Now that we’re officially in the New Year and a couple of weeks into winter, this is the ultimate time to stock up your immune system with the good stuff to ward off the roaming colds and flus. This time of year, we are often more sedentary (not great for the lymphatic system – a major site of immune function in the body), craving sweets, not drinking enough water, and obviously much colder physically. All of these things can leave the body more exposed to catching the bugs that go around in the schools and work place. There are 2 areas of immune health that I always focus on with myself during this time of year: Preventative nutrition, and natural herbs and supplements for acute issues.
Warding off illness with preventive nutrition is so much more sustainable that constantly taking drugs, antibiotics or quick fixes every time you get sick. If you can manage your diet to eat colorful foods every day, balance your intake of veggies, fruits, carbs, proteins and healthy fats, and generally eat real, whole foods, your digestive system and gut health will in turn take care of you, too!Extra good foods for the immune system are garlic, onions, carrots, citrus fruits, broccoli, spinach and collards and kale.
Make sure you’re not over-consuming processed sugars with what you’re drinking every day. Take a good hard look at your coffee, teas, starbucks beverages, smoothies, or carbonated sodas and get an idea of how much hidden sugar is in there. Processed sugars deplete the immune system, and are also relatively inflammatory to the gut (which is another major site of the immune function). The less processed sugar you can eat every day – the better, Instead, try food based sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, dates, coconut palm sugar or stevia.
Keep the energetics of your food in line with the season. It’s COLD and DRY outside right now, and the body tends to mimic that. Try to warm and moisten the body with your food choices by choosing foods like warming soups, stews, healthy oils (olive, coconut, sesame or flax) and cooking with warming spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, chili, cayenne or saffron. My go-to winter food is Kitchari, and I eat for a couple of days at a time if I’m feeling weak or run down.
Herbs & Supplements:
I always keep my home apothecary stocked with herbs and select supplements for when I actually do catch a cold or have the flu. These include echinacea capsules or tincture, elderberry syrup (I also love Gaia’s elderberry syrup), buffered vitamin C, Throat Coat Tea, Oscillococcinum, and red root tincture if my lymphatic system is feeling swollen or strained. The best thing to do if you’ve got a cold is to keep hydrated with tea and warm water and stay home. If you have the chills and flu like symptoms, definitely stay home.
Ellwood Thompsons will have all of these winter immune essentials in their supplement department, produce department and grocery departments. Remember, it’s always better to have these on hand, because you probably won’t want to go get what you need when you’re already sick. Stay healthy this winter!
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com