It seems to be that time of year where everyone you know and their dog is sick. Whether it be a cold, the flu, or something even worse, it’s hard to talk to anyone without feeling like you’re going to become infected. While hand washing and sanitizers might shield against germs passed through physical touch, what can we do to keep our bodies strong to fend against airborne germs, like those passed through sneezing and coughing? The first step is prevention. While there is no guaranteed method to preventing a cold or flu, these methods can certainly be helpful in strengthening your family’s immune system.
This might seem like an old-wives’ tale, but high doses of Vitamin C can actually help strengthen your immune system, and even shorten the duration of a cold once it’s contracted. While you can invest in a Vitamin C supplement, we recommend getting it from real food! Oranges and orange juice are a go-to source, but bell peppers, strawberries, brussel sprouts, and broccoli are all excellent sources as well.
Probiotics - The “Good” Bacteria
Probiotics are just a fancy word for “good bacteria.” Your gut, AKA your intestinal tract houses 70% of your immune system and trillions of microbes (bacteria). While this might sound icky, many of these bacteria are actually good for you, and are responsible for keeping your immune system strong. Bacterial infections can occur when the balance of good to bad bacteria is thrown off balance. By increasing your intake of good bacteria, it’s like adding extra men to your immune system army. Again, you can invest in a supplement, or you can get probiotics from food. The most common source is yogurt, which is made by fermenting milk with healthy bacteria. You can also get probiotics from fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut, kimchi, and even pickles (as long as they are naturally fermented, and not pickled with vinegar)!
Another way to increase your healthy bacteria count, is by eating high fiber foods. Fiber actually acts as fuel for probiotics. These foods are called “prebiotics” as they promote the promote the growth of probiotics. Foods like bananas, avocado, oats, whole grain breads, onions, garlic, and potatoes (with skin) are all rich in prebiotic fiber. Overall, eating an abundance of whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables will insure adequate fiber, and work to strengthen your probiotic army!
Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate
When it’s cold, you might not think about hydrating as much. But just like you lose water through your sweat more in the summer, you lose it through your breath more in the winter! Water is responsible for mediating all of your bodily functions, and without it, your immune system can’t perform optimally. Make sure to drink adequate amounts of water, and eat plenty of hydrating foods, like fruits and vegetables. Try some of our favorite soup and stew recipes to sneak in some extra fluid throughout mealtimes.
Think about engaging in regular moderate intensity exercise to give your immune system just the boost it needs, without over-doing it. A brisk walk, bike ride, or (moderate) strength training session will help increase circulation of blood and lymph (the bodily fluid that contains disease-fighting white blood cells), and help your body fight off infection faster than if you remained sedentary. When it comes to exercise, just because some is good, doesn’t mean more is better. There is no need to engage in grueling, vigorous workouts to fend of illness!
Increase Intake of Antimicrobial Foods
Just like probiotics help to increase the “good” bacteria in your body, antimicrobial foods help to decrease the “bad” bacteria in your body; the bacteria likely to cause illness. Foods like ginger, cinnamon, cilantro, garlic, and honey all have antimicrobial properties. Steep some ginger and cinnamon in hot water with honey for a warming cup of tea, or make a batch of chili, and top it with cilantro.
Do you have any other tips to prevent illness that you use within your family? Please share it with us in the comments below!