Stock up on natural helpers ASAP
Brenna Jacks, ND
The nonstop runny nose. The pounding headache. The noisy coughs you just can’t stifle. Could you be coming down with something?
No one looks forward to being sick, but most of us expect to fall prey to a cold or flu at least once per winter. This year, step up your prevention plan. Support your hardworking immune system with some key immunity boosters. It’s one of the best things you can do to keep your energy levels high and sidestep getting sick.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can be taken on an ongoing basis to stimulate components of the immune system. To help prevent colds, some health care practitioners suggest taking at least 1 g of vitamin C per day. As for food sources, colorful fruits and veggies contain the most vitamin C. Stock your kitchen with berries, sweet potatoes, peppers, oranges and papayas.
Vitamin D has a key role in immune system cells, and a deficiency may worsen existing autoimmune conditions. Supplementing with vitamin D has beneficial effects on more than just bone health. Studies have shown that vitamin D can strengthen our immunity to infections due to vitamin D receptors on cells of the immune system.
You can absorb vitamin D from 15 minutes of skin exposure to the sun. During the dark days of fall and winter, you can bolster your levels by supplementing daily with 1,000 IU of vitamin D.
Studies on the benefits of echinacea generally agree that you should take it at the onset of a cold to reduce the length and severity of symptoms. Echinacea extracts also appear to have a beneficial effect on a subset of white blood cells that help our bodies fight illness and infection. Note that echinacea should not be taken if you have an allergy to ragweed or any plant in the daisy family, or if you’re taking heart or antifungal medications.
Ginseng root is a widely studied immune system booster. Affecting nearly every part of the immune system, it can help your body fight off infections. There are different forms of ginseng, and most studies show a benefit with Panax ginseng. Interactions may occur with certain medications, so always discuss your medications and herbs with your health care practitioner.
Zinc is an essential trace element that affects nearly all body processes, including the nervous system and the immune system. It’s also a required cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Dietary sources of zinc include whole grains, beans and nuts. If you’ve already come down with a cold, zinc lozenges can help combat a sore throat.
Food choices during cold and flu season make a big difference to your overall immune health. Fresh garlic can have an effect against bacteria and viruses. Early research suggests that garlic supplements might also be a potent tool for preventing colds.
You’ll want to add garlic to your soup too. One study has shown that upper respiratory tract infections may be alleviated with a bowl of homemade soup.
Green tea acts as an antioxidant and can strengthen your immune system. One of the powerful components in green tea may also act as a mechanism in the suppression of autoimmune diseases.