Foods and supplements to boost immune system
For those of us living in the northern latitudes winter may be a very challenging season. With lower outside temperatures we may experience colds and flu as well as other unpleasant illnesses and symptoms.
There is, however, a way to protect yourself from infections. You simply have to boost your immune system and implement a few simple strategies that will help you stay fit and healthy during the winter months.
By preparing your immune system for winter and strengthening your immune response, you will be able to pass through the cold season without an infection and if you catch a cold, your symptoms will be less severe and you will recover much faster.
Our immune system acts like a protective shield that thwarts harmful pathogens from attacking your organism. In contact with pathogens a series of reactions are taking place within your body. Cells, organs and tissues of your immune system are mobilized to disable the pathogens. The symptoms you may experience (fever, for instance), although very unpleasant, are the signs of a well functioning immune system. Using medication to suppress these symptoms will only weaken your immune system. Instead, you should support your immune system with herbs and natural remedies, get enough rest, and let your body recover from infection all by yourself. You may want to take natural supplements to ease your symptoms, but as the common wisdom goes, it takes a week to cure the cold with drugs, but only seven days to recover without them.
In order for your immune system to function properly, you need to support it with proper nutrition, nutritional supplements and herbs. It is important that you eat more fresh fruit and vegetables (preferably organic) that are rich in vitamins, esp. vitamin C, and minerals, esp. zinc. Zinc may be the most important micro nutrient for your immune system. It is needed for the stimulation of the white blood cells that are important elements of your defense system. People who are deficient in zinc are more susceptible to infections. Zinc works in synergy with vitamin C and in order to be effective in your body it must be taken with its co-factor amino acid Histidine. Taken alone, zinc may be ineffective as the foods you eat interfere with its absorption, especially when you are a vegetarian. The recommended dose is 15 mg per day with up to 1000 mg vitamin C and 100-500 mg Histidine. The other important vitamin for the immune system is the vitamin D3 which works in the body as a potent antibiotic. Vitamin D3 helps the body to increase the production of body's own antimicrobial peptides. The body uses these peptides to destroy pathogenic organisms, including the influenza virus. The suggested dose is 2,000 IU. Another very effective supplement is the polysaccharide beta glucan. The insoluble beta glucans 1,3 and 1,6 derived from medicinal mushrooms and from yeast are very effective immune system modulators and do not overstimulate the immune system. There is no established daily dose of beta glucan, but manufacturers suggest 500-1,000 mg as an effective dose for the enhancement of the immune system.
The Nature supplied us with very effective herbs and power foods that have the ability to boost the immune system and help us stay healthy during winter. They have unique immune enhancing properties and can be used in many different situations to support our overall immune response. They are time tested in many cultures and can be purchased in form of capsules, teas or tinctures in any health food store or pharmacy. Some can simply be used as foods and may be used to enhance your winter cooking.
Here is a list of my favorite winter remedies. You may already know most of them. Or maybe you wish to try something new this winter:
- echinacea purpura
- hot peppers
- royal jelly
- rose hips
- lime flowers
- medicinal mushrooms, such as reishi, maitake and shiitake
- essential oils of cinnamon, thyme, mint and lavender
The list does not end here. These are, however, the best known and most widely used and time tested winter remedies. Some of them are to be taken as tinctures or infusions, as pills or capsules, others are simply added to your daily meals, or used in aromatherapy and for inhalations to clear the sinus congestion. They all have strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and are known to activate and support the immune system. Chose the ones you feel comfortable with and take them systematically to build up your immune system.
If you catch your first cold, remember to never ever take antibiotics. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria not viruses, but common cold and flu are caused by viruses that are unresponsive to antibiotic treatment. There are about 200 different viruses that cause the flu symptoms!
Antibiotics will only weaken your immune system as they destroy the flora in the small intestine which is the seat of the immune system in the body. You will only end up in a vicious cycle. Instead, take a concentrated action to boost the activity of your immune system. Do not wait for the symptoms to fully develop to a flu. Take time to heal your infection, rest and relax as much as you can. Sleep is vital as our immune system recovers during the night.
In addition you may want to implement some lifestyle changes during the winter:
- Wash your hands as often as you can, especially when you come home from work.
- Avoid sick people.
- Dress up for winter - keep you body warm, especially your hands and feet.
- Keep your blood circulating! The idea of taking alternate warm and cold showers in the morning may sound outrageous, but you will soon notice that your body feels warm even in the coldest weather. Use ginger and hot peppers to spice your meals and drink spiced chai instead of ice tea.
- Reduce the consumption of mucus producing foods such as diary and white bread.
- Exercise moderately and spend some time outside.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Supplement with best possible immune supporting products.
- Take high quality multivitamin and bio-available minerals formula.
- Rest, relax and pamper yourself.
- Get enough sleep. Remember that your immune system recovers during the night.
- Reduce your caffeine and alcohol consumption, and if you smoke, stop smoking as this habit deprives your body of the vitamin C which is so important to your immune system.
- Take precautions not to pass your infection on to others.
Preparing your immune system for winter and implementing a few simple strategies will help you enjoy the beauty of this season and pass through it without infection.
Take time to relax and contemplate the changes in nature. And no matter how cold and dark it may be outside, always let the sun shine from the inside out.
By Dominique Allmon
*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.
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How to Prepare Your Immune System for the Winter by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.