The Secret to Better Immunity

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

With all of the fun and excitement that accompanies the holiday season, this time of year also brings about some less appealing aspects. With a calendar full of family functions and social gatherings, along with a rush to end the year strong, stress can definitely start to seep in. And was the weather coils and people tend to spend more time indoors, the number of circulating cold and flu viruses tends to be on the rise as well. In fact, over 200 virus strains can cause the common cold, and each year, adults will experience an average of two to three colds.

The reality of these two factors means that, if you want to actually enjoy holiday festivities without having to call in sick, it’s imperative to start supporting your immune system now. The following immune-boosters will help you guard against the onslaught of fall and winter germs and help you feel healthy and energized.

Bone Broth

Bone broth is not just warm and inviting this time of year, it’s also one of your best defenses against sickness. Rich in immune-boosting collagen, amino acids and trace minerals, bone broth is one of the most nutrient-dense, healing foods around. Adding bone broth to your diet on a regular basis can not only provide much needed nutrition, it can also help to increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. And more beneficial bacteria in your body is correlated with a stronger immune system that can better fend off invaders like the viruses that cause a cold or the flu. Consuming bone broth can also help to improve digestive disorders, joint inflammation, skin health, and so much more.  If you don’t have time to make homemade bone broth, you can also try a bone broth protein powder supplement. 

Dark Leafy Greens

Looking for a delicious addition to a bowl or mug of hot bone broth? Try some dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and arugula. Many people think that citrus fruits are the best sickness-fighting food because of their high levels of vitamin C, but dark leafy greens may actually be a better choice. Not only are they also rich in the immune-boosting antioxidant vitamin C, but they are also high in beta carotene, iron, folate, and magnesium.

Inflammation is at the root of most disease and sickness, especially when it’s chronic. But by consuming dark leafy greens you can easily increase your intake of the aforementioned nutrients that have been shown to decrease inflammation and protect the integrity of immune cells. Being deficient in vitamin C has been shown to impair immunity and lead to a higher susceptibility to infections, so when you’re loading up on comfort foods this season, don’t forget a side of immune-powering greens!

Stay Away from Inflammatory Sugar​

The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without lots of desserts and sugar-laden, seasonal drinks  and cocktails. This added sugar then causes a myriad of problems, included weight gain and inflammation. And not only can this inflammation increase susceptibility for sickness, it can also  impact your mood. In fact, research has shown that not only can eating too much refined sugar make your body more inflamed, it can also contribute to depression, which has been shown to contribute to a higher risk of infections and a longer duration of infection.

That doesn’t means you have to deprive yourself of sweets completely—just make sure that you choose wisely and try to indulge your sweet tooth with healthy and satisfying winter produce like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, and pomegranates.

Probiotics

If you’re looking to stay free of illness and also improve your overall health, then you don’t want to leave out probiotics. This class of beneficial bacteria is known for fostering a stronger immune system, which can help to prevent illness. In fact, a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study found that taking probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus strains, for a 12-week period decreased the risk of acquiring the common cold.

Not consuming enough probiotics (and, subsequently, not having enough good bacteria in the body) is often a root contributor to frequent colds and flus, as well as digestive disorders, skin issues and candida. Probiotics are available to take regularly in supplement form, but you can also increase your intake by consuming fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kvass, kombucha, and kefir.

Keep Moving

Cooler temps often trigger a lowered motivation to break a sweat on a regular basis. But before you trade your exercise routine for a comfy couch and warm blanket, remember that working out indoors is still an option. It doesn’t matter if you head to the gym or pull up a fun workout video online—just remember to get your body moving because the increase in body heat can actually prevent bacteria growth while also helping to flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways. In turn, this process can decrease your likelihood of catching a cold, the flu or some other unwanted illness.

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