I honestly believe in the healing power of food. No truer statement has ever been shared than when Hippocretes wrote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. When I’m starting to or I am feeling under the weather, my first thought is to turn to my kitchen, not the medicine cabinet.
Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe there is a time and place for more traditional “Western Medicine”, but only when it is necessary. As a society we are too quick to reach for advil instead of water when we’re feeling any kind of pain, but essential oils won’t cure cancer.
There is a time and place for both.
And sometimes you just need some superfoods to kick your immune system into high gear. This is especially true during the Winter months where if you’re anything like me, you feel like you’re coming down with a cold weekly.
Another huge factor in boosting your immune system is strengthening your stress resiliency. Noone is immune to stress. But if stress or anxiety is prolonged and unrelenting, don't be surprised if you come down with something. Psychologists in the field of "psychoneuroimmunology" have shown that the state of mind affects one's state of health.
Below are some foods and lifestyle suggestions that can help you boost your immune system as we approach the Winter months.
7 Immunity Boosting Foods For Cold and Flu Season + Create Your Anxiety Tool Kit
Food As Medicine
Garlic is an onion relative and offers antioxidant flavonoids and sulfur-containing compounds like allicin, which combat oxidative stress and inflammation. Eating garlic helps the immune system make more white blood cells and natural killer cells, says Bob Sears, MD, coauthor of the Sears Parenting Library books.
Get more: When you chop garlic, the cell walls break, activating beneficial enzymes. Before heating, allow chopped garlic to rest for five minutes. Aim for two cloves daily: Mince and add to salad dressings; purée with garbanzos, tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil for hummus.
Or try adding garlic to any of your sautéed dark leafy greens.
Use your sense of TASTE to calm and ground yourself. All teas offer health benefits, but green tea has more polyphenols—antioxidants also found in vegetables, coffee, and red wine.
In a newly published survey, Japanese students who drank 1–5 cups daily were considerably less likely to get the flu than those who didn't drink tea.
Get more: Fill a thermos with green tea and sip at your desk; mix with bubbly water and a bit of honey or Stevia for “soda.
This cruciferous vegetable offers more vitamin C than almost any other dark leafy green. It is considered the King of dark leafy greens! Although C may not prevent you from getting sick if exposed to a virus, research indicates it can reduce an infection's symptoms and duration.
Get more: Steam kale for five minutes and toss with lemon juice, flaxseed oil, and cayenne; add to soups and pastas. Aim for two to three servings of C-rich fresh produce daily.
Although exotic mushrooms like shiitakes and maitakes typically take the immunity spotlight, recent research shows button-type mushrooms offer similar benefits. In a study conducted with Yale School of Medicine, Japanese scientists found that supplementing with an extract of several mushroom species increased cancer-fighting cells in study subjects after just four weeks! Researchers aren't sure if eating mushrooms has the same effect, but they are a very good source of immune-boosting minerals, including zinc.
Get more: Sauté chopped mushrooms with garlic and toss into omelets; add to miso soup or pasta sauce. Try a big bowl of my Winter Immune Boosting Soup jam packed with superfoods for your immune system.
Along with apples and nuts, oats are a good source of soluble fiber, which some preliminary research shows stimulates production of the anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-4, bolstering immunity. Polysaccharides called beta-glucans, found in oats, barley, mushrooms, and baker's yeast, also help immune cells fight bacteria and viruses.
Get more: Start your day with rolled or steel-cut oats with chopped apples and nuts; add oats to baked goods for an added boost.
Along with oysters, chickpeas, eggs, and red meat, pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, an essential mineral for cellular functions, including immune cell production. Even mild zinc deficiency can suppress immunity.
Get more: Add pumpkin seeds to salads, granola, and oatmeal cookies; grind seeds and add to burgers.
Probiotics in yogurt have been shown to reduce a cold's duration and severity and increase flu-vaccine effectiveness.
Get more: Choose low-sugar yogurts and kefirs—you can even make your own. Stir a bit of jam or honey into plain yogurt; add kefir to smoothies; substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream on tacos or in dips.
Anxiety Tool Kit
The immune system is the body’s form of defense. It is comprised of organs, tissues, cells and cell products that all work together to fight harmful substances like the pathogens that cause infection and disease. There are two main ways that stress has a direct, negative effect on the immune system:
1. It creates chronic inflammatory conditions.
2. It lowers the immunity of those who otherwise might have a healthy immune system.
Indulge Your 5 Senses
Sip a relaxing tea. I really enjoy green tea to boost my antioxidants, or select a tea with added ashwagandha which is an Ayurvedic herb that helps the body process stress. One brand I enjoy is Tulsi Sweet Rose tea. Yum!
Inhale deeply and focus on your breath. Use essential oils to calm the mind and relax.
If you’re someone who’s under a lot of stress — at home or at work — lavender oil can be a great addition to your daily routine.
One of the best ways to use it is to take a couple drops of lavender oil and rub it on the upper area of your neck or on your temple. You’ll enjoy almost instant support for healthy stress levels as well as the calming smell.
I carry lavender oil around in my purse. And if I am feeling stressed out, I'll simply pull it out and smell it a few times to help me calm down. But my absolute favorite way to unlock the benefits of lavender oil is to use it in a bath.
If you’re feeling stressed, try this for healthy support: Take 20 drops of lavender oil, one cup of Epsom salts, and soak in a bath for 20 minutes.
See and Touch
Engaging your mind in an activity like painting or coloring is the perfect amount of stimulus to make you forget your anxious thoughts. Coloring mandalas can even be a form of meditation. Check out great free pages to print at printmandala.com.
Use gentle massage or a hot towel scrub to relieve stress through the meditative action of rubbing your skin. As you gently touch your body, you calm your mind. Your body benefits from the massage and deep self-care you are providing. This can be viewed as a sacred moment in your day, especially if done with candlelight and a drop or two of essential oil, such as lavender. The action of the scrub creates a profound and loving relationship with your body.
For the maximum effect, scrub your body twice a day: once in the morning and once again in the evening. Scrub for two minutes to 20 minutes, depending on how much time you have. The process of the hot towel scrub has a deeper physical, mental and emotional effect when done at the sink as opposed to in the shower.
- Turn on the hot water and fill the sink.
- Hold the towel at both ends and place in the hot water.
- Wring out the towel.
- While the towel is still hot and steamy, begin to scrub the skin gently.
- Do one section of the body at a time: for example, begin with the hands and fingers and work your way up the arms to the shoulders, neck and face, then down to the chest, upper back, abdomen, lower back, buttocks, legs, feet and toes.
- Scrub until the skin becomes slightly pink or until each part becomes warm.
- Reheat the towel often by dipping it in the sink of hot water after scrubbing each section, or as soon as the towel starts to cool.
Music can have a profound effect on both the emotions and the body. Faster music can make you feel more alert and concentrate better. Upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. A slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day. Music is effective for relaxation and stress management.
Simply listen to your favorite jams--from relaxing to rockin'. Whatever you enjoy is the answer! Give yourself a "sound bath" and let the music carry you away.
What’s your go-to food when you’re feeling under the weather? Do you consider food medicine?
What is your favorite Stress ManagEment technique?
Share with us in the comments below!