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Powerful Immune-Enhancing Foods to Get You Through the Winter Healthfully

woman with flu surrounded by tissue papersby Carly Gallagher (Naturopath and yoga teacher)

Often when sick, the best remedies are the ones passed down from our grandparents. Here are a few of my favourite ones that work every time. They can be amazing support for sore throats, stuffy noses, and when you need comfort.

Lemons: One lemon has 44 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C improves the function of natural killer cells, which help eliminate infection, and aid in antimicrobial activity. It helps the body’s own helper cells, such as lymphocytes, and helps the body’s cells maintain their integrity and resist oxidative damage.

Lemon contains citric acid, which helps break up the mucus that causes sore throat, and also helps soothe your throat from the pain and inflammation. It is also a natural antiseptic that helps kill the bacteria or viruses in the throat.

How to take: Put a tablespoon of grated ginger in a cup of boiling water. Steep for 3 minutes. Add a tablespoon each of freshly squeezed lemon juice and pure Manuka honey, and stir well. Strain the tea and drink regularly. Add some black pepper and turmeric for additional benefits.

Garlic: Garlic has shown promise in preventing colds and the flu. Studies have shown that garlic may reduce the risk of becoming sick in the first place, as well as how long you stay sick. It may also reduce the severity of symptoms. One study gave 146 healthy volunteers either garlic supplements or a placebo for 3 months. The garlic group had a 63% lower incidence of getting a cold.

How to take: Eat 3-4 cloves, which is equivalent to about 100mg, the recommended amount daily for immune support.

Ginger: Ginger is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger may help fight harmful bacteria and viruses, which could reduce your risk for infections. It can also help reduce a sore throat.

How to take: Best sliced up and added to hot lemon drinks or bone broths.

woman cutting vegetablesBone broth: Bone broth contains 19 essential amino acids. This marrow contains lipids, especially alkylglycerols, which are vital to produce white blood cells. Several studies have linked the substance chondroitin sulfate, found in bone broth, to both anti-inflammatory and immune-regulatory effects.

About 80% of all immune system cells reside in the digestive system. This means that as you heal your gut, you also heal your immune system. Bone broth is an important component of this healing. According to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the book and nutritional program Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), “bone broth helps to seal and heal the gut.”

This is due in large part to the glycosaminoglycans (or GAGS) found in it. GAGs help restore the intestinal lining. They also play a role in maintaining collagen and elastin content between tissue fibre. Glycine in broth may also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

How to take: Bone broth is a highly nutritious stock that can be made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue. Recipes for bone broth often include an acid-based product, such as vinegar or lemon juice, and are simmered with various vegetables for more than 24 hours.

Chicken Bone Broth for the Soul: Add sliced garlic, turmeric, black pepper and ginger to the bone broth to pack it full of beneficial immune support.

Turmeric: Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong antioxidant.

How to take: Curcumin is poorly absorbed into your bloodstream. To activate the full absorption, you need a piperine like black pepper with the turmeric, otherwise you will not get the benefits.

Research indicates curcumin doses of 500–2,000 mg per day may be effective. However, given that turmeric in food delivers only 3% curcumin compared to an extract which delivers 95%, it’s probably wise to take a curcumin supplement for the full benefits.

Don’t let this sway you from keeping turmeric in your diet! Grate some into your bone broth or hot lemon drink with a bit of black pepper.

Manuka Honey: Manuka honey is effective for treating everything from a sore throat to wounds and ulcers. It is beneficial in clearing infections, improving digestion, boosting the immune system and providing energy.

Superbugs such as Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus and Clostridium difficile are susceptible to the power of Manuka. Manuka attacks the biofilm of bacteria, which makes them resistant to antibiotics.

How to take: The more MGO there is in the honey, the more antiviral and antibacterial properties it has. Manuka honey manufacturers label their product with a unique Manuka factor (UMF) rating. This number describes the levels of MGO.

The range for UMF scoring is as follows:

0 to 4: an undetectable amount is present
5 to 9: low levels are present
10 to 15: useful levels are present
16: superior, high-grade levels are present

The higher the UMF number, the higher the level of these compounds. To get the most benefit, use a Manuka honey with a high UMF.

Add a teaspoon to your hot lemon drink several times a day.

Eat Warm Foods With Colds and Flus

Traditions around the world support eating warm foods when ill. This is because we want to preserve as much energy as possible to fight the infection. Digestion requires a lot of energy, especially with cold foods. When you eat warming foods, digestion is mostly already underway, giving your body a break.

Foods to Avoid When Sick

Here are some foods that should be avoided when you’re sick:

  • Bananas–Bananas increase mucus and phlegm formation, so should be avoided during colds and coughs.
  • Dairy–Bacteria love to reside in mucus, and dairy is a mucus-forming food. Casein proteins in dairy are also pro-inflammatory, which is not ideal when your immune system is active.
  • Sugar–Refined sugars increase inflammation, which we want to avoid in active immune cases.
  • Alcohol–The body treats this like sugar, and it increases inflammation.
  • Caffeine–Caffeine is a stimulant which taxes your adrenals. We want to nourish and hug our immune system, not throw more fire on it.

Schedule Today

If you want to stay your healthiest this winter, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule your naturopathy appointment at Pickford Chiropractic Clinic or via phone consult.


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