We are all continuously exposed to infectious pathogens. So why is it that some become infected and others don’t? The single most important barrier between you and nasty winter bugs is your very own immune system. So how to stay well in winter and optimise this fighting force within?
There are many fabulous herbal medicines that bolster your immune system. However, food is truly your best medicine… and prevention is always better than cure. So with the winter bug season well and truly upon us, here are some tips for supporting the functioning of your immune system; the army within and your first line of defence against viral and bacterial attack.
If you can’t afford to be sick this season, or if you’re feeling a little run down, then here are some proven preventatives and cures:
Eat seasonal, local, organic, whole (SLOW) foods
I’m like a broken down record – but it’s really important. If you’ve missed why this is so critical to good health and why eating this way will deliver so many more nutrients than you could from any other way of eating, you can read more about where, why and how to eat SLOW foods here.
Make a bone broth
The health of your immune system is largely dependent on the integrity of your gut. Bone broths heal and repair the digestive system , whilst providing your body with all of the nourishment it needs to stimulate immune responses. It takes minutes to prepare and truly is nature’s penicillin. Find out how to make it here.
Eat your greens
Winter gives us these nutrient-dense leaves for a reason… salad greens, kale, spinach, silver beet, cabbage, herbs. Have a simple salad as part of your meal or throw them in a stir-fry, casserole, curry or soup. I’ve spoken about these winter wonders here, including lots of practical suggestions for how to include them (even for green phobic children).
Make sure you are eating enough protein
Protein is essential for your bodies immune defences. For more on protein and why it is so important, click here.
Add some garlic
Studies suggest that consuming garlic daily may prevent and also shorten the duration of colds. Add it to anything, and everything. No vampires will come within a mile of me, that’s for sure!
Also a little ginger
Ginger also contains cold virus-fighting compounds and is very anti-inflammatory. Add it to Asian style meals or grate a little into hot water for ginger tea.
If I think a bug is lurking in my household, I grate a little ginger, fresh or dried turmeric, a stem of lemon grass roughly chopped (if I have it), all into a tea pot. Fill with boiling water and let it infuse for a while. Add the juice of a lemon or lime, a little raw honey if you like – it’s really delicious. Sometimes my kids fake feeling run down just so I will make it for them! This is my medicinal version of the classic hot lemon honey drink. Recipe here.
Include coconut milk and especially coconut oil
The principle medium-chain fatty acids in coconut, are lauric and capric acid. Lauric acid is also found in breast milk. Both are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and healing to your first line of immune defence; your digestive system. I include about 3 tablespoons of raw coconut oil per day, (in cooking, in my homemade chocolate or just straight out of the jar). More about the benefits of coconut oil here and here.
Eat some shitake mushrooms
Shitakes are amazing immune boosters. In herbal medicine, studies have proven their immune enhancing action. They are also very nutritious. You can buy them fresh or dried. See my Asian Immune Boosting Soup recipe here. I just love their taste and use them weekly. Stir-frys, mushrooms omelettes, risotto or anywhere else you use mushrooms.
Have an apple or citrus a day
Both contain immune supportive nutrients (and they are both in season, so there is a reason we are meant to eat them now). Also, use the zest from the citrus for an extra boost. I always include zest in salad dressings, or to finish off a casserole or curry.
Add herbs and spices to everything
Turmeric, cinnamon, chilli, sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme all contain constituents that are protective against a wide range of microbes.
When you suffer from prolonged stress, a lot of things go wrong in your body. One such thing is that your body produces a hormone called cortisol, which suppresses your immune function. It also makes you put on weight and adversely affects fertility (but this is another topic altogether)! To read more about the effects of stress, click here.
High-intensity exercise actually initiates the release of cortisol too. However, regular moderate exercise has the opposite effect of supporting a healthy immune system. So move your booty as often as you can.
Get outside when you can
Without sunscreen! At the very least expose your face to some direct sunlight during winter to protect against vitamin D deficiency. Ladies, please change to a sunscreen free makeup during the winter months too.
Wash your hands
So simple but really critical. The first thing I have my kids do when they get home from school is to wash their hands.
I hope I have given you some ideas for surviving winter without a visit to the doctor. Winter truly is the time to focus on your health. Let’s face it, who has time to be sick or nursing sick children? Plus my husband is prone to ‘man flu’ so it’s in my best interests to keep us all well!
How do you stay well in winter? Do you have any tips or tricks you can share?
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