Boosting Your Immune System: The Most Unexpected Way to Beat Cold Season
There are lots of seasonal changes that mark the start of cold and flu season. The season where we need to focus on maintaining a strong immune system. There is a natural response to this change of season to change our diets to include more hearty root vegetables and satisfying ‘stick to your ribs’ meals. Our focus moves inward to indoor activities. We bundle up to go out to enjoy the cool weather wearing warm scarves, hats, and warm socks to cover our vulnerable spots!
We take all kinds of precautions to avoid colds and flus. Because really, no-one wants to lay around with no energy, missing work and fun. Or endure the coughing, sneezing, sniffling, feverish annoyances that come with getting sick.
But what effect, if any, do these activities and changes have on safeguarding your immune system from the cold and flu viruses during cold weather months?
They’re all important, but it turns out that the most important thing you can do to boost your immune system comes from nourishing your gut!
What Does Your Gut Have to do with Your Immune System?
Believe it or not, your ability to combat viruses and bacteria are directly affected by your nutrition. So what better time than the start of cold and flu season to start building up a healthy meal plan for you and your family?
According to an Australian study, about 70-80% of your body’s immunity lives in your gut.
Wow! We know the expression “Mind over Matter” but in this case, it’s really “Gut over Matter”. The better care we take of our gut health, the more likely we will be to fortify our immune system and stave off potential sickness this season.
There are areas all along your small intestine called “Peyer’s Patches”. These are responsible for building up your immune system and developing the antibodies that fight off disease. These Peyer’s Patches also help to regulate good and bad gut flora which are the bacteria we house to maintain our health. You can see already why it’s so important to take good care of our gut to protect ourselves from illness!
So what can you do to build up your immunity this Fall and Winter? It can be as simple as adding a few of these into your diet every day:
Immune System Enhancing Foods:
Perhaps the most important nutrient for fighting off viruses and bacteria is zinc! This mineral is abundant and is easily found in multiple food sources including:
- Red meat
- Pumpkin seeds
- Egg yolks
- Beans and nuts
If you choose to add supplements to your diet, it’s best to take them with a good amount of food to avoid stomach irritation. Zinc lozenges can provide immense relief from cold symptoms too, sometimes reducing the duration of your viral infection by 50%!
Too much zinc can, in fact, be too much of a good thing and can cause adverse effects particularly in pregnant women, those with zinc allergies, and those with HIV. If you are an existing patient, please give us a call if you’re considering increasing your zinc intake and we’ll be happy to consult with you on your ideal dose. If you are not an existing patient, we are legally required to see you in person and perform a full first assessment before we are allowed to provide any advice.
Other well-known immunity-boosting foods to add to your recipes this season include garlic, onions, mushrooms, and raw, unpasteurized honey.
Foods that fight inflammation keep our tissues in virus-fighting shape. By choosing to eat plenty of these, you can help your immune system keep all kinds of infections at bay. This can even help to calm down any inflammation that might be teetering on the brink of flaring up. Inflamed tissue is weak and provides an easy entry for bacteria and viruses to cause infection.
Try omega-3 rich anti-inflammatory foods like:
Leafy greens, berries, turmeric and green tea are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, so be sure to include plenty of these too!
It’s easy to add these foods into your everyday menus in any meal of the day.
For breakfast, try oatmeal + flaxseed porridge sprinkled with walnuts, cinnamon and blueberries to get a boost of immunity-enhancing and anti-inflammatory foods at the start of your day.
A mug of green tea instead of coffee is a great way to warm up to the day ahead…
For lunch, how about sliced grilled chicken with sauteed spinach and mushrooms with some fresh garlic?
Or for dinner, why not baked salmon fillets with a red pepper stuffed with brown rice and broccoli florets?
And to wind down, try a mug of golden milk, chalk full of antioxidants! Check out our facebook page for our favourite recipe.
Other Immune System Measures:
While the relationship between sugar and viral/bacterial illness is still largely unknown, we do know that overconsumption of sugar has negative effects on gut health. For that reason, reducing your intake of sugar particularly during cold and flu season is a good idea because it will allow all of the positive steps you’re taking towards better gut health and immunity to shine through!
Taking a good probiotic is always a good idea, no matter what the season! But, it’s particularly important at this time of year when environmental changes and an increase of viruses and bacteria require us to be more vigilant about protecting our gut health. Remember too, that antibiotics can be necessary to cure some forms of infection, but a side effect is always reduced healthy gut flora. To combat this, remember that if you or a loved one does require antibiotics, to follow the prescribed course with a course of probiotics to bring your gut flora back up to tip-top shape.
So, this cold and flu season, keep up with your warm woolly knits, your cosy nesting habits, and your enjoyment of Fall’s outdoor activities! But remember to add the most unexpected way of beating cold and flu season – by upping how you nourish your gut!
We want to be a part of your personal care team. No question or curiosity is too small for us to address together. So don’t be shy to give us a call or shoot us an email! Our door is always open and your road to optimal health is just a phone call or email away.
Immune System Research:
1) Wu, E., and Wu, HJ (2012). The role of microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes 3 (1): 4-14.