Before you reach for flu vaccinations and over-the-counter drugs, why not try some of nature’s most powerful immune-boosters this winter?
When you strengthen your immunity naturally, you significantly decrease your chances of getting ill in the first place. You also make it easier for your body to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot more you can do to boost your immune system than increasing your vitamin C intake.
Here are three powerful, research-backed ways to strengthen your immunity:
Honey and fermented foods
Honey is commonly used to soothe sore throats and treat coughs. Raw honey also contains a unique probiotic – Lactobacillus kunkeei – which stimulates the immune system.
Probiotic bacteria naturally produce lactic acid and acetic acid, which balance the digestive tract’s pH levels. Additionally, these acids also prevent numerous pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria and yeasts from multiplying.
Probiotics also aid digestion, which frees up more energy for the body to heal and repair instead of struggling to digest food. Make sure that you consume raw, unfiltered honey to enjoy the full benefits.
You can also opt for probiotic-rich fermented foods such as natural yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut to reap the above-mentioned digestive benefits. Most health stores, including ours, stock these products. For a double immunity boost, mix your favourite natural muesli, rolled oats or fresh fruit with some yoghurt or kefir, and drizzle raw honey on top.
Sun exposure is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to boost your immune system (and mood). Sunlight stimulates vitamin D3 production.
This powerful vitamin produces antiviral peptides that destroy harmful invading organisms. This is one of the reasons why people are more prone to get sick during winter – it is easier to stay snuggled up indoors than to get outside.
Getting between 10 and 20 minutes of sun exposure close to midday on a large portion of your skin can do wonders for your immune system. It is important to note that the darker your skin, the more sun exposure you will need to reap the full benefits of sun-induced vitamin D3 production.
If your work or geographical location prevents you from getting outdoors regularly, you can also opt for a vitamin D3 supplement.
However, natural sun exposure is always best to reap the full benefits. Try taking a walk after work, or setting time aside to cycle, run, or go for a hike over the weekends.
Echinacea purpurea is a medicinal herb native to the North American plains. It is effective in treating respiratory infections, colds, and flu. In one study,
Czech researchers found that an echinacea beverage was equally as effective as a popular antiviral drug (Tamiflu) in treating flu, but without the adverse side effects commonly associated with pharmaceutical flu drugs.
You can buy echinacea extracts at most pharmacies and natural health stores. It usually comes in tablet or liquid form, and dosage depends on various factors such as age and symptoms (you can follow the recommended dosage guidelines on the product).
This winter, I encourage you to take the natural route to build up a strong, fully-functioning immune system. This way, even if you do get sick, your body will be equipped with the best possible ammunition to fight back. When you look after your immune system, your immune system will look after you.
Tracy Venter is a Somerset West-based nutritionist, and writes a bi-monthly health column for Bolander. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.