Cassi Cowlam, Naturopath, The Medical Sanctuary

This is the season to be sniffily, and so it is important to give your body a fighting chance when faced with the culprits causing the common cold (bacteria) and influenza (viruses) which are so abundant at this time of year.

When looking at boosting your immune system and warding off bugs, you need foods full of nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals (chemicals found in plants that have healing properties such as antibacterial and antiviral).

There are so many foods that can help stimulate your immune system. My personal favourites, specifically in relation to the cold and flu season, are:

Shiitake Mushrooms:
Contains Lentinan, which has anti-viral properties and immune regulating effects. Shiitake also contains germanium, a mineral that helps combat viral infections. These mushrooms help increase the activity of our T-Helper and Natural Killer (NK) cells that form part of our immune system, and increases our resistance to bacteria. You don’t need much … only 1-2 per dish.

Reishi Mushrooms:
Due to its ganaderma polysaccharide, this mushroom packs a powerful punch against both bacteria and viruses, and increases production of white blood cells and NK cells.

Contains quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that inhibits the enzymes that stimulates viruses to replicate, helping to hinder the progression of the flu. Onions also decrease phlegm build-up, and contain sulphides and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) that prevent infections.

Raw is better! This is because it contains allicin which is antiviral and antibiotic, but is destroyed by cooking. Allicin also helps liquefy and remove mucus. Garlic also contains quercetin and Vitamin C. Parsley can help take away that garlic breath!

Green Tea:
Contains catechins, flavonoids that possess antibiotic properties due to their role in disrupting a specific stage of the bacterial DNA replication process. Why not add some manuka honey, lemon and garlic to your green tea when you feel a cold coming on!

If feeling a bit run-down or at the beginning of an infection, indulge in slow cooked foods such as soups, stews and casseroles. These are not only warming to the body, but are nourishing and easier to digest, leaving more energy for other things such as fighting off those invading microbes!

Other tips:

  • Eat wholefoods only – no junk foods high in sugar and low in nutrients. Fresh is best.
  • Herbal teas are not only warming to the body, but can include some fantastic phytochemicals that help boost your immune system. Besides Green Tea, some suggestions are Elder, Thyme, Ginger, Rosehip, Calendula, Lemon Balm and Spearmint to name a few. Experiment and mix them up!
  • REST! Please! You are not doing yourself or your co-workers any favours by turning up at work not only infectious, but underproductive. Listen to your body – if you are tired, sleep!
  • Keep up your water intake.
  • Steam inhalation can give immediate relief of symptoms and improve the course of the common cold. Add in some essential oils such as Eucalyptus (see last newsletter article).
  • Keep warm


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