This time of year, you can walk into any local pharmacy and be bombarded by “Get your flu shot!” signs and offers to “prick you quick” by your friendly neighborhood pharmacist. Getting the shot can surely help ward off some strains of the flu, but won’t protect you against the common cold. Also in making the flu shot, the CDC takes its best guess as to which strains will be active for the coming year, meaning it doesn’t protect against all strains. This begs the question “What can I do if my flu shot doesn’t work?”
The answer? Boost your entire immune system to help fight off anything that comes your way. As the immune system defends the body against bacteria and other foreign invaders, it depletes stores of essential vitamins and compounds it needs to function. Make sure to replenish your body to keep your immune system going at full steam.
Natural immune boosters
Vitamin C, as you’ve likely heard, is the king of immune boosters, and a well-marketed addition to most cold medicines. Scientific studies show that Vitamin C stores decline during times of stress and sickness, so boosting your numbers with supplements gives your immune system what it needs to fight the good fight. Most over-the counter (OTC) vitamin C supplements have only 1,000mg per dose, which is fine to maintain stores on a regular basis. However, if you already have cold or flu symptoms, you may need to increase the dose to really knock it out. Foods high in vitamin C include oranges, red peppers, kale, broccoli and strawberries. One serving of orange juice, kale or broccoli has about 100mg. It’s not enough to boost your immune system in one shot, but these foods are great in incorporate into your regular diet.
Glutathione(GSH), in the simplest terms, is an antioxidant. It has a number of responsibilities in the body, including production of immune cells that attack foreign invaders in the blood stream. In order to keep levels up under stress, a person would need to eat about 10 times the daily amount normally consumed. Asparagus is at the top of the list for glutathione content, but would still take about 18 cups to get 1000mg per day. Cooking causes glutathione to break down, so it would need to be raw! During high times of stress and flu season it might be a good idea to take a supplement if you do not regularly consume foods rich in glutathione.
Quercetin is a natural antihistamine, aka natural alternative to Claritin, Zyrtec, Benadryl, etc. You heard that right! It works as well, if not better than OTC products. It helps lower the side effects of a histamine response, like itchy, stuffy or runny nose. Quercetin is found in most fruits and vegetables, but are in highest concentrations in cranberries or elderberry. Stock up on REAL cranberry juice (not cocktail), and skip the added sugar if you can tolerate the taste.
Anti-microbial foods: Nature’s antibiotics
Garlic’s pungent smell illicits a response that helps clear the respiratory tract. In the GI system, it destroys the bio-film that covers and protects colonies of bacteria, ultimately destroying them. It can also be used as a topical antiseptic. Garlic is also high in Vitamin C, supporting the immune system.
Cinnamon is an antioxidant that also has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral potential. There isn’t much official research on these claims, but anecdotal evidence says it all. A little bit goes a long way. A teaspoon added to your tea can help fight off those bugs, plus it tastes pretty good when you’re feeling low.
Ginger has a long-standing history of relieving belly aches, however, don’t be fooled by commercial brands of ginger ale that contain little to no actual ginger (Ahem…Schweppes). You’re better off boiling up a bit of raw ginger root to get its beneficial effects. Add a bit of honey, cinnamon and lemon juice for a powerhouse cocktail.
Your best defense against cold and flu season is starting with a well-rounded diet will lots of fruits and veggies. However, there will always be that rogue bug that gets the best of you. In those cases, rest up, hydrate and try some of the natural remedies combining these powerhouse ingredients.
As always, supplements and proper dosage should be evaluated by a trusted health care professional, as supplementation is not appropriate for everyone.
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