Steps To Beat The Sniffles By Building Your Immune SystemOn by
As much as I love the crisp fall weather, it does mean sickness begins to spread. Having a plant-based diet is a means for preventing and reversing disease and enjoying an abundance of beautiful foods from nature.
Having a greater focus on plants doesn’t only work toward preventing major illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, but also illnesses such as the common cold and flu.
Let’s face it, we’re human so no matter how “perfect” our diet is we’re bound to get sick from time to time, but unfortunately most of the food consumed by the majority of Americans weakens rather than strengthens their normal resistance to simple viral infections.
By nourishing your body well consistently you are fueling a stronger immune system to better fight illnesses and eventually,h occurrences will be less frequent if present at all.
Strengthening Your Immune System
While the focus of today’s post is on preparing for those wintertime illnesses, having a strong immune system doesn’t simply protect you from colds and the flu, but also from developing an autoimmune disease, seasonal allergies, and the replication of cancer cells in promoting tumor growth.
Consume a diet rich in nutrients – There’s no way around it.
A well functioning immune system requires ample phytonutrients (compounds found in plants) to function at its prime. This means a diet filled with foods that supply your body with these powerful nutrients.
Foods with the greatest amount of phytonutrients include vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds. Going on and off different diet plans will not serve you well if long-term health is your goal.
Maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D – This is important year-round for ensuring a healthy functioning immune system, along with other benefits such as promoting bone strength.
Rest – I’m sure this isn’t the first time you heard this today 🙂 It’s so very important. When we sleep our body repairs.
“I’m sick! Now what?”
Many people ill with a cold, bronchitis (a bad cold with a cough), sinusitis (a bad cold with significant sinus congestion), or pharyngitis (a bad cold with a severely sore throat) will look for antibiotics or over-the-counter medications for relief.
Illnesses ending with the suffix “-itis” are viral infections, which an antibiotic will not be useful in treating and may actually increase your susceptibility to future infections by depleting your body of its microbial (good bacteria) defenses.
The symptoms we experience with illness are the body’s natural healing process and protective measures to aid us in recovery. Suppressing these symptoms, as relieving as it may be for a time, typically extends the length of the illness.
Rather than relieving symptoms with over-the-counter medications, it is best to provide our body with the necessary components to fight the illness and recover well.
Rest – As challenging as this may be in our fast-paced society, it’s an absolute must. Your body heals and repairs during rest.
Get Outside – Try to get out just a bit to breathe fresh air rather than air that is recirculated in your home.
Limited Fasting – If you’re really sick your appetite is likely already reduced. By following your appetite and reducing the amount of food you consume you’re allowing your body to use the available energy to fight the infection rather than supplying some of your precious energy for digestion.
When you do feel the hunger coming, focus on vegetable soups, vegetable juices, raw salads, and water.
Elderberry Extract – Black elderberry juice is widely used to treat colds and the flu. Studies suggest that black elderberry extract can inhibit the growth of flu viruses and shorten the duration of symptoms while also enhancing antibody levels against viruses.
Consuming 2-3 tablespoons daily for adults and 1-4 teaspoons for children daily when sick is adequate. Your local natural foods store will be loaded with elderberry products, but most likely have only small traces of this superfood.
You can make your own elderberry syrup easily. I purchased organic whole elderberries on Amazon and prepare a few jars at a time so I only have to worry about making it once or twice a year.
Zinc – Zinc is an essential mineral with an important role in immune function. The recommended daily intake for zinc is 15 milligrams.
Considerable evidence suggests that deliberate consumption of foods rich in zinc, or regular supplementation, is useful to improve immune function and fight off infections, as well as cancer growth.
You can increase the consumption of zinc to 30mg daily when you feel the onset of a cold and through the duration of your symptoms.
Plant sources of zinc include:
- Raw nuts and seeds – unhulled sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds
- Wild rice
- Beans and legumes – edamame, adzuki beans, fava, black & kidney beans are particularly rich this mineral.
- Shiitake mushrooms, cooked
Vitamin C – According to a Cochrane review of 29 randomized trials involving more than 11,306 adults concluded that vitamin C supplementation did not reduce the incidence of colds in the general population and therefore that “routine vitamin C supplementation is not justified”.
They do state that Vitamin C supplementation may be useful for people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise. So you can save your money on supplements and use it to purchase vegetables and fruit, which will provide you with an abundance of other nutrients as well.
Echinacea – The studies on echinacea are mixed, some showing mild benefits, and many showing no benefit. While taking it may not be harmful, I wouldn’t consider it the first line of defense.
Chicken soup – I’m not sure where this originated but it sure did line Mr. Campbell’s pockets well.:)
For further reading on how to boost your body’s defenses and live a healthful life, I would encourage you to read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Super Immunity. I believe Dr. Robynne Chutkan’s book, The Microbiome Solution, is a must-read for cultivating a healthier immune system and a better outlook on your overall health. It also includes a list of 10 questions to ask your health care provider if you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic.
As always, an important note that I am not a medical doctor, therefore you should consult your physician with questions and ensure certain supplements are right for you.
Of course, there are many circumstances and situations that do require help beyond home care, however, I would encourage you to keep in mind that your physician may not view the role of diet and the waiting process for antibiotics the same.
My desire is to equip you with information to be an informed consumer in the medical field and begin to take your health in your own hands.
Here’s to a happy and hopefully healthier winter!