Have you got time to be sick this winter? I know I certainly don’t! That is why I take a “prevention is better than cure” approach to my immune health to avoid the dreaded lurgies.
Our immune systems are incredibly complex but it is possible boost it’s fighting power with a few natural remedies.
During my time as a consultant naturopath, I used to test each of my patients zinc levels and found that approximately 90% of them were critically low in this vital mineral. Even a mild zinc deficiency can cause a reduction in the efficacy of your T cells – important immune cells that help to fight pathogens. It can take several months of zinc supplementation to bring your levels up, so it is something to get started with straight away! Many preparations of zinc are combined with vitamin C and together they work synergistically to reduce the frequency and severity of colds.
- Vitamin D
Most people think that Vitamin D is just an important component in bone health – in actual fact it is much, much more than that. Recent research has found that it has a premier role in immune function, it enables the white blood cells (our body’s soldiers) to produce proteins to kill pathogens – even tuberculosis! Interestingly it has also been found to have profound anti-cancer benefits, in fact, at a recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, Dr. Edward Giovannucci of Harvard University challenged “…any of his colleagues to find an area or nutrient or any factor that has such consistent anti-cancer benefits as Vitamin D.”
Now you may think that you get enough of this nutrient simply by being in the sun. But even in my clinical practice in Australia I found the majority of my patients to be either deficient or on the lower end of the spectrum of adequate levels. The thing is, most of us spend so much time indoors these days and then when we do go outside we slather ourselves in sunscreen – which is important to protect from skin cancers but not great for preventing vitamin D deficiency!
A simple blood test from your GP will tell you whether you are deficient in vitamin D or not. I recommend asking for a copy of your test results to check exacly what your levels are and even if you are within the acceptable range but on the lower end of the spectrum, I think it is still worthwhile to take Vitamin D for a few months to get it up into the higher range.
If I do come down with a cold or a flu, andrographis is one of my favourite herbs to knock it on the head quickly. Native to South Asia, andrographis has been found to increase the body’s white blood cell count, enabling our body to attack pathogens efficiently. Some researchers claim it was even responsible for halting the 1919 flu epidemic in India! This amazing herb also has tons of other actions such as preventing cancer, relieving digestive disorders, lessening allergies and enhancig the detoxification capacity of the liver.
- Japanese Mushrooms
Nevermind the hallucinogenic variety, it is the Japanese shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms that are magic in my book! Displaying anti-viral, energy-enhancing and anti-cancer properties, these mushrooms are particularly good for people with weakened immune systems who seem to constantly get sick. They can be used in cooking, however the most therapeutic way of consuming them is in a powdered or liquid extract form – ask at your local health food shop for availability.
Used in traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, this herb is anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It can be used to prevent colds and flus but is also wonderful for post viral syndrome – ie. that period after a severe flu where one can still feel fatigued, weak and not yet back to 100%. It can be taken as a tablet or a liquid, but do note, it is better not to use it during the acute stages of an infection if there is fever present.
So there you have it, 5 amazing natural remedies to keep your immune system fighting fit. Do you have a favourite cold and flu remedy that you swear by? If so, post it in the comments below!