As winter approaches, the cold winds and snow invite in a variety of colds and the flu. Here are a few ways to boost your immune system naturally to avoid getting sick and/or speed up your recovery process if you do get sick.
The Immune System
The immune system is a network of organs, cells, and proteins that protect the body from any foreign substances. A primary function of the immune system is to kill and remove pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi that may have entered the body (1).
We are constantly exposed to different organisms from the environment. Whether or not these organisms will cause us to get sick is determined by how well our body’s immune system is functioning. When our immune system is working properly, it will keep us from getting sick, but when our immune system is weak, we become more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu (2).
Foods to help Boost the Immune System
There are certain foods that contain vital nutrients to support the immune system, and help it to function optimally. The following foods would be helpful to incorporate into the diet, especially during the fall and winter months, in order to help prevent or fight a cold or the flu.
Bone broth contains amino acids and minerals that naturally support the immune system. You can eat soup made with real bone broth and vegetables, or you can buy a bone broth protein powder, and use it in a smoothie.
Garlic and Onions
Both of these vegetables have a compound called allicin, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Consuming garlic and onions can therefore help boost immune function. You can incorporate garlic and onions into a stir-fry, a soup, or add to a salad.
Fruits and Vegetables
Certain fruits and vegetables contain high levels of Vitamin C, along with other key vitamins and nutrients. Vitamin C in particular helps support immune system function properly. It boosts white blood cells, which are cells that help fight off bacteria and viruses that may cause you to get sick. The best sources of Vitamin C include, red and green peppers, broccoli, kale, kiwi, guava, orange, and strawberries.
Due to gingers warming effect, it has been shown to help break down toxins that are stored in our organs. With less toxins, there is a smaller burden on the body, and it can focus on keeping us healthy. Ginger also plays a role in cleansing the lymphatic system, which is the network that helps the body get rid of toxins, waste and other harmful substances (3).
Essential Oils for Cold and Flu
Myrrh and Frankincense
When used as a blend, myrrh and frankincense essential oils can help fight against certain pathogens. Both oils can help to boost your immune system. You can rub both oils on the back of the neck or bottoms of the feet (4).
Oregano essential oil is known for its healing and immune-boosting properties. It helps fights infections, has antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties. Oregano can be taken internally if the essential oil is of high quality. Be sure to check if the bottle specifies it can be taken internally (5).
Of course, acupuncture is a great addition to your immune system boosting regimen. Come see us and stay healthy this winter season!
Immune System – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0025680/
Parkin, J., & Cohen, B. (2001). An overview of the immune system. The Lancet, 357(9270), 1777-1789.
Mashhadi, N. S., Ghiasvand, R., Askari, G., Hariri, M., Darvishi, L., & Mofid, M. R. (2013). Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence. International journal of preventive medicine, 4(Suppl 1), S36.
De Rapper, S., Van Vuuren, S. F., Kamatou, G. P. P., Viljoen, A. M., & Dagne, E. (2012). The additive and synergistic antimicrobial effects of select frankincense and myrrh oils–a combination from the pharaonic pharmacopoeia. Letters in applied microbiology, 54(4), 352-358.
Rodriguez-Garcia, I., Silva-Espinoza, B. A., Ortega-Ramirez, L. A., Leyva, J. M., Siddiqui, M. W., Cruz-Valenzuela, M. R., … & Ayala-Zavala, J. F. (2016). Oregano essential oil as an antimicrobial and antioxidant additive in food products. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 56(10), 1717-1727.