How To Avoid Getting Sick

easy classic chicken soup

From Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS.

It’s officially cold season, and everyone knows that dreaded feeling when the sickness is just beginning to overtake you. It may start with a slight pain or tickle in your throat, a foggy head or just a general rundown feeling, but whatever it is, it’s our body’s way of warning us that our immune systems are in need of a boost—and fast.

The good news is that if you do act fact and support your immune system with the right foods, you can actually stave off a cold before it gets full-blown. So say goodbye to medications that only mask symptoms and may never actually prevent you from getting sick in the first place. Follow these guidelines when you feel a cold coming on, and you may never have to visit the pharmacy again.

EAT MORE:

Bone Broth

Chicken soup isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the body, too — especially the immune system. All bone broths — whether made from beef, chicken, fish or lamb — are nutrient-dense, easy to digest, rich in flavor and highly immune-boosting, as it decreases inflammation and supports gut health. We now that around 80% of the immune system is located in the gut, so keeping the gut healthy keeps the entire body healthy. Whip up a batch of homemade chicken bone broth and sip on the warm rejuvenating liquid daily, or use it as a base for a healthy soup. Or, if you aren’t a soup fan or are looking for an easier way to consume this superfood, you can try Bone Broth Protein, which packs all of the nutrient benefits of bone broth in a convenient powder.

Garlic

Garlic has long been known for its antibiotic and antibacterial properties that can stop cold and flu bugs right in their tracks. In a recent study, people who took a garlic supplement for 12 weeks had significantly fewer colds than those who took a placebo. The garlic-takers also recovered faster when they did get a cold.

The best way to take garlic when you feel a cold coming on (aside from adding it liberally to your meals when you cook) is to swallow a raw clove after eating a meal. Simply bite down on the clove once to release the allicin (the major biologically active component of garlic), then swallow with water like a pill. And if you find this method leaves you smelling too much like a walking loaf of garlic bread, garlic capsules are an effective option, too.

Guava

Vitamin C is an awesome immune booster that can help guard you against the hundreds of virus strains that can cause a common cold. Everyone tends to think of citrus fruits like oranges when it comes to increasing their vitamin C intake, but there are a lot of other great fruit and vegetable options out there that pack an even stronger Vitamin C punch.

One of my favorites is guava, a tropical fruit considered to be one of the top antioxidant foods with loads of vitamin C, as well as vitamin A and lycopene. A 100 gram (about ½ cup) serving of guava actually provides over 380% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, making it one of the best sources of the nutrient that you can add to your diet. As a comparison, an equal serving of orange which would only cover 87% of your daily vitamin C needs.

Grass-fed Beef (or Chickpeas)

Zinc is known to play a central role in immune system function. For starters, your body needs zinc to activate T-cells, which are critical for proper immune function, and the role that zinc plays in DNA replication also helps the immune system make new cells when they are needed. People who are deficient in zinc tend to be more susceptible to a variety of illnesses, including the common cold.

If you’re a meat eater, there are loads of nutrients in grass-fed beef, especially zinc. And if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, chickpeas are a great non-meat zinc source.

Fermented Foods

The consumption of fermented, probiotic-rich foods is another smart dietary way to enable your immune system to win the fight against the common cold. Fermented foods trigger an increase in antibodies that lead to a stronger immune system. And scientific research shows that dietary probiotics are “a safe, cost effective, and natural approach that adds a barrier against microbial infection.”

In other words, the probiotics found in fermented foods can really kick a cold-causing germ’s butt. So next time you’re food shopping, look for tasty, immune-boosting options like kimchi, natto, miso and kombucha.

AVOID:

Sugar

Sugar is one of the worst foods to consume, especially if you’re trying to keep a cold at bay. Sugar weakens the immune system and helps bad bacteria to grow, so avoiding refined sugar in its various forms is key to staying healthy — particularly when you’re in the middle of cold and flu season or under a lot of stress.

There are great, all natural sweeteners on the market that enable you to have a little sweetness without wreaking havoc on your health. I recommend stevia in moderation, or raw honey, which comes with its own nutritional benefits.

Highly Processed Foods

Whether its microwave meals, fast food or boxed snacks, many Americans consume what I like to call ‘fake’ foods on a daily basis. These are the foods you’ll find on shelf after shelf, aisle after aisle at the grocery store, and they can literally remain on those shelves for years because they’ve been highly processed, modified and transformed from their original state into something that hardly resembles food at all. These foods do nothing positive for the body —rather, they are known for encouraging inflammation and illness in the body. If you feel a cold coming on, opt for whole foods at all times.

Alcohol

A small amount of alcohol, like organic red wine in moderation, has been shown to have positive health effects. However, drinking too much alcohol not only causes dehydration and inflammation, it also weakens the immune system, which makes your body a more likely victim of the common cold. Whether you drink a lot of alcohol in one sitting or on a regular basis, you are compromising your immune system because alcohol suppresses both the innate and the adaptive immune systems.

Drinking to the point of being drunk also slows down your body’s production of disease-fighting white blood cells, and recent research has demonstrated that the ability to fight off infections is decreased for up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

Fruit Juice

It’s common practice for many people to reach for a glass of orange juice when they feel a cold coming on, but I suggest you think twice. Fruit juice is loaded with sugar and not as nutritious or well-balanced as consuming the whole fruit. Upping your fluid intake is helpful to fending off a cold, but water or tea is a much better choice. If you do want to consume juice, dilute it with water so that you’re upping your water intake and decreasing the amount of counterproductive sugar you consume.  

Want more from Dr. Josh Axe? Read his guide to foods that make you feel crappy or check out the best foods for building muscle here.