By Shana Tatum
As we begin the fall season, pumpkin spice flavors are not the only thoughts that fill our mind. Cold and flu season may preoccupy our attention as well.
Most know the dread we feel when that scratchy throat or the drippy nose symptoms appear. It can slow us down and put a kink in our day-to-day activities. However, just as most of the points shared here in this column, there are many preventive measures to take to avoid having a season filled with colds or the flu.
If you are a regular reader of The Leader, you know I put great weight on good sleep hygiene. Practicing this nightly sets you up for a stronger immune response. In fact, recent research shows that during sleep, certain parts of the immune system are activated. One study demonstrated that people sleeping seven hours per night were shown to be 200 percent more likely to catch a cold than those who slept eight hours per night. Good, long sleep is of high importance, especially if a cold has already begun.
In addition to good rest, there are some foods that are beneficial to include in the diet to enhance the immune system.
Old-fashioned chicken soup
It’s the kind our grandmothers made. Hydrating broth made with chicken bones contain amino acids rich in glycine, proline, lysine, alanine, arginine and valine. Soups like this provide needed protein and hydration during times of healing. Minerals and vitamins found in carrots, celery and onion further support the immune system in intervals of illness. Old-fashioned chicken soup also is an easily digestible soup.
Long known for its antimicrobial properties, garlic (allicin) can help fight against infection, reduce inflammation and even may be a guard against tumor formation. It’s use dates back to 400 BC and has been used by many cultures worldwide. It is a common ingredient in much of today’s cooking.
It can be used minced or roasted whole in recipes for added flavor. If using garlic in your cooking is new for you or you fear the dreaded “garlic breath,” start slow. Add whole cloves to soups or stew-like meals. You may also find garlic in the refrigerated produce section pre-minced and in a jar.
As a health remedy, add the juice of one lime, a ¼ cup chopped onion, 1-2 cloves of minced garlic and ½ cup water in a blender. Mix well and drink daily when cold-like symptoms appear.
Foods rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin. Foods high in Vitamin C act as an antioxidant to combat stress in the body. It is an immune booster and a key ingredient to include in your medicine pantry. It serves as a main structural protein of skin, cartilage and blood vessels and is rapidly depleted with physical and emotional stress.
If taken regularly before a cold strikes, it has been shown to reduce the duration of the virus.
Examples of foods rich in Vitamin C include orange and tomato juice, red bell peppers and strawberries.
Ginger belongs to the family Zingiberaceae. Through a recent boating adventure in Kauai, I saw firsthand how ginger helps ease motion sickness. Sailors for generations have praised its properties and distant cultures have employed the root for the immune-boosting benefits. With much of the immune system housed in the digestive tract, it is no mystery that gut and immune health may both see improvements with the powerful flavorings of ginger.
An easy ginger tea can be made with boiled water, ginger root, lemons and raw honey.
Thankfully, Mother Nature provides much of the immune system support we need every day. Whether it is the powerful phytonutrients and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables or the inflammation-reducing compounds found in herbs and spices, we can look to our daily meals to fully nourish us.
By getting good nightly sleep, avoiding excess alcohol and managing daily stress, be it physical or emotional, we can strike a balance that supports optimal wellness and keeps illness at bay. My hope is that you try some of these tips to stay well this cold and flu season.
To your health!