Boosting Your Immune System Now & Always: The Best Defense is a Good Offense!
During these uncertain, and scary times, I believe it is my duty to share my knowledge on immune system health. I feel that the best preventative medicine is a defensive one. By strengthening your immune system you are less likely to catch a viral or bacterial infection, and if you do, your body is stronger for the fight. Below I will provide a brief outline of some of my favorite tried and true methods for a rock solid immune response.
Check it out!
Goldenseal- A perennial herb from the buttercup family, Goldenseal is found in North America. There’s documentation to support its use as early as 1798 by the Cherokee Indians. Due to its antimicrobial properties, it’s used today in Eastern Medicine as immune system support. If taking Goldenseal, follow the manufacturer suggested dosages to avoid overdose, which can be toxic.
Limes- Limes are naturally high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, making them an excellent go-to staple for boosting your immune system. If plain lime juice is too sour for your taste buds, consider adding it to a smoothie (immune smoothie recipe below), making Lime-Aide, or squeezing on top of a dish for garnish. In addition to boosting your immune system, limes can support healthy skin, help with weight loss, and ward off bad breath.
Immune Boosting Smoothie (tastes kinda like V8)-
2 tomatoes washed and cored
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lemon
1 celery stalk, ends removed
1 carrot, peeled and ends removed
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic
Small chunk of ginger, peeled
2 ice cubes
Blend in blender
Oranges- I don’t think mentioning that oranges are full of Vitamin C is news to anyone, but they are also jam-packed with vitamin B6, antioxidants, and limonoids. So, in addition to making your immune system tough, they help regulate energy, fight cancer cells, and make your skin glowy and fabulous. Eat these guys raw, or make some orange chicken!
Lemons- Lemons are another great immune boosting citrus, loaded with Vitamin C and B vitamins, and make a super tasty garnish! So pucker up, buttercup.
Zinc- Zinc is a trace mineral. It boosts our immunity by controlling the actions of proteins in our body, preventing excessive inflammatory response. As with anything, don’t overdo it. In addition to helping a healthy immune response, it has been used and shown effective for preventing acne, relieving diarrhea, alleviating ADHD, and when used topically, it’s great for healing burns.
Elderberry- Elderberry is a flowering plant used to create elderberry syrup. Please note: Elderberries cannot be eaten raw, because when raw they are toxic. However, made into a variety of forms it can be used for year-round immune system support. In addition to immune benefits, elderberry syrup has been shown effective in treating chronic pain, constipation, and reducing cholesterol.
Cayenne Pepper AKA Capsicum- Ever wonder why you get hot while eating spicy foods, besides the actual spice itself? Cayenne Pepper is a vasodilator (meaning it expands your blood vessels), so it increases circulation, which will shorten the duration of any infection in the body by getting things moving. Kind of like how you get a fever when your body is fighting an infection, your body’s natural vasodilator. Additionally, capsicum is naturally high in Vitamin A, which is great for keeping away acne. It is also loaded with beta-carotene which is great for eye health. I personally adore spicy foods so another excuse to eat them is welcomed, however, if hot is not your jam, oral supplements are available.
Oregano- Oregano has antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties. Essentially a natural antibiotic, natural antiviral, and anti-fungal. I prefer to take an Oil of Oregano supplement daily during cold and flu season, but it’s also fun to increase the use of this dried herb in meals. Oregano has been used in medicine and in food for over 4000 years. Hippocrates was known to advise its use for treating coughs, indigestion, and fever. Oregano as an essential oil can also be diluted and mixed with witch hazel and water to make a surface disinfectant. (Who is suddenly craving pizza? I’m lying – I’m always craving pizza!)
Olive Leaf- Although lots of Americans enjoy olives on their pizzas and in their salads, many do not realize that the leaf of the olive tree is full of antioxidant properties! Olive leaf also regulates cytokines (the immune system messengers), making it a must-tool in your immune system toolbox. Historically, it has been used to regulate blood sugar, prevent heart attacks, and chewed on as a snack in Yemen. Although I have only ever personally used it in its supplement form, olive leaf tea is popular with our European neighbors.
Mushrooms- A good combination of mushrooms in one supplement is usually best for immune support as each kind of mushroom has a different nutrient makeup. For example, shiitake mushrooms are high in vitamins B and D, selenium, amino acids, and enzymes, since it is technically a fungus. Chaga mushroom, on the other hand, helps your immune system by fighting free radicals with its powerhouse of antioxidants. Other mushrooms that are good for immune health are turkey tail, cordyceps, lion’s mane, maitake, and reishi. (I really feel like I’m naming all my favorite pizza toppings now. Eat up!)
Probiotics and/ or Kombucha- Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is super important for a strong immune system – as we all know the old saying, “you are what you eat.” Cells in your gut actually produce a ton of antibodies that are used throughout the body to fight disease and dysfunction, so take good care of your intestines. Probiotics are good bacteria that support healthy gut function, and can easily be purchased in a gel cap form to swallow. However, for those who don’t mind a slightly vinegar tasting sweet tea, kombucha is fermented tea that is loaded with good bacteria for your gut. (I love kombucha, but it is unique).
Enzymes- Enzymes occur naturally in certain foods, or can be purchased in a supplement form. Enzymes help break down foods, speeding up healthy digestion and making the body and GI tract more alkaline. Your body constantly seeks balance and works hard to maintain the healthy neutral alkaline zone. Bacteria and Viruses enjoy an acidic environment, and do not survive well in a more alkaline one. Enzymes also help the body absorb nutrients better because of how they break down ingested foods and supplements. Enzymes are naturally found in papayas, pumpkin, pineapple, bananas, and avocados.
Ginger- Ginger is high in antioxidants, as well as magnesium, zinc, and iron. Ginger has antimicrobial properties that kill viruses, and bacteria. Ginger also increases circulation, speeding the body’s natural immune response if already sick. Ginger also offers very versatile options as it can be consumed as a tea, added as a dried root while cooking, added as a fresh root while cooking, or even honey and ginger lozenges for sore throats.
Turmeric- Turmeric is another magical root. It is naturally antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral. It also increases the body’s response of T cells (the cells that protect the body from pathogens and cancer). It has also been used to relieve symptoms of depression and support healthy liver function. Turmeric can be purchased as a supplement, or found in a variety of cuisines (especially Indian cuisine). (As if I need any excuse to eat at my favorite Indian restaurant).
Sunflower Seeds- Sunflower seeds are high in magnesium, which is a natural immune booster. Sunflower seeds also contain selenium, which help your body fight cancer while also helping your immune system to rebuild cells. Sunflower also contains high amounts of zinc, which we discussed earlier is an immune ally. So eat up those yummy, little treats for your health.
Garlic- Long renowned as nature’s antibiotic, garlic keeps away the cold and flu. I personally get a ton in my diet, because I love garlic, but you can always grab in supplement form if you do not care for the taste.
Echinacea- Echinacea is a flowering herb that has been used for decades to combat cold and flu. Echinacea contains phenols, which increase antioxidant activity. Echinacea supplements can be purchased at most herb or vitamin shops.
Vitamin C- In addition to helping our immune systems, Vitamin C has been used in IV infusions to help during cancer treatments. Vitamin C also helps reduce blood pressure, lowers risk of chronic disease, and also prevents iron deficiency. Drink some Oj or grab a supplement!
Raw Honey- In addition to soothing a sore throat by coating the back of the tongue and mucus membranes of the throat, honey has antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Buy local honey to your area for a decreased inflammatory response to local allergens. It is also an energy booster, so say bye-bye to the afternoon slump!
Colloidal Silver- We have all heard the folklore as kids that silver wards off vampires, but it actually does ward off colds, flu, bacteria and viruses. If you have ever heard that your antique “real” silverware is naturally antibacterial, guess what? It’s true. Bacteria, germs, viruses cannot live on silver surfaces. Now, there are supplements containing silver that can be ingested internally. It comes in a liquid or lozenge form.
In addition to great supplements and a balanced diet, good lifestyle choices are imperative!
Sleep- Make sure you are getting enough ZZZ’s. Sleep helps maintain proper cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates many processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response.
Water- Ever heard the phrase “You’re not sick you’re thirsty”? Dehydration can literally make us sick, or flush our bodies when we are sick. We should all try to drink half our body weight in ounces every day. For example if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink at least 75 ounces of water per day. Amazon makes it easy these days with encouraging jugs with straws.
Move your body- Daily cardiovascular exercise or general muscle and joint movement such as tai chi, or yoga should be a quintessential part of your immune plan. Muscle contraction and joint movement naturally push lymphatic fluid through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is how your body cleans itself & rids itself of toxins. So – get out and get moving! Or do a workout at home. Either way, move your bod!
I hope this helps you stay well.