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Fighting Colds & Flu: Let Food Be Thy Medicine

The season of snot is upon us and as the nights get darker and the weather is getting colder, many of us have already experienced that familiar tickle in throat, headache or runny nose that signals a cold is threatening. Before you reach for any high street cold and flu remedies or paracetamol try boosting up your own natural defence systems with these superfoods that will help keep the colds at bay all winter.

Prevention Is The Best Medicine

BoneBrothMany conventional cold and flu medications are suppressing the symptoms rather than helping your immune system fight the virus or infection. Whilst they may offer short term symptom relief many have side effects, contraindications with other medications and can worsen other health conditions like high blood pressure. Ultimately you want to build up your own immune system to protect yourself against future infections. Poor nutrition is one of the top factors that makes us susceptible to any illness, poor sleep hygiene and stress exposure also play an important role in immune health. So alongside getting 8 hours of sleep each night and working on chilling out daily, you can dose up on the following foods to help build up your natural immune defences and not let any winter bugs stop you in your tracks.

  1. Fermented Foods

    Traditionally fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir improve the diversity and activity of our protective gut bacteria. 80% of the immune system is located in the gut and building up your bacterial balance essentially enlists a strong army to protect the intestinal wall against any pathogens that enter the body via the digestive tract.

  2. Mushrooms

    These have been used across the world for centuries to help modulate the immune system, it’s suggested medicinal mushrooms could have an active role in cancer prevention and treatment. Mushrooms increase the activity of our protective white blood cells. Shiitake, maitake and reishi  pack the biggest punch.

  3. Fish and Shellfish

    Zinc and selenium support white blood cell function and help to clear flu viruses from the body. Fish and shellfish are a rich source. The omega 3 fatty acids in salmon, mackerel, anchovies and herrings also help reduce inflammation, improve respiratory function and protect the lungs from colds and other infections.

  4. Soup

    Soup which is made using a chicken bone broth can support our immunity, particularly for a cold, as it’s thought the high levels of the amino acid cysteine released from chicken during the cooking process help reduce inflammation of the airways. However, any bone broth contains collagen which helps to support gut function with lots of the amino acid glycine. Choosing a soup made with spices, garlic and onions will also increase it’s immune-boosting power. Check out our Chilli Chicken or Hulk Soup to help kick any cold out the system.

  5. Tea

    I’m northern so fully aware of the benefits a builders brew has to offer and whenever I feel rough I actually crave the taste of tea as popping the kettle on was my parents’ answer to any ailment. Both green and black tea offer the same immune boosting benefits with their disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids. These antioxidants seek out free radicals that damage our cells and destroy them. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated are effective. Loose leaf will have higher amounts of antioxidants and it’s always best not to pour boiling water straight onto the teabag, let the water cool a little first to protect it’s antioxidant capacity.

  6. White or Sweet Potatoes

    Both are a great carb of choice offering glucose which is vital for healthy white blood cell function, vitamin C and fibre. Sweet potatoes and other orange vegetables also provide beta-carotene a precursor for vitamin A which is integral for skin and gut health, both defence lines for our immune system. White potatoes eaten cold also contain a fibre known as resistant starch which helps feed the bacteria in our gut improving bacterial balance.

  7. Sage

    Sage has powerful antiseptic properties and has been used for years to treat sore throats, sinus congestion and coughs in particular (it’s not to be used during pregnancy or breast feeding). You can easily make sage tea by doing the following:

    1. Boil 250ml water, allow to cool a little and add 10 fresh sage leaves or a heaped teaspoon of dried sage. Allow to steep for 3-5 minutes.
    2. Strain into a cup, add lemon and raw honey or xylitol if needed (it’s bitter!) and sip slowly throughout the day.
  8. Ginger

    Has a double action of being both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, it helps eliminate infections and also calms the immune system. I’m adding a big chunk to my morning smoothie three times a week, I like the taste so it’s enjoyable but you can mix in some cocoa and berries to make it a little more palatable if needed. Ginger is also excellent for nausea and vomiting. An easy way to consume it is sip on fresh ginger tea across the day or add to soups and stir frys.

  9. Garlic

    A superfood for the immune system with it’s anti-viral, antibiotic and antiseptic properties. An important tip with garlic is to chop it up just before cooking and leave it for ten minutes. This allows the enzymes in the garlic to get to work and release the active compound known as allicin. So whenever you’re making soup, stews or burgers chop the garlic first and set aside to let it work it’s magic.

  10. Raw Honey

    Raw honey, ideally purchased from a local farmer’s market or health food shop, has powerful antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, it has a long history of being used for it’s antibiotic effect and applied to wounds to aid the healing process. Making some raw chocolate (for even more antioxidants) is a great to get your dose. Do not give honey to children under 1 year old.

  11. Lemons

    Due to their high vitamin C content, lemons are renowned for helping to reduce infections, the length of associated symptoms and phlegm production. Optimal vitamin C levels are vital for helping the immune system to stay strong as the winter bugs set in. Supplementing with a 1000mg can also help, especially if you work in a crowded office or travel on busy commuter trains and are constantly exposed to bugs and bacteria. Now winter is almost here I’ve been adding a capsule to my smoothie each morning before blending and also adding some freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice. NOTE: once you chop a lemon or any fruit the vitamin C degrades quickly so only chop it just before eating.

  12. Cayenne powder 

    Cayenne has the power to not only prevent cold and flu infections but also shorten the duration of the illness.  It’s heating properties can help dispel coldness and it’s anti-microbial effect can help kill of the bad bugs.

 Immune Boosting Meal Ideas

Green Smoothie Lemon n LimeYou can whack all this lot into some immune boosting recipes, here’s a few ideas:
  • Have a stir fry twice a week with salmon, mushrooms, veggies, garlic, ginger and a dash of tamari.
  • Have a citrus smoothie with lemon, raw honey, ginger and some protein powders.
  • Sip ginger tea and lemon tea across the day.
  • Sprinkle some herbs like sage and thyme into your burgers, stews and soups.
  • Have a baked sweet potato with fermented vegetables for lunch or dinner.
  • Make up a batch of soups for your lunches, we have loads of ideas in our recipe section.

What Else?

Saltpipe – salt has been used for centuries to ease the symptoms of respiratory disorders. A saltpipe inhaler helps to lower the inflammatory response of the the respiratory system, decrease mucus and promote innate self-cleansing mechanisms in the airways.
Sweating – can also support your immune system. If you wake up with a headache or sore throat DO NOT TRAIN but maybe do some hot yoga, have a sauna or an epsom salts baths to support the lymphatic system and help you feel human again.
Sleep – skip the gym for an extra few hours in bed and get some much needed zzz’s, the fatigue we experience is your immune system asking you to keep still whilst it devotes some energy to the good fight.
Organ Meat Capsules – you can chop organ meats into tiny tiny capsule-size pieces and freeze on a sheet of greaseproof paper, then take one in the morning. I’ve even blended into a smoothie, you would NEVER know they were there.
Raw Egg Yolks – these are nature’s multivitamin so pop a couple a day to keep yourself topped up with all the nutrients necessary for general health and wellbeing. Again you can add to a smoothie, burger or salad dressing or just neck em!
Vitamin D – Most of us need to supplement across winter as we head to and from work in the dark and spend little time outdoors. Supplement with caution, you can test your levels online HERE. Look for brands with added K2 to keep your fat soluble vitamins in balance.