It’s quickly becoming that time of year again when the leaves change, the temperature drops and the days aren’t quite as long. For some of us, it might also be the time where we have a little tickle in our throat, a stuffy nose we can’t quite shake, or just that feeling of being a little rundown.
As the seasons change it can be hard for our bodies to adapt and much easier for us to get sick. This is why it’s important to know how to support your immune system (the body’s defense against illness and infection).
The fall and winter months are a beautiful time, but they can also be a busy time, and if you’re anything like me you simply don’t have time to get sick! The good news is there are many natural ways to support the body through cold and flu season so we can enjoy the upcoming holidays with ease!
1. Vitamin C
Perhaps the most well-known vitamin for cold and flu viruses, vitamin C is a superhero this time of year! By directly supporting the immune system with its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, vitamin C helps prevent us from getting sick and can help minimize symptoms if we do. Although vitamin C can be taken as a supplement, many of our favorite whole foods are jam-packed with it! Treat yourself to some fresh fruit like oranges and grapefruit or some nourishing veg like broccoli and kale. Your body will thank you!
2. Manuka Honey
With its natural antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, honey is one of the oldest known antibiotics! Manuka honey has the added benefit of containing the most powerful bacteria-killing properties of all honey. Manuka honey is produced by bees pollinating Manuka flowers, which have been used in traditional herbal medicine throughout history to remedy congestion, respiratory issues, and colds. Manuka honey provides that double hit of honey and Manuka flower to keep us feeling our best this cold and flu season.
A slightly lesser-known cold and flu-fighting mineral is zinc! Zinc proves time and time again that it’s effective at shortening the length of colds and the flu, as well as improving symptoms. Zinc supports our entire immune system and helps fight both bacterial and viral infections. Sources of zinc include grass-fed meats, shellfish, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
4. Fermented Foods
Did you know your gut health is directly related to your immune system!? Fermented foods are often easier to digest which takes the burden off our digestive tract and they supply us with beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics help us modulate inflammation, and lessen symptoms when we’re sick. Some probiotics have even been shown to help fight viruses! Some all-time fermented food favorites include sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and sugar-free yogurt.
5. Bone Broth
One of my all-time favorite foods to eat when I’m sick is bone broth. Not only is it warming, and comforting, but it’s easy on the digestive tract and packed full of healing nutrients. When we’re sick the body is put in a nutrient deficiency because it’s allocating other resources to help fight the infection. Bone broth helps us restore these nutrients, allowing us to recover more quickly! Warm bone broth is also a nice way to soothe the throat, and ease some internal discomfort that comes along with cold and flu. In addition to vitamins and minerals, bone broth is a great way to get our protein in when we’re feeling unwell. Another major component of bone broth is collagen, a protein responsible for ensuring our cells repair from damage and our gut absorbs nutrients. Collagen also plays a role in controlling inflammation and helps ease body aches and pains!
6. Veggies & Leafy Greens
As you may have noticed there’s a trend here, get more nutrients! When we’re sick the body is working on overdrive to get us well again and one of the best ways to support it is through whole foods. Veggies are a great source of the vitamins and minerals we need during this time. Lightly cook veggies or add them into a soup for a gentle nutrient boost. Try this nourishing and restorative veggie soup, and for added protein and collagen use bone broth as your base!
7. Lemon Water
Although one of the most underrated healing tools we have, water is so important for kicking sickness to the curb! The body uses water for every metabolic process and when we’re sick a whole lot is going on that we need water for! Lemon water has the added benefit of antioxidants, natural electrolytes, powerful detoxing properties, and liver support. Whenever we’re sick the liver is impacted, so supporting it through hydration and antioxidants is so important! Another use for lemon water when we’re sick is a warm lemon-water-salt gargle. The warm lemon-water helps soothe sore throats by lowering inflammation while the salt helps flush out harmful bacteria.
Spend some time on stress management. The immune system doesn’t differentiate between physical and emotional stress and prolonged exposure to stress hormones weaken our immune system. When the immune system is weakened we are much more likely to get sick and have a much harder time recovering. Even during busy times, remind yourself of the importance of slowing down and relaxing. Try a yoga class or go for walk outside, spend time with loved ones or some much needed alone time! Whatever helps you unwind, dedicate some time to it, your immune system will thank you.
Good luck out there with cold and flu season! Nothing is worse than a poorly timed cold or flu, but with these tips, I’m confident you will fight them off quickly and easily. Just remember nutrients, nutrients, nutrients, and a little bit of relaxation, your immune system will take care of the rest!