Do you feel like we’ve been living in a surreal post-apocalyptic world? Many would agree, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unique, anxious behaviors we’ve never experienced before. Understandably, as something to this degree worldwide has never happened before.
While these fears are justifiable and valid, we should be careful to not allow them to overwhelm and paralyze us from taking care of ourselves. Being protective is logical, but we need to think preventive on a personal level.
I’ve shared advice in past articles on natural ways to boost your immune system, the foods that help, and how stress plays a role in your immunity. Let’s revisit some of these concepts and talk about how you can boost your immune system during flu season (or a pandemic).
What You Eat Matters
Traditional medicine and doctors generally don’t talk about diet enough. This is no surprise as “more than one-half of graduating medical students report that the time dedicated to nutrition instruction is inadequate” according to a study in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”.
This is the sad state of the modern-day medical school. The ramifications include vast amounts of improperly diagnosed and overly prescribed patients in America. It’s hard to change a habit, and many health professionals aren’t apt to suggest a behavior change strategy because it is “time-consuming to explain and difficult for the patient to implement” as stated by clinical psychologists and researchers in the British Journal of General Practice. It’s easier to prescribe and take a pill than to adjust eating habits, but unfortunately, these very pills cause a list of other problems and side effects. Putting a “bandage” on the symptoms, but not affecting the cause is a recipe for long-term health problems and a weakened immune system.
Immune System Boosting Foods
A strong immune system doesn’t happen by accident. If you’re eating a meat-heavy diet, without a good balance of fruit and vegetables, you’re more susceptible to catching a cold or virus. Why? Because plant-based foods offer critical vitamins and nutrients that your immune system depends on.
What should you be eating during the cold or flu season, or unprecedented pandemic? You can’t go wrong with plant-based foods, but here are a few known to help prevent the cold and flu.
This is an ancient medicine that is very potent in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, B-6, selenium, calcium, and iron. Garlic naturally has antibiotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Garlic contains allicin which lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
One raw crushed garlic clove, taken however you’d like, is an amazing elixir with anti-inflammatory properties that will benefit your lymphatic system and battle colds, flu, and more.
A medicinal root that has been used for ages, due to its anti-inflammatory chemicals of shogaol and gingerol. These properties stimulate circulation and deliver more oxygen throughout your tissues to promote healing.
Fresh ginger is one of the best ways to benefit from this plant’s immune-boosting and germ-fighting abilities. You can make tea by grating the ginger and combine it with honey for a wonderful tonic.
That spicy kick is more than just an endorphin rush or masochistic hobby. In particular, cayenne, habanero, and chili peppers (which contain capsaicin) have the ability to increase white blood cell production and boost your immune system. They also contain ample amounts of vitamin C and B6.
Leafy Green Vegetables
The holy grail of immune-boosting plants is leafy greens. Why? Because they are easy to incorporate into any diet. Whether you’re a vegetarian or meat-eater, a simple salad, soup, or smoothie can give you a big dose of iron, vitamin D, folate, and other immunity-boosting compounds.
A sweet treat that can ward off a list of illnesses. Honey has been established as a strong antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiviral food supplement according to the academic journal, “Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity”.
There has been a lot of research into the naturally occurring anthocyanin found in blueberries that provide an array of health benefits to humans. We’re talking about a safe and delicious way to reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease with a blast of antioxidants.
In particular, wild blueberries have the highest concentrations of beneficial properties. You can find these in the frozen food section of your local market. All berries are going to benefit your immune system, fresh or frozen.
Although the majority of studies on blueberries have surrounded their antioxidants, they certainly provide much more. However, certain species of berries are more antiviral than others. According to a study in the “Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture“, different varieties of blueberries have higher antivirus effects. Also, the bilberry, cranberry, and blackcurrant contain positive antiviral activity and polyphenol content.
Water, Exercise, and Sleep
Make sure you are drinking enough water! Americans tend to be (unintentionally) chronically dehydrated. Water is essential to preventing diseases and your overall health. Water comprises 75% body weight in infants to 55% in the elderly and is essential for cellular homeostasis and life as published by the Nutrition Review.
We don’t just get water from the tap or bottle. A lot of our water intake, approximately 22% for Americans, comes from food. This is why eating leafy greens and plants high in water content is so important. Not only are they packed with vitamins and minerals. But they also hydrate us and improve our absorption of these vitamins.
Food and drink are only one part of boosting your immune system. Obviously, avoid toxic substances such as alcohol and smoking which depress your immune system.
Now is not the time to indulge in bad health habits, it will backfire mentally and physically!
We need to also ensure we are getting adequate exercise and sleep. Stay active during the day and a restful night’s sleep of 6 to 8 hours, ideally. This will help us fight off anything that tries to compromise our immune system.
Laughter is Medicine
Avoid stress like you would any other toxic substance. During stressful times, if we let our thoughts run rampant on negativity and fear, our body’s stress-response will produce excessive cortisol and stress hormones will wreak havoc on our health. Stress reduces white blood cell counts and makes us vulnerable to colds and infection.
What can we do? Laughter can lower stress and effectively boost your immune system. Mindfulness, meditation, and exercise are all strong combatants against stress. According to John Hopkins University, as published in JAMA Internal Medicine, mindful meditation can ease psychological stress.
Stay healthy and safe! Be sure to follow guidelines from the CDC by wearing a mask in high traffic areas, while washing your hands frequently and thoroughly.