Boost your immune system …. before winter!

Chinese herbs are great for the immune system!

Chinese herbs are great for the immune system!

With winter being the time when a lot more cold’s, flu’s and viral infections are around, then Autumn is the time to start building up your immune system so that you and your family can stay healthy this winter. The last few years I have treated lots of people and especially kids who are repeatedly getting sick all winter, and while there are some herbs and nutrients available to help you get better quicker, the best approach is to build up your immune system so that if you do get a cold you are able to get over it quickly…. or if luck is on your side not get one at all.  

Schools are a favourite place for your kids to share bacterial and viral infections. Many children succumb to chronic respiratory, ear and gastro-intestinal infections in the school environment. Frequent use of antibiotics and over-the-counter medications can suppress children’s immune systems, making them more vulnerable to infection.

Foods To Boost Your Immune System

The most commonly known food to help prevent colds and flus and strengthen your immune system is garlic. Garlic protects against germs (bacterial, fungal, parasitic) and viruses. Garlic can be easily added to your kid’s favourite meals like pasta dishes, stirfries, soups and sauces. 

Another food which possess special immune-boosting properties is shiitake mushrooms, these have been used in Chinese medicine for years to boost immune function and they can be purchased fresh or some immune supplements also include them. I use a special immune boosting mushroom formula which is fantastic.

Other immune boosting foods include good quality yoghurt, miso and sea vegetables. Adding small quantities of miso, shitake mushroom and sea vegetables to soups and stir-fries is a nice way to further boost your protection from colds and flu during the winter months.

Nutrients for the Immune System

A number of important nutrients are also needed to enhance immune health. Without these your immune system can become suppressed and deficiency symptoms can occur. For you and your family to have super resistance, you should feed them food packed with immune-boosting nutrients. Here are the top five nutrients to help build immunity and protect your child against disease, infection and allergies:

  • Vitamin C: fruit such as citrus (oranges, guava) and coloured berries (strawberries, blueberries and boysenberries) are excellent sources of vitamin C. Fruit juices are also good sources of vitamin C if they are vitamin C fortified. While freshly squeezed orange juice is a good source of vitamin C, ripe fruits have higher vitamin C content than “green” or pre-ripe fruits. Vegetables such as red capsicums, parsley, broccoli and cabbage are also rich sources of Vitamin C.
  • Zinc: zinc is found in a wide variety of foods. The best sources of zinc include lean meat, chicken, fish, milk and other dairy foods (cheese), brewers yeast, egg yolks, legumes (soy beans, lima beans, lentils, peas), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pecans. A moderate amount of zinc is found in vegetables. 
  • Vitamin A and beta-carotene: milk, egg yolk and fish oil (cod liver oil) contain vitamin A while beta-carotene is found in high levels in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, apricots, mangoes and green leafy vegetables. 
  • Vitamin E: foods rich in vitamin E include wheatgerm, whole oats, cold pressed olive oil, fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, avocado, fish, poultry, meat, eggs and raw nuts and seeds. 
  • Omega-3 FAs: Omega-3 FAs are found in oily fish (mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, trout, salmon), flaxseed oil and walnut oils, dark green vegetables, parsley, seaweeds, nuts, seeds (pumpkin and sesame seeds, tahini), legumes (hummus)

Supplements For The Immune System

 

Probiotics – these are the good bacteria that inhibit the growth of bad bacteria in the gut and promote those that aid digestion and promote a healthy immune response to infection.Supplementation is the only way to get therapeutic dosages of the specific immune building strains.

Echinacea, Olive leaf, Astragalus and Andrographis – can be used to help fight colds and flu as it increases the numbers and activity of white blood cells, as well as increasing the production of interferon, a vital chemical for the immune system response. Astragalus is my favourite herb to boost your immune system.

Goldenseal – can help to prevent infections 

Vitamin C and Beta-Carotene  – increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies.  It is also a potent antioxidant.

Zinc – increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and makes them more aggressive, children are often low in Zinc and a simple Zinc taste test can be done to check their levels.

Maitake – this is a mushroom that stimulates the immune response by activating T-cells, the body’s defense against viruses and cancer cells.  It also contains polysaccharides, which are chemicals known to boost the immune system.

About the Author Michael

Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen

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