‘Tis the season for sniffles. With holiday travel, numerous trips to the mall and family members coming in and out of town, is there a way to come through the holidays without catching a cold? Using healthy nutrition to prevent getting a cold or flu not only makes sense; it’s necessary to prevent chronic disease further down the road, according to Suneil Jain, NMD is a naturopathic physician and the founder/owner of North Scottsdale’s Rejuvena Health & Aesthetics. But, during the fall and winter months, it’s especially important to eat healthy. Why? Approximately 80 percent of our immune system resides within our gastrointestinal tract. So a healthy gut is crucial to have a healthy immune system and eating unprocessed, whole foods is the most crucial way to keep this system strong and robust.
Here are a few simple ways to boost the immune system through diet during flu season, according to Jain:
Avoid sugar. Sugar preoccupies the immune system by suppressing white blood cells. Too much sugar can also cause negative changes to the healthy flora within the gastrointestinal tract. This leads to the body being weakened and more vulnerable to the viruses that cause colds and flus.
Eat fermented vegetables. These veggies are rich in antioxidants and friendly bacteria, like Lactobacillus, that provide an incredibly powerful way to boost the immune system. While there are many fermented veggie recipes, cabbage is typically the base vegetable used but others like broccoli and carrots can be included also.
Drink green vegetable juice. Juicing is a great way to mega-concentrate vitamins, minerals and enzymes. This super beverage can pack a powerful punch depending on which veggies have been thrown into the drink and can be found loaded with vitamins A, C, E, K, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and B-vitamins. Vitamin A, C and E help boost white blood cells in the body that help kill infection. Commonly juiced veggies include: kale, watercress, bok choy, spinach, broccoli, kale, dandelion greens, parsley, cucumbers, beets, and carrots. Of course, eating them raw or in salads is also beneficial.
Add garlic and ginger to your foods for more than just flavor has both have antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties to them. Ginger is especially great for soothing sore throats and garlic helps with clearing sinuses. Ginger is also effective against removing mucous from the chest and reducing fevers. Keep in mind garlic has the most potent immunological activity immediately after cutting, crushing or grinding it.
Mushrooms. Reishi, maitake and shitake mushrooms are all rich in vitamin C, D, calcium and B-vitamins but most importantly are rich in compounds called beta-glucans. Beta-glucans enhances the body’s immune system by activating macrophages and natural killer cells to help fight infection. Beta-glucans are also being studied for their anti-cancer benefits.