Flu season is fast approaching, and one of the big questions with so much conflicting information is “How can I best prevent illness during the winter months? Well, since I’m not an MD, I don’t feel comfortable answering that question exactly. What I can speak on is how, from personal experience and a whole lot of research, is how I’ve managed to avoid getting sick for years now- the 3 simple and effective way to boost immunity. Instead of trying to avoid illness, lets focus on equipping ourselves with the best line of defense should we accidentally contact those nasty germs.

I work with the public everyday as a licensed physical therapist assistant, but have to throw in the disclaimer that I am not authorized to give medical advice nor prescribe, so please as always, check with your primary physician to make sure each of these items is SAFE for you. 

First and foremost, before I unpack the main 3 immunity boosting items, I should start with the fact that I eat mostly whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and non-meat sources of protein (controversial, but I do include a servings of soy in my diet for a multitude of reasons). I’m not huge into supplements, mostly because of the research I’ve done and the amount of vitamins & minerals I get from the foods I eat. That’s a story for another day, but that is where I will begin. Sorry to break it to you, but you can’t boost your immune system by eating crap no matter how many supplements you have spread across your kitchen counter. Okay, let’s begin:

Elderberry syrup

The elderberry fruit is a very high maintenance fruit. This fruit can cause stomach problems and be poisonous to humans if consumed raw or uncooked properly. Last year, I was introduced to it by a patient of mine who made it from scratch. My mom and I took a teaspoon per day from December to March (the research varies between teaspoon and tablespoon, so I always air on the side of caution. Again, check with your Dr.) There is research that claims it’s acceptable to take up to 4 teaspoons per day, spread out by a few hours, if you start to feel the cough/cold/flu beginning. This is an example that a little can go along way. This past weekend, I picked my own bottle up at Heinens Grocery Store. Most health food stores carry it with either cherry, berry, or ginger included. 

Some health benefits include high doses of vitamin C, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and fights harmful bacteria. There’s a lot more in depth, science-y terms you can find with a quick Google search. If it helps, I even got my boyfriend to start drinking it, with the pickiest taste buds (especially for healthy food) on the planet.

Ginger, garlic, turmeric

The terrific triad! These 3 herbs are so incredibly amazing for the body in more ways than I have room to list. Ginger’s main gig is that it helps soothe and prevent nausea, is anti-inflammatory, and also thins the blood (*why I say to check with MD*). 

Garlic (where are my fellow Italians at), which is in 90% of the foods I eat (also why you see mints scattered around my apartment), contains both antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Turmeric is my best friend. No, seriously, I have an entire blog coming out in a few weeks stemming off the story of my Sunday Sunrise email back in August that explains the wonderful properties of this beautiful (and gross tasting) herb. For now, I’ll share the fact that it’s the #1 anti-inflammatory substance known in the health industry. Check with you doc, though, because there can be potential risks (increases stomach acid and also is a blood thinner) if you have certain conditions or are currently on medication. I take this supplement in powder form 6x per week. You can also drink it in tea form pre-packaged, get the root from the grocery store and boil your own water with the root to create your own tea, or use it to season chicken for lunch or dinner.

Limit processed sugar

Are you sick of hearing this one yet? Processed “simple” sugar feeds bad bacteria and can prevent us from getting enough foods rich in bacteria-balancing nutrients (ex dietary fiber). I’m not speaking about the natural sugar in fruits, but the high fructose, sucrose, lactose, and anything that ends in “ose.” There are SO many mostly-healthy ingredient snack foods aside from Nabisco and M&M Mars. An ingredient I use in desserts, for example, is monk fruit sweetener (diabetes type II friendly alternative) instead of refined white sugar. 

Below, I’ve included some links on recipes that include each immunity-boosting ingredient that I’ve included in this blog. These are not my own, as you know if you’ve been following for awhile that I don’t necessarily enjoy to cook. 

If you have further questions or comments regarding this topic, please feel free to comment below or use the icons to share on social media with your friends!

Recipes:

How to make elderberry syrup: https://wellnessmama.com/1888/elderberry-syrup/

Butternut squash, coconut, ginger muffins: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/butternut-squash-coconut-and-ginger-muffins

Garlic mashed potatoes: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/21391/garlic-mashed-potatoes-secret-recipe/?internalSource=hub%20recipe&referringId=1086&referringContentType=Recipe%20Hub&clickId=cardslot%2020

Turmeric golden milk: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/258801/turmeric-golden-milk-with-turmeric-paste/?internalSource=hub%20recipe&referringContentType=Search&clickId=cardslot%204

Chocolate almond mousse w/ monk fruit sugar: https://www.intheraw.com/using-itr/recipes/chocolate-almond-mousse/

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/elderberry#health-benefits

https://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/cate-sibley-pharmd/2017/10/elderberries-a-potent-cold-and-flu-remedy

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/garlic-fights-colds-and-flu

https://www.healthline.com/health/turmeric-tea-benefits

https://foodinsight.org/gut-check-sugars-and-the-gut-microbiome/

Cover photo by: Sarah Gualtieri https://unsplash.com/@sarahjgualtieri