It is that time of year again when people start coughing and sneezing all around you. It is important to keep your immune system as strong as you can through the cold weather and there are some natural ways to prevent colds and flu.
Aside from the basic hygiene of covering your mouth and washing your hands, there are more things you can do to boost immunity. Most people know about Vitamin C boosting the immune system and it can be great for prevention of colds. Vitamin C is not only found in fruits like oranges but also in vegetables like bell peppers and broccoli. Think “bright colors"!
Vitamin A is also a natural vitamin that helps boost the immunity within the respiratory tract, and taken in a supplement or food form may help with actually fighting the cold. Vitamin A is not something you would take during pregnancy. Natural vitamin A rich foods include squash, pumpkin, and carrots for example. Think “orange and yellow” colors. I love to make spaghetti squash as an immune boosting fall dinner. This can be found in the grocery store, you just cut it in half and bake it for about 45 minutes on 350 degrees F. After that, use a fork to scrape out the “spaghetti”, top with olive oil, fresh basil, parmesan and cut up tomatoes for a delicious dinner full of flavor.
Did you know that there are also certain herbs and seasonings that can help boost immunity? Certain Italian herbs like oregano, rosemary, and thyme can actually be anti-microbial and help fight off bad respiratory bugs. Some people use the oil in a steam inhalation or sinus rinse to kick a sinus infection naturally. A simple way to use these in cooking is to add a few teaspoons to your favorite meal. I like to sneak them into soups, sauces, and ground turkey dishes. You can also make a natural steam inhalation with steam in the shower by dropping a few essential oil droplets into the bottom of the shower floor and breathing in deeply. Steam and sauna can sometimes help release stuck mucous from the lungs and sinuses.
Another great thing to boost immunity is to exercise. Many people use the fall and winter months as an excuse to curl up and lounge around inside. I encourage you to not fall into that habit, and join an indoor activity like a gym or take a class. Sweating helps the body detox and improves circulation, it also boosts our white blood cells that help fight off infections.
Also keep in mind that the holiday sugar and carb-heavy foods will further suppress the body’s white blood cell function. Try to stay away from the potatoes and desserts this holiday season and fill up on lean protein with vegetables. If you need a replacement for dessert, try baked apples with cinnamon or cut up peaches with nonfat yogurt. Mashing cooked cauliflower with olive oil and garlic powder makes a great substitution for mashed potatoes. You can also skip the stuffing and use cut up vegetables inside the turkey to get the same great flavors. Garlic and onions are also natural immune boosters, so don’t forget to add these into your home recipes.
I hope these tips help keep you healthy during the cold and flu season!
Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a primary care Naturopathic doctor at Tree of Health Integrative Medicine clinic in Woodinville, WA.