immune system for up to FIVE hours. That’s crazy! As such, it’s best to limit our sugar intake as much as possible for general health and wellness.
Give your immune system the proper building blocks
A good diet loaded with plant foods is one of your best defences against cold and flus. These foods are nature’s “farmacy,” and brimming with the nutrients needed to keep us in tip top shape.
Adequate protein is essential to help build up the immune system. Ensure you consume a source of protein at every meal, whether meat or an alternative.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are also important for all immune functions. Sources include salmon, Atlantic mackerel and herring, flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds and cod liver oil.
We can also benefit from increasing our consumption of foods high in antioxidants (substances that help protect cells from damage!) Antioxidants and their corresponding foods include:
- Vitamin A – sweet potato, carrots, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, parsley
- Vitamin C – papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, dark leafy greens
- Vitamin E – sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens, asparagus
- Selenium – seafood, mushrooms, asparagus, mustard seeds
- Zinc – beef, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa
Boost your immune system during cold/flu season
- Increase consumption of antioxidants (see list above)
- Increase consumption of garlic, a potent protector against the bad guys
- Increase consumption of immune boosting mushrooms such as reishi and shiitake
- Consider taking an antimicrobial supplement like oregano oil to help fight off any germs you may come into contact with
Get enough sleep
There is the saying “laughter is the best medicine” but one can argue that sleep is actually the best medicine. It may seem like our bodies are doing nothing while we sleep, but the opposite is true. Sleep is when our body recharges, repairs, builds us up and detoxes. If we’re constantly running on empty, our body isn’t as strong as it should be to fight off illness. So if you’re fighting sleep at 10pm, do yourself a favour and go to bed. It’s going to benefit you a lot more then watching that CSI re-run you’ve already seen.
Stress is a huge….well, stressor. It knocks us off our track and sends us into a tailspin, leaving our immune system all flustered and out of whack. We don’t want our body in continuous “fight or flight” mode. We want it to be well rested for when we actually need it to fight off invaders!
Wash your hands
This may seem like a common sense practice, but basic hand hygiene is crucial to avoid spreading germs. Think of all the surfaces we touch in a day: doorknobs, steering wheels, elevator buttons, stair railings, cellphones, toilet handles, subway poles, grocery carts, etc. Yuck!
Stay home if you’re sick
Sharing is not always caring, especially when it comes to germs. If you’re sick, just stay home. Chances are you probably don’t feel like going out anyways.
What happens if you do get sick?
As mentioned above, our immune system is our built-in army. For the average cold or flu there’s really nothing we can do except let nature take its course. That being said, there are some unpleasant side effects that can come along with these ailments that we can help mitigate.
Eucalyptus is an amazing natural decongestant. I love diffusing some during the night to help me breathe easier when I have a cold.
Peppermint oil is an effective pain relief for headaches when applied to the forehead and back of neck. It also helps with nausea when inhaled deeply through the nose, or dabbed onto your wrists.
Cold/flu tea from The Algonquin Tea Company
This tea is the BOMB for fighting a cold/flu. As soon as I feel any symptoms, I brew a bunch of this and sip it all day long.
Ginger drops and/or ginger tea
Ginger is a proven anti-nausea and both the tea and candies can help settle your stomach.
Our body burns through Vitamin C ten times quicker when our body is stressed, which means our defences against infections are lowered. Instead of letting our body struggle to fight off infections, we can help it out by loading it up with immune-strengthening nutrients like Vitamin C.
This powerful honey is literally liquid gold, as it is full of a multitude of healing properties, all of which helps your body fight infection. You can also find Manuka honey lozenges and lollipops, which help soothe a sore throat.
When all else fails, there’s always good old Nyquill or Buckley’s. These trusty decongestants help us breathe and reduce the sinus pressure associated with a cold. Vicks Vapo Rub can also help chest congestion when rubbed on the bottoms of the feet at night (crazy, but it works!)
What are your go-to remedies for colds and flus?