How to Boost Your Immune System During Cold and Flu Season
By Dr. Taz Bhatia
Here we are again: heading into good ol’ cold and flu season. While you may not be able to avoid other people and children who are sniffling and coughing, you don’t have to be one of them! There are a lot of steps you can take to support and boost your body’s immune system to keep you strong and healthy.
First, it’s important to know what can cause you to be more susceptible to getting sick. Chronic stress, whatever the cause, affects your hormones and your digestive system, knocking them off balance, which can raise blood pressure and put a strain on your circulatory system—weakening your immune system. Sugary foods and alcohol can cause immune deficiencies. And while you can’t catch a cold from being cold, your body does have to work harder to stay warm, and that can affect your immune system, too.
That’s the bad news—but there’s plenty of good news. Today we know more than ever about keeping our bodies working in tip-top, illness-fighting shape by using food, natural supplements, and even scents as medicine. Here’s how:
Healing Foods for Immunity
Avoiding foods that cause inflammation, and focusing on eating those that reduce it, will help your body be ready to shut down any cold or flu that comes your way. The oldie but goodie—homemade chicken soup with garlic and ginger—is still one of my favorites. Since it’s a busy time of year, you may not have time to make soup from scratch. Thankfully you can buy anti-inflammatory, immune boosting ginger and garlic in supplement form. Ginger boosts your immune system by being a natural antibacterial, and soothing to an upset stomach. Garlic contains natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. I recommend looking for coated capsules that help the supplement dissolve in the intestine instead of the stomach—that way they won’t disturb the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Natural Supplements for Better Immune Function
One of my absolute favorite supplements for a strong immune system is astragalus root. It works to strengthen your immunity and helps your cells stay younger and stronger for longer. Much research is being done on astragalus root and its effects on telomeres, the marker on our DNA that can predict aging. For example, short telomeres indicate rapid aging, while longer telomeres are seen as more optimal. Take one dropper daily, and up to three droppers per day when feeling ill. One dropper typically contains 500 milligrams of astragalus root.
A cup of tea seems to go perfectly with colder weather. I love making a tea with turmeric–it has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties and helps to balance hormones. Try this tea from my latest book Super Woman Rx. Add two teaspoons ground turmeric to a cup of boiling water. Add a black or green tea bag (both known to help the body fight viruses), and a teaspoon of honey (another of nature’s immune-building ingredients), and steep for five minutes. That’s a wellness powerhouse in one little cup.
Probiotics are important in rebalancing the microbiome (your gut), which is often considered command central of the immune system. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, bone broth, and kombucha (a fermented drink thought to have originated in Russia), but probiotics can also be taken as supplements. I suggest a probiotic that has five or six strains of bacteria and at least 20 billion colony-forming units, or CFU.
Restorative Aromas for Preventing Illness
Aromas influence the limbic system portion of the brain, which increases relaxation and lowers stress—two great ways to help your body boost its immune system. Frankincense releases congestion, peppermint energizes, and lavender relaxes and soothes. Diffusers for essential oils don’t cost a lot, they make your house smell great, and are devoid of toxins and chemicals.