By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
Seasons are changing all over the world! Here in Australia we are just coming off of a particularly bad season for coughs, runny noses, headaches, sore throats and generally feeling awful, so we are welcoming spring with open arms. When temperatures and humidity drops (like it’s about to for those of you in the northern hemisphere), cold viruses can survive better, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer from them!
The cure? It’s not always medicine. Advertisements encourage people to soldier on through sickness by taking cold and flu medications, which are stimulants that allow you to keep pushing on rather than taking the time to rest as needed. Antibiotics are often prescribed but unfortunately many of these infections are viral which are not affected by antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy many of the good bacteria in our digestive systems and may in the long-term if taken too frequently suppress the immune system, cause antibiotic resistance and increase the risk of other health conditions.
The good news? You’re not completely at the mercy of an infection when it hits you. There are many foods, spices and medicinal herbs that have been shown to reduce the incidence, severity and duration of these infections.
Think about adding these 11 plant foods to your diet to avoid the seasonal sickness:
The main medicinal compound found in garlic (allicin & allion) is strongest in raw form. British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; the garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. You can add it fresh to a meal or crush it through a press onto a spoon and drizzle olive oil and honey over it and take it directly off the spoon, or swallow slices like a pill!
Like garlic, onions also contain the antimicrobial compounds allion and allicin. This is also best consumed raw. Add finely chopped onion to your salads, as a garnish on soups, stir-fries and it can also be consume soaked in honey (a great natural cough syrup).
Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. Consume shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms in soups, broths and in stir-fries.
4. Citrus Fruits
Bioflavonoids found largely in the pith and vitamin C found in the flesh are very important for supporting white blood cell health and strength. Vitamin C particularly gives these cells muscle to put up a good fight.
5. Probiotics & Fermented Foods
Research published in The University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey found probiotics helped reduce the duration of a cold as well as the severity of symptoms. Probiotics have been shown to prevent acute upper respiratory tract infections.
Ginger contains antiviral agents and supports healthy immunity. This is wonderful to drink warm with lemon and honey to reduce symptoms along with adding it to juices, soups and other meals.
7. Medicinal Herbs
Medicinal Herbs like Echinacea, Olive leaf, Andrographis, Elder flowers and berries, either taken as a tea or as a herbal tincture, will support immunity and may reduce the duration and severity of the infection. Licorice and Aniseed are wonder herbs for coughs with natural anti-viral agents – this has saved me many times when my kids have picked up a bad cough.
8. Thyme & Oregano
These contain natural antimicrobial compounds and can be taken as a tea, juiced, sprinkled on salads, soups and stir-fries.
9. Vitamin A
Vitamin A keeps the mucous membranes that line our nose and throat, our first line of defense, healthy and functioning optimally. Vitamin A rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, beets can be added to any citrus and ginger for a full immunity kick.
Foods such as brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, whole grains, meats and seafood contain selenium which helps white blood cells produce cytokines that help clear flu viruses out of the body. Researchers found that mice infected with the flu virus showed higher levels of inflammation if they were deficient in selenium.
Look for foods such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, quinoa, shellfish particularly oysters to get your zinc. Zinc deficiency affects the ability of T cells and other immune cells to function effectively.
Remember it is also important to be kind to yourself, rest and allow others to support you.