recipes and tips for better living

Friday, October 30, 2009

Kicking It Through Cold/Flu Season: Immunity Boosters



Teaching yoga means touching a lot of sweaty bodies. Sweaty bodies mean open pores channeling toxins and bacteria. With all these ferocious strains of the flu bug going around, I have found in my field that there is some concern for health. I would imagine it's the same in many lines of work: teachers whose students are sick, students whose friends are sick, mothers whose children are sick, and the like. With the rediculous price of health care these days, it is in everyones' best interest to begin a preventative healthcare regime. Your trip to the vitamin store/health market may put you out of pocket $100, however, it's a lot better than getting the flu, having to take work off, yet still solving problems when you can hardly move, and still having to pay those astronomical health care professional costs. Since I personally don't agree with getting vaccinations, I look towards herbs and supplements to boost my bodies natural defenses. There are many supplements and herbs available to help build your immunity, and even some simple techniques you can use from items that probably exist already in your kitchen. Without going too deep, here's some easy to follow tips and products that may aide you during cold/flu season.

HEALTH DISCLAIMER: As with any supplementation program, it is always wise to talk to a health care professional, especially if you are already taking herbs and/or perscription drugs. Your health care provider or integrated pharmacist should be able to help you determine if there is a possibility for interactions or inappropriate dosages.

Cook with more Garlic and Onions. Even consider eating a small raw clove of garlic a day. You can buy garlic at the health market in capsule form that will not produce the heavy scent that garlic is synonymous for. Garlic increases the activity of T-helper cells. These are cells central to our bodies immunity. Also, both garlic and onions contain allicin. Allicin, considered nature's antibiotic, contains strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Consider eating more warming soups cooked with ample amounts of these two bulbs.

Ginger also has anti-inflammatory compounds. It has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurvedic Medicine to help fight cold and flus. Create fresh ginger tea by peeling and slicing a medium piece of ginger and add it to a pot of filtered water. Boil, then simmer, and strain (the longer it sits the stronger ginger flavor you'll have). Ginger is great for sore throats and helps to remedy nausea, vomiting, and indigestion.

Turmeric is a kitchen spice that is widely used in Indian/Ayurvedic Medin.  Not only is it an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory herb, it is often used to help cough, cold, sinusitus, and even put topically on skin can cease a kitchen cut from bleeding. Add more turmeric to the foods you cook.

Astragalus root stimulates our immune system. It is an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it has a balancing effect on our bodily functions. This anti-viral herb has many health uses/benefits, one of which is protecting the body against the various strains of influenza virus.

Immunity Boosting Mushrooms!! Eat or supplement with shitake, maitake and reishi mushrooms which are known for their immune boosting qualities. New Chapter makes a product called Host Defense which is a combination of those plus many other amazing medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms are rich in minerals and B vitamins, and have been shown to help boost production of white blood cells (your fighter cells).

Wellness formula is a product i like put out my Source Naturals. It is a combination of many immune boosting herbs. You can take it preventatively or at first sign of imbalance in your body, at which point they recommend taking 3 tablets every 3 hours. In my experience this has worked for me, although i have always combined it with other herbs.

Elderberry extract is great for seasonal support. This herb has been traditionally used to support immune function and has been showing great promise in shortening duration of the flu. While it has not yet been proven to prevent the flu, i have found adding it to my regime at first onset of imbalance has immediately aided in restoring my health. There are some products available labeled Elderberry "immune support" that contain additional Vit C, Zinc, Astragulus, and Echinacea. These are the ones i'm most apt to grab for.

Multivitamin - do i even need to say this one? If you aren't taking one, most likely you realize you should be. With our Standard American Diet (appropriately acronymed "SAD" diet) and the depletion of nutrients in our soil, we are not getting nearly the amounts of minerals and vitamins we once received from our food. A daily multi is an easy way to make sure your body is getting the vital nutrients it needs to perform it's millions of everyday functions.

We all know by now the wonderful powers of Vitamin C. There are probably even more benefits than you realize!! Even heart related benefits (much research has shown that supplementation of higher dosages of vitamin C lowers incidence of cardiovascular disease)!! Vitamin C is generally safe to take in dosages much higher than you would normally consume. It is said by some holistic practitioners that you can take up to 6 grams (6,000 mg) a day. Pace yourself as you increase your dosage, and notice if your multi-vitamin or other supplements already contain some C. You may find that you feel optimal at 3 g. Above 3 g generally individuals will notice looser/quicker elimination. This however could be a benefit...if that is a health concern of yours.

Eat more raw and lightly cooked fruits and veggies. Produce that is raw is full of nutrients and enzymatic qualitites. Add in more produce that's rich in Vitamin C like oranges, kiwi, grapefruit, pineapples, lemons, bell peppers, and broccoli. As well as nutrient and vitamin rich spinach, swiss chard, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Choosing produce with a colorful depth is a reflection of the amount of carotenoids and antioxidants that will continue to support health as they scavenge the damaging/oxidizing free radicals that wreck havoc on our bodies.

and simplest of all....WASH YOUR HANDS MORE! Our hands transfer germs into our mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) where the body absorbs the bacterias. So...do your best not to touch your face and keep your hands nice and clean!
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