Boosting the Immune System

Tips to Staying Healthy During the Cold and Flu Season

Article by: Beth Blessing

Having young kids in school means lots of germs and viruses are being brought home. It didn’t take long before the stomach bug took down one of my kids. Whether you have kids or not, taking the precautionary steps to boost your immunity will help you power through the cold and flu season.

Healthy living and dietary choices along with some immune boosting herbs helps create a three part package that supports your immunity. Here are some tips to help you and your family stay healthy during the cold and flu season.

Healthy Living:

  • Washing your hands: One of the best things you can do to prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands. You don’t need antibacterial soap or spray just a good 20 second scrubbing with warm water and plain soap. Wash your hands before and after you eat, after using the bathroom, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Get plenty of sleep: People who do not get enough sleep or good quality sleep are more likely to get sick. Missing out on your z’s can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight off colds and flu.
  • Stay hydrated: It is especially important to drink lots of fluids when you are sick. This is so you can make up for fluid loss to symptoms like fever or vomiting, and also to ease congestion. But, it is important to stay hydrated throughout the year so your body’s heating and cooling systems operate efficiently. Plain water is the best choice, but herbal and lightly caffeinated teas work well too. Caffeine and sugar in beverages contribute to dehydration.

Immune boosting foods:

  • Garlic: A natural antibiotic and antiviral agent. It is used in the treatment of the common cold, sore throat, ear infections, fungal or yeast infections, chronic or recurrent infections, and low resistance to infection. Chopping or mashing garlic releases the plant’s full potential.
  • Fermented foods: Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and fermented vegetables are all examples of fermented foods. They contain live microorganisms known as probiotics that boost immune function and increase resistance to infection. Incorporating fermented foods into your daily diet is a great way to support your immune system.
  • Mushrooms: Edible mushrooms are either commercially cultivated or picked from the wild. They contain many compounds that work together to boost the immune system. It is very important to eat only organic mushrooms or that were picked from a non-toxic environment. This is because mushrooms absorb and concentrate whatever they grow in whether it is good or bad. Incorporate mushrooms into your meals, throw some into your soups, or add them to your homemade broths to help stimulate the immune system.
  • Ginger: A root that is commonly used both in the kitchen and medicinally. It’s warming and decongesting properties make it a popular herb to use during cold and flu, respiratory congestion, and sore throat. Hot ginger tea with lemon and honey is often all it takes to stimulate the immune system.

Immune boosting herbs:

  • Elderberry: Bluish-black berries that grow in Europe and North America that have long been used to prevent and alleviate many cold and flu symptoms. The compounds found in Elderberry are known to stop the replication of viruses such as influenza. Elderberry has no known adverse reactions so it is especially great for children. Elderberry syrup is easy to make or can be bought at most health food stores.
  • Astragalus: A yellow root with a nutty taste that is native to northern China. Astragalus is an adaptogen that helps strengthen the immune system and fight infections. Just like Elderberry, it is a great winter immune tonic that has no side effects. It is also safe to use during pregnancy and lactation. The dried root can be used in cooking. Just add one piece to your soup or broth and use it like you would a bay leaf.
  • Echinacea: One of the top immune-enhancing herbs, Echinacea is a common go-to herb to use during the cold and flu season. It helps to build immune system strength and to fight off disease and infection. Echinacea is more effective if taken at the early signs of illness. It is great incorporated into a tea or a more powerful punch in the form of a tincture. It is safe to use with children and in the elderly.
  • Goldenseal: A root native to North America, Goldenseal, is a natural antibiotic. It is often paired with Echinacea to help fight off infection, colds, and flu. The root is very bitter so it is often consumed in tincture form. It is better to avoid using goldenseal over a long period of time (more than 3 weeks) because it can irritate the mucous membrane and cause inflammation. If using for a long period of time, take 1 week off every 3 weeks.