The season of “achoo,” coughs, aches, fevers, and chills has not yet completely faded and it may affect anyone. It is a good time to start preparing our bodies to prevent sickness by boosting the immune system. Key steps now strengthens the body’s defense systems before a cold or flu virus could land on your body. And it also gives you time to get back into or develop healthy habits.
The goal is to not only strengthen the immune system but to prepare the whole body to fight off germs, bacteria, and other pathogens that lead to sickness. Below are a few suggestions we have gathered to help you prepare for the cold and flu season.
Food and Nutrition
Healthy foods that are fresh and wholesome are the foundation to building a strong immune system. Now is the time to switch from the cake back to the carrots or reach out to a professional nutritionist. Research shows the amount of sugar in two cans of soda (20 teaspoons) depresses the immune system for up to five hours after consumption.
During this time, pathogens could enter the body, and it could have difficulty fighting them off.
Start adding these foods to your diet to boost your immune system:
- Shiitake, maitake, chaga, reishi, and cordyceps are mushrooms that are known to build the immune system and provide other healthful benefits. Add them to soups, stews, eggs, stir fries, or they can be sautéed and eaten as a side dish. If fresh versions of the mushrooms are unavailable, purchase them dried. Many of them can also be purchased in supplemental form. However, only buy from reputable sources.
- Sweet potatoes, yams, and carrots contain beta-carotene that is the precursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A is known to support the immune system. In TCM, these root vegetables are also considered to be beneficial for the transition into the fall and winter seasons.
- Fermented and probiotic foods like kefir, yogurt, kimchi, unpasteurized sauerkraut, etc. are considered a preventative measure for keeping colds and the flu away. The health of immune system is dependent on the health of the intestines. The many bacteria that fermented and probiotic foods have support a healthy digestive system. Also, they help to eliminate toxins more quickly from the body.
- Beans and lentils are another food in TCM that support the body going into the cold and flu season. According to registered dietician, Nema McGlynn, they also contain zinc which helps with immune function.
Herbs have long played a part in strengthening the body to help ward off diseases.
Here are some herbs that are particularly beneficial for preventing colds and the flu.
- Astragalus Root – This Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbs is one of the best to fortify the immune system. It increases the activity and number of immune cells. For this reason, it’s best to as a preventative and not when you’re already sick.
- Asian and American Ginseng – Both variations of ginseng boost the immune system. Ginseng is recommended for short-term use.
- Ashwanganda – Indian ginseng supports the nervous system and helps the body handle stress; it also helps in supporting the immune system.
- Turmeric – Turmeric is widely known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. While it’s helpful to add it to food, John Douillard, director of Life Spa Ayurvedic center in Boulder, Colorado says the best way to get the medicinal value is to take it in supplemental form.
- Ginger – This stimulating Asian spice is anti-viral and is believed to prevent viruses from adhering to mucosa that form due to upper respiratory illnesses. It is available pickled, fresh, and dried.
- Elderberry – Elderberry is considered one of the most effective herbs for enhancing the immune system to prevent colds and flu. It available in a syrup. Also, powdered and dried elderberries can be purchased to make syrup or a tisane (herbal tea).
Cold and flu prevention herbal formulations are available in teas and supplemental forms.
Thirty minutes of combined stretching, strength training, and exercises that increase the heart rate were found to reduce the risk of catching a cold than low-intensity exercise. However, overexertion can depress the immune system. So, have a balanced exercise regimen, but don’t overdo it.
Many people turn to acupuncture and other traditional therapies, such as TCM, Ayurveda, and Naturopathic medicine when they are already have a medical complaint. Acupuncture, like the others, however, can also help prevent sickness. While an acupuncturist can give you a full treatment, here are a couple of acupoints from Avenue Acupuncture to help boost the immune system.
- Leg Three Miles
The acupoint is located one hand length from the kneecap and one thumb length in from the outside of the leg. Press and massage clockwise the area daily for 10 minutes.
- Three Yin Intersection
This acupressure point is also on the shin. Locate it by placing the side of the hand along the top of the inner ankle bone. In effect, you are wrapping your hand around the inner leg starting at the top of the ankle bone. At the place the side of the forefinger meets the shin is the acupoint. Knead and massage the area daily for 10 minutes.
In addition to diet, nutrients, and exercise, there are other things you can do to get your mindset and body ready for the cold and flu season. natural-cold-remedies.aspx
- Wash hands frequently. Starting this habit now will pay off during the cold season. Remember to especially wash your hands just as soon as you walk in the door when you get home.
- Get in the habit of keeping your hands away from your face. If not aware, you can unknowingly transport germs from your hands to your mouth, eyes, and nose.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Water and other fluids help to flush out toxins.
- Buy a humidifier. Humidity may help reduce the spread of colds and flu. Researchers found a link between low humidity and the spread of flu during the dry winter months. They believe germ droplets from sneezes and coughs stay airborne longer in dry air whereas humidity makes the drops too large to stay airborne. If germ droplets are in the air less time, they are not as likely to be inhaled.
- Nasal irrigation is an Ayurveda therapy that flushes out the sinuses. Since the nose is the most common entry point for the cold virus, it makes sense to keep these passages clear. A neti pot rinses excess mucous out of the sinuses with a warm saline (water and salt) mixture. Dr. Terence Davidson, director of the Nasal Dysfunction Clinic at the University of California, Sand Diego, recommends rinsing twice a day.
- Meditate for a few minutes each day. Meditation reduces stress, and stress is harmful to the immune system. Research has shown that meditation strengthens the immune system. The theory is that meditation relaxes the body which allows the immune system to become bolstered.
- Sleep is very important in restoring the immune systems and repairing the body. Be sure to be getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep.
Acting now to prepare for the cold and flu season may help you avoid getting sick. Along with the above suggestions, it takes diligence to maintain healthy routines.
Always check with your doctor before taking any herbs. Many herbs may interfere with certain health conditions or medications. This information is for educational purposes only. It’s not to diagnose, treat, or recommend any specific medical therapy.