It’s peak flu season and the Cote d’Azur has been hit hard, reporting three times more cases than the rest of France – which is already under the grip of an intense epidemic. Fortunately for most, flu is not serious or fatal, but who needs a miserable few days of high fever, aches and pains and other cold symptoms? The official advice is to stay hydrated, wash hands regularly, avoid going out (easier said than done) and throw used tissues in a closed bin. But happily, there’s more you can do to strengthen your immunity and avoid getting ill in the first place.
Here are my tips for being “one of those people who never gets sick”.
Get a flu shot – or not?
Flu outbreaks put huge pressure on the medical system. Doctors therefore often recommend vaccinations for “people at risk”, including those with heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or immune-compromised conditions – although they are only about 50 percent effective. If you’re otherwise healthy, deciding to get vaccinated or not is a matter of personal preference. Some people choose to avoid the flu vaccine out of concerns about side effects, although it is worth noting that unlike some other countries, flu vaccines containing mercury, a known neurotoxin, have been phased out in France.
Either way, there are plenty of natural and safe things you can do now to avoid winter illnesses, including the flu.
Make your food your medicine
Eat plenty of seasonal vegetables, particularly leafy greens like kale. Other good bets include broccoli, winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic, onions and mushrooms. Include high quality sources of protein like beans, nuts, seeds, and good quality lean, organic meats if you are not a vegetarian. Fresh and frozen berries are a good source of powerful antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and keep your immune system functioning properly. Make sure to consume good quality oils, particularly olive and coconut oil to keep your cell membranes healthy.
Sugar depresses the immune system and should be avoided as much as possible. Avoid or eliminate fruit juice, fizzy drinks and alcohol.
Take your vitamins!
Vitamin D3 and Zinc are the most important vitamin supplements for boosting your immune system.
Research has confirmed that catching colds (and the flu) may actually be a symptom of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you much more susceptible to contracting colds, flu and other respiratory infections.
Studies also show that zinc, which can be found in pumpkin seeds, spinach, oysters, nuts and beans, can help shorten the duration of illness because of their powerful immune-protective effects and ability to stop viruses from multiplying.
And did you know that much of your immunity happens in your gut? It’s true: probiotics keep your GI system immunity in top shape. If you’re prone to getting sick in the winter, consider taking a high-quality probiotic daily and consume more fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha.
Stay well hydrated
You’ve heard it before, but keeping well-hydrated is essential because parched mucous membranes are more susceptible to inflammation and irritation. This can interfere with their role of acting as a primary barrier against infection. Water and herbal teas are your best bet. Smoothies made predominantly with vegetables are also a great idea.
Include superfoods and herbs
There are many immune-boosting “superfoods” and herbs that can be used preventatively to optimize the immune system and prevent infection. Some of my favorites are chlorella: an antioxidant-rich alga that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and helps boost the activity of pathogen-attacking NK (natural killer) cells; fresh ginger: another potent anti-inflammatory that reduces fever, soothes sore throats and helps clear mucus from the chest; garlic: preferably raw, rich in the immune-boosting compound allicin, which promotes the activity of white blood cells and helps destroy cold and flu viruses; turmeric: used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties and cayenne: which contains capsaicin, a compound which increases body temperature and helps fight off lingering bacteria, while increasing circulation and loosening mucus. All these things can be added to smoothies, shots, teas and salad dressings.
Reduce stress in your life
Your nervous system and immune system are linked.Chronic stress gradually depletes your defenses and makes you more susceptible to all kinds of disease, including the flu.Once you succumb, it increases the severity of colds and makes them harder to kick.
Research shows that the more psychological stress a person is under, the greater their risk of respiratory infection. It also suggests that our personality and emotional state greatly influence the likelihood of getting sick if we’re exposed to infections like the common cold. In other words; the sunnier your mental outlook, the more resistant you are to seasonal bugs!
Inner calm and a recharged nervous system help keeping your immune system in tip-top shape. Ideally sleep 7-8 hours each night and turn off your electronics at least an hour before bed to allow your system relax for a night of restorative sleep. Use a quick de-stressing technique during the day to regain that inner sense of calm when things get tough.
Do you want to learn more about how to protect your immune health? Check out the Foodwise Immune Boost Plan at: https://www.foodwise.life/program/immune-boost
Wishing you lots of good health!
Ginger, Lemon and Turmeric Shot
Try this for a super hit of immune-boosting nutrition!
1 whole organic lemon (seeds removed)
1 thumb sized chunk of ginger (leave skin on)
1-2 teaspoons of turmeric powder (curcuma) or fresh root
¼ teaspoon black pepper (improves turmeric absorption)
1 teaspoon honey to sweeten (optional)
2 tablespoon coconut milk (optional)
½ cup (or less) water
Whiz everything in a blender and enjoy!