Tis the season for sneezes, coughs and runny noses! The good news though is that there are a number of ways you can boost your immune system naturally to help protect yourself from cold and flu season. As a Holistic Nutritionist, I always tell my clients that everyone gets sick once in a blue moon, but if you find yourself catching multiple colds and flus each year, you may need to focus a bit more on your immune system.
1. Nourish Your Gut Properly
I put this one first so that you don’t miss it as I would argue it’s one of the most important points. 70% of your immune system lives in the gut, and there is actually a lot more to your digestion than you might think. Did you know that it’s now estimated our bodies are equal parts microbes (bacteria) to cells? If you have enough of the good bacteria in your gut, your body is better equipped to fight cold and flu viruses.
In fact, in one study, researchers gave 3 to 5 year old children either a placebo, a single strain or combination of probiotics twice a day for six months. Compared to the placebo group, the single and combination probiotic groups had reduced fever by 53 percent and 73 percent respectively, decreased coughing by 41 percent and 62 percent, and reduced runny noses by 28 percent and 59 percent. Antibiotic use was also 68 percent and 84 percent lower. My go to probiotic is Genuine Health’s Advanced Gut Health 15 Billion. It doesn’t require refrigeration and has a guaranteed potency upon consumption.
Once you have the good bacteria in your system from probiotics, it’s critical that you feed and nourish them with prebiotics. I recommend you use Genuine Health’s new Fermented Organic Gut Superfoods+. Unlike other common prebiotics, (you may have heard of the common one called inulin), this product contains 22 fully fermented plant based superfoods (rich in polyphenols) and doesn’t leave you bloated after consuming it! I love mixing a scoop of the Berry Pomegranate flavour into my morning smoothie, but you can just mix it with water too.
2. Ditch Sugar
You probably already know sugar is bad, but here’s some compelling info: A study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gave participants two sugary drinks and then tracked their white blood cells’ (which is their immune system) performance. The participants’ immune system performance dropped 50% compared to the control group. Now, you might not be going around drinking two sugary drinks in a row, but even little bits of sugar here and there add up, and bam, you’ve got a chronically low performing immune system. Check out this post for 15 ways to eat less sugar.
3. Calm Down
If you are stressed, it becomes your body’s number one priority to deal with that stress. The problem is when stress becomes chronic because your immune system is then consistently put on the back burner. Take some deep belly breaths and schedule in down time for you – it will help your immune system be in tip top shape to fight whatever germs you come across.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C does not necessarily prevent colds, however it has been proven to reduce the duration of a cold. Use foods rich in vitamin C like oranges, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and strawberries.
I swear by this one as it always helps me fight a cold off quickly. Against certain bacteria, the anti-fungal and anti-viral properties of garlic have actually been shown to be almost as effective than the antibiotic Penicillin! That’s amazing!
My method for garlic is pretty extreme, so consider yourself warned. I take 1 small, or 1/2 large clove of garlic, and mince it. Then, I mix it with 1 tsp raw honey (it must be raw to get the health benefits). I then make sure as much of the garlic is covered by the honey and chew & swallow.
Note: I ONLY do this once I’ve already eaten something so that it’s not on an empty stomach. It will burn as it goes down, but it works.
6. Vitamin D
Did you know that if you’re deficient in Vitamin D, which if you live north of the 49th parallel, you are much more likely to be, that you are 11x more likely to get sick? Depending where you are, this might be a tough one to do naturally. In the winter, chances are you are going to have to supplement with Liquid Vitamin D3. D3 is the better form vs D2, and you want it in liquid form for best absorbability.
Zinc, if used within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, is also shown to reduce the duration of a cold. Foods that are high in zinc include oysters & red meat, but pumpkin seeds are also a great source. Zinc is really important for skin health, so I recommend having zinc rich foods often, but at the onset of a cold, you might want to up your dosage. Careful not to have zinc on an empty stomach as it can cause nausea.