It's brutal out there trying to protect yourself from everyone's germs, recycled air in planes & offices, & the lurking threats of superbugs that we're creating from our overuse of antibiotics.
I thought I'd share a few of my go-to strategies for upping immunity. While all of these methods are useful at the onset of symptoms, they are all wonderful for keeping your immune system strong all year long. Definitely amp them up if you start feeling under the weather!
You've probably heard by now that all health starts in the gut. A strong microbiome means a stronger immune system. So how to make sure your good bugs are fighting the food fight in there? Eat fermented foods daily - sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, yogurt. If you're not a fan of fermented foods or need some extra support, a good quality probiotic supplement is key to have on hand. I would recommend Garden of Life or another reputable brand. Make sure to eat foods with lots of fiber, which acts as a prebiotic (ie, food for your good bugs!). Hint: fruits, veggies & whole grains are good sources of fiber.
2. Triple Threat: Garlic, Ginger & Turmeric
This trifecta is my go-to for supporting immunity in everyday cooking (not to mention, tasting amazing). Garlic is antimicrobial, antibacterial, & antiviral. Ginger is antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial. See what I mean?
The easiest way to incorporate all of these herbs in one dish is to make a vegetable curry with coconut milk - there's turmeric in the curry powder (no harm in adding some extra) & by grating some fresh garlic & ginger into the curry, you'll reap the benefits of all three herbs.
Other ways to incorporate these amazing immunity boosters on a daily basis:
- Ginger: juice it on its own & take "shots" of it or incorporate it in other homemade juices, grate it fresh into smoothies, grate it fresh into sauces & dressings
- Garlic: grate it fresh into sauces & dressings, add some fresh garlic whenever you're sauteeing or roasting veggies, chomp on a whole clove raw (this as an extreme but effective method when cold symptoms are coming on fast)
- Turmeric: add fresh or powdered turmeric to smoothies & juices, add to soups, add it to whatever you're cooking (it won't alter the flavor of your dish in small amounts), or try the ever amazing Golden Milk
3. Vitamin C
This is probably the oldest tip in the book, but for good reason. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant & packs serious immune support. Most fruits & vegetables contain vitamin C, but some of the best sources are: citrus fruits, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, all peppers, cayenne pepper, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, winter squash & carrots.
Some tips to incorporate more vitamin C in your diet:
- Smoothies. I'm a big fan of smoothies for their ability to pack a lot of nutrients into one easy-to-digest glass. Amp up the vitamin C content by including some of the fruits & vegetables listed above.
- Start the morning with lemon water. This is a good habit to get into anyway - lemon water helps to wake up the digestive system, hydrate you & give you a dose of vitamin C. Sometimes I sprinkle in cayenne pepper for additional vitamin C & to clear the sinuses. Apple cider vinegar is another great add-in (more on that in a minute).
- Fresh juices. There's a lot of controversy about the merit of juice, especially fruit juice. I am a juicing advocate & while I tend toward veggie-based juices, I don't think a little fruit in your juice every once in awhile is that bad. Look for juices that are a veggie/fruit blend. Citrus & pineapple are especially high in vitamin C. And if they have some ginger in there, all the better!
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a folk remedy & has a long list of health benefits including: alkalizing the body, supporting gut health, curbing sugar cravings, regulating blood sugar, aiding in weight loss, increasing stomach acid (which helps you to break down & extract nutrients out of your food), can help with heartburn, can lower blood pressure, & supports lymphatic drainage. It's pretty awesome.
The easiest way to consume ACV is by diluting 1-2 tbsp with water & drinking it. I like having it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It's a great thing to do regularly as a preventative measure. I also use it often in salad dressings & sauces. Make sure you buy a brand that is raw & unpasteurized. ACV is a fermented product so a lot of the health-promoting benefits are in the beneficial bacteria, so you want those alive! Bragg's is a reliable brand & even Costco sells an organic, raw, unpasteurized ACV.
5. Less Stress, More Sleep
Nothing crushes your immune system quite like stress. When you're stressed, you body gets depleted of nutrients & the balance of bacteria in your gut changes for the worse, which lowers your immunity. When you don't get enough sleep, your body doesn't have time to heal & repair itself. Plus, it stresses your body out. Stress in our lives can cause sleep disturbances like insomnia or restlessness. It's one of those vicious cycles.
Reducing the amount of stress in your life & finding ways to manage the stress you can't avoid is going to be very helpful in keeping your immune system strong & ready to fight. Getting enough rest means you'll probably be able to better handle the stress you do encounter, plus it gives your body an opportunity to do work on a cellular level, which will keep your immunity up.
Other Products & Practices
oil of oregano, fire cider, Phytocillin, bone broth, astragalus, all fresh herbs like rosemary, oregano, sage, & thyme, vitamin D supplementation, meditation, sauna use, regular exercise, dry brushing, acupuncture, & using a neti pot.
Even if you're doing all the things to keep your immune system strong, sometimes you just get sick. And that's okay. Take the time to rest & take care of yourself. It's often a sign from your body that it needs some downtime. Keep eating & drinking well & getting plenty of sleep - you'll feel better in no time!