Immune boosting tips

Oopsies! My holidays lasted a little longer than expected so I’ve been the absentee blogger. The good news is that I’m coming back totally refreshed and super invigorated about what lies ahead for 2012.  Lots going on….stay tuned for future announcements :)

It’s a cold and dreary January day here in Toronto….likely the first of many such days ahead.  We all hope to get through these drab winter days without getting hit too hard with a nasty cold or flu but unfortunately being indoors so much puts us in constant contact with others, which increases our odds of catching a bug. I’m often asked about immune boosting foods and supplements so I thought I’d give you a run down of some of my top recommendations to keep healthy this winter.

Vitamin C.  This super vitamin is touted for its powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.  It increases white blood cell activity, which is key to an effective defence against viral and bacterial infections. Vitamin C also enhances iron absorption, which helps deliver oxygen to our muscles and keeps us feeling energized. One important note about Vitamin C is that it is best absorbed in the presence of bioflavonoids. These plant compounds are responsible for giving fruits and veggies their distinctive pigments and provide significant antioxidant support. So if you supplement with Vitamin C, be sure to take one that includes bioflavonoids.

2. Probiotics Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your intestinal tract? 100 trillion bacteria live in your gut, which is more than all the other bacteria combined that reside in the rest of your cells. The key to immune health is to ensure a healthy balance of “good” vs “bad” bacteria. What promotes the proliferation of the bad? Sugar, coffee, processed foods, antibiotics, stress and birth control pills all contribute to dysbiosis. Yes, eating yogurt, kefir and fermented foods like sauerkraut can help maintain healthy levels of gut bacteria but many of us need a boost from time to time, due to lifestyle choices. Look for a product with 10-15 billion live organisms (in particular Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium) to keep your immune system strong this winter.

3. Garlic This herb has been used for thousands of years to ward off colds and flus. Studies have shown that garlic has potent anti-microbial effects as well as the ability to stimulate white blood cell activity. The active compound in garlic is allicin, which is released when the clove has been cut or crushed. That’s what gives garlic that distinctive aroma and taste when it’s freshly chopped. To reap the greatest benefit, eat it raw and within 3 hours of cutting. In our household we often combine a clove or two with a mashed avocado and a squeeze of lime juice for yummy immune-boosting guacamole.

4. Mushrooms Sometimes the mushroom is a little underrated but studies have shown that it can enhance the production of proteins that boost infection-fighting white blood cell activity. Mushrooms are also rich in selenium and Vitamin D, both of which are hard to find in natural foods yet are linked to immune health. Shiitake, reishi, portobello, even white button mushrooms will support immunity. Saute them, toss them into a stirfry or enjoy them grilled….mushrooms will do you good!

5. Oil of oregano This is one potent natural substance! It has a very strong taste that not everyone can handle. Just a few drops are all you need, best diluted in 3-4 ounces of water or juice. This oil is derived from the leaves of wild oregano, so it is a pure product. Its antiseptic powers can help fight bacterial, viral and fungal infections. It is anti-inflammatory, helps relieve pain and congestion, and can even help with skin conditions such as eczema. Best to use when you first feel that tickle in your throat, don’t shy away from its powerful taste, it’s worth a try.

Of course all of the above have to work in tandem with a healthy lifestyle.  Keep drinking at least 8 cups of water every day; it is the best way to flush germs and toxins from your system. Also, don’t forget the rejuvenating, healing powers of sleep. We all tend to underestimate how much we need but most of us function best on 8 hours per night. And more if you are fighting a bug. Best quality sleep is usually from 10-12 pm, so try to turn out the lights sooner rather than later.

Wishing you all a healthy 2012!

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