Boost Immunity Naturally

March 27, 2012

Did the transition to spring leave you with a cold or flu? There are great immune boosters in your local supermarket. Find out what you should be eating here

Did you just finish a course of antibiotics, or is someone in your house feeling a bit ill? Well, what you eat can help or hinder antibiotics, and foods can also act as natural immune boosters and virus fighters - and nobody wants to get sick with warmer weather right around the corner!

Antibiotics, used to fight bacterial infections, kill the bacteria that cause the illness, but also can wipe out the beneficial bacteria in the gut that the body needs to absorb and produce key nutrients, including some B vitamins as well as vitamin K. It’s important that we feed our bodies well all year round and especially if we are ill, but at the same time, food and supplements can interfere with the absorption of some prescriptions.

Foods and tips for recovery:
Live active cultures! Probiotics have been shown to replenish healthy bacteria in the gut that are removed by antibiotics. Probiotics can be found in yogurts, fermented foods, such as miso, kombucha and sauerkraut, and are available as powders and pills - make sure you read the label for live and active cultures as well as checking the expiration date and making sure they are properly stored.

Time your meals and snacks. Consuming calcium or iron rich foods (or those that have been fortified) can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb some antibiotics. Wait at least an hour after consuming calcium or iron rich foods to take the medicine or vice versa. This way more of the antibiotic is absorbed.

What should you eat? Nutrient-rich soups or broths; eating soup is a great way to pack in the veggies aka the phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to heal. Soups also keep you hydrated, helping to flush the toxins and cold out of your system.

Try fermented foods. Kimchi (or kimchee), a cabbage prepared in its fermented form is a prebiotic (and probiotic), which helps the good bacteria return to your gut. It is also rich in glutamine, an amino acid that nourishes the small intestine.

Load up on zinc. Have a cold but don’t really have an appetite? Snack on pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds, which are rich in zinc. Our immune cells depend on zinc to function optimally, so including these in our diet will get our cells back on track. Yogurt is also a good source of zinc; but remember to read labels for live active cultures. Oysters are also an incredible source of zinc.

Other “natural immune boosting” foods?
Fruits and vegetables, are rich in antioxidants including vitamin C, help strengthen the immune system and increase our resistance to other immune invaders – the darker the fruit and vegetable the more immune boosting and overall health boosting power it has.

Garlic and other allium compounds like onions, leeks, shallots and chives are known to have antibiotic properties due to the chemical allicin, which exerts antibacterial and antifungal effects.

Oregano, also demonstrates antibacterial and antifungal effects. The active ingredients thymol and carvacrol have shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria often associated with skin infections.

Honey and cinnamon. Cinnamon is an antifungal and antibacterial agent. Combine cinnamon and honey for a well-rounded antibiotic effect. Honey (“raw” varieties) has been used for thousands of years to suppress the growth of bacteria and fungus.

As always, check with your pharmacist or health professional for nutrient/medication interactions. Make sure the antibiotics are necessary; antibiotics cure bacterial infections, which means they are useless against viral infections such as colds or flu, most coughs, runny noses and non-strep sore throats.