Help support your immune system and stay healthier with these food and lifestyle tips.Let’s face it, when and how we get sick is often out of our control. There are germs everywhere (did you ever take microbiology?), especially this time of year. And for parents with young kids, it can be especially challenging to stay well. In addition to constantly being bombarded with germs, it is often hard to get a good night’s sleep.
Fortunately, there are still steps you can take to support your immune system and reduce your chances of getting sick or, at least, reduce the duration and severity of your illness.
Immune Supporting Foods
Here are my tips, many of them based on a fantastic seminar I went to last November through the Northeastern Massachusetts Dietetic Association. The topic was Herbs and Immunity and the speakers were dietitian Michele La Rock and herbalist Brittany Wood Nickerson, founder of Thyme Herbal.
Incorporate the following into your diet:
- Fermented foods (sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kefir)
- Mushrooms, especially Asians such as shiitake; cook for most benefit
- Sea vegetables, such as nori and kelp
- Vegetables rich in beta-carotene (pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato, dark green leafy vegetables, cantaloupe)
- Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C (bell pepper, kiwi, strawberries, cantaloupe, citrus, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, potatoes, parsnips)
- Whole grains, try barley, oats, spelt, quinoa, and farro–mix it up from the usual whole wheat and brown rice!
- Thyme, dried is ok, but make sure it is still fresh by rubbing between fingers and smelling
- Parsley add to soup, salad, smoothies, or make parsley pesto
- Raw garlic, if tolerated, add to salads, dressings, and pizza
- Onions, use when making soups or stews–perfect food for cold weather
- Ginger root, use in cooking or make hot ginger tea
Supplements to Consider
In general, it’s best to meet your nutrient needs through whole foods. However, there are times when a supplement may be beneficial. For example, most individuals in the northeast don’t meet their vitamin D needs in the winter.
Here are a few supplements to consider, but talk to your doctor before adding:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Fish Oil
In addition to eating a nourishing diet, your lifestyle habits are also important when it comes to supporting your health.
Here are several tips to support your immune system:
- Cut back on sugar, refined grains, & processed foods.
- Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water. Herbal teas, decaf teas and coffees, smoothies, and soups also help contribute to hydration.
- Get enough sleep. Take naps if needed.
- Exercise and be active daily.
- Get outside daily.
- Spend time in nature or by the ocean.
- Reduce stress.
- Practice yoga and or meditation.
- Get a massage.
- Try acupuncture
- And, of course, wash your hands often!