Natural Immune Boosters

March 22, 2011

What you eat can help or hinder antibiotics, and foods can act as natural immune boosters; find out what eat and what to avoid 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. 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 key nutrients, including some B vitamins and 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, 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 phytochemicals, 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, which helps the good bacteria return to your gut. It is also rich in glutamine, an amino acid which 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.

Other “natural immune boosting” foods?

Fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants including vitamin C help strengthen the immune system and increase our resistance to other immune invaders.

Garlic and other allium compounds like onions, leeks, shallots and chives are known to have antibiotic properties due to the chemical allicin that 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 anecdotal 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.