As our long humid summer comes to an abrupt end many of us start to think about flu season. The good news is that there are many natural ways of boosting our immune system and helping to prevent catching these bugs. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
Remember Grandma’s hearty chicken soup? The health benefits of this is more than just an old wives tale. Research in the Boosting ImmunityAmerican Journal of Therapeutics showed that a compound in chicken soup, carnosine, helped the body’s immune system to fight the early stages of the flu. There are also many immune boosting and inflammation-fighting nutrients in chicken and vegetables themselves that help fight infections. Even drinking warm liquids helps ease congestion. Chicken soup is the perfect synergy of all these elements but must be made from scratch with chicken carcasses. Some organic butchers sell homemade chicken stock that you can simply add vegetables too if you are time poor.
As 75% of the immune system lines the intestines so it is no surprise that probiotics also offer immune-boosting properties. I find that some of the most effective healthy bacteria come from fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut as the bacteria form their own biofilm as they naturally reproduce in the foods which helps them stick to the gut more effectively than many lab-based probiotics. My patients get even better results when they combine this fermentation process with already known immune boosting herbs and nutrients such as olive leaf extract and papaya. These extracts have already been scientifically proven to boost the function of the immune system by enhancing the properties of our natural killer cells that do the actual job of fighting the bad bugs. When they are fermented with healthy bacteria their properties multiply to achieve even greater immune boosting effects.
Don’t forget to keep up your daily intake of vegetables and fruit. Soup is a great way to get veges into hungry kids on a cold winter’s day. (I even sneak in mung beans). Vitamin C and zinc are also essential nutrients for the immune system to function efficiently and many of us are deficient in these. Vitamin C works much more efficiently if it is taken before you are exposed to infections and is best to be taken in the morning before getting to work or the school ground and especially before boarding an aircraft where there is often a bug warzone going on.
Words by Dr Elen ApThomas