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I wish I had taken better care of myself before I got sick! Sound familiar? Now is the time to boost immunity, while the colds and flus are lingering around, waiting to attack your immune system and take you down with the others.
As an alternative to medications, I always begin with natural remedies, and this includes food. Food is medicine, after all. Plants contain powerful antioxidants that kill bacteria, fight off free radicals that break down cells, and boost our immune system. Start with these 10 tips and easy-to-find foods that you can incorporate into meals daily to get a jump start on your health and be armed for this coming cold and flu season.
1. Cut the chemicals. I'm talking about smoking, alcohol and drugs. These depleate your antioxidants -aka natural defenses- and make you more at risk for getting sick.
2. Up the vitamin C. You probably already know this one. What you may not know is that vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and you have to take it daily because you lose it through perspiration and urination. You can find it in citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, leafy greens, papaya and tomatoes.
3. Oil of Oregano. The oil comes from oregano (obviously) but the plant is actually a member of the mint family. The phenols, or chemical compounds found in oregano oil, can kill Candida albicans, E. coli, and Giardia, while another of it's components actually boosts the immune system and helps to protect against further damage. (Purely Healthful Oregano Oil, J. Tellier Johnson, ND)
4. Exercise. This helps move lymph, allowing it to circulate through your body, get processed by your liver, and then excess toxins are excreted. Perspiration also allows the release of toxins and endorphins!
5. Garlic. A superstar that boosts the natural killer cells in your body to help fight off illness. Garlic works best when you crush a raw clove and let it sit for a minute to release it's allicin enzyme (through a few other reactions), and this is where all the magic happens.
6. Say no to sugar. Sugar suppresses your immune system by shutting down the cells that fight bacteria. Have some healthy snack alternatives always on hand and read the nutrition facts label to see the source of the sugar in your food.
7. Protein. A deficiency in protein can lead to decreased immune function, ending in infection. Protein is also important when recovering from illness, to build back up and repair the body. This means plant-based or animal protein. Just be sure that you are combining your plant-based proteins to make complete proteins. Contact a Nutritionist if you would like to learn about building a balanced meal plan.
8. Get your Zzzz's. You know how it goes … you're up too late, you're working too much, you ca't catch up on sleep and – boom – you get sick. And you say to yourself, "Of course I'm sick. I've been going like crazy and I am rundown." Sleep is an important time to let the body and brain rest, recover and reset. High cortisol levels lead to no sleep, and lack of sleep can be taxing on your nervous system and suppress your immune system. Create a sleep routine where screens are off at a decent hour, the room is dark, and get at least 7 hours sleep each night.
9. Phytonutrients. Nutrients found in plants that have antioxidant properties, help to fight off sickness and disease. These are easily obtained through colorful vegetables, fruits (eat the rainbow), dark leafy greens, beans, green tea, even dark chocolate!
10. Fiber. The key to health. Fiber binds to toxins and excess hormones to help excrete them, and reduces inflammation in the body. Aim for about 25g fiber each day through veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
So, you have the self care tools to defend yourself against this season's bugs. Set your mind to sickness is not an option, eat more plants, readily on nature. She has your back.