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Fighting Winter Fatigue

Jennifer Oechsner

This cold and flu season seems to have hit especially hard. I feel like everyone I know has succumb to some sort of illness the winter. Just when I thought I was invincible, I too am nursing myself back to health after a run in with the flu.  It was no small feat for me to stay put at home for 4 days sleeping, sipping tea and watching old movies. But I knew that rest was imperative so I settled in and did my best to embrace the downtime.

When I felt illness coming on my first thought was to wonder where I went wrong with my self care.  I'm pretty sure the answer to that is insufficient rest. Sleep deprivation aside, I do make a concerted effort to eat my greens at every meal, drink plenty of water, and stay active. Yet, I still had to remind myself that it's natural for the body to fall ill now and again. When you are getting sick 2 or more times per year, thats when really you have to take a closer look at how your diet and lifestyle may not be properly nourishing your immune system. 

Whether your body is trying to repel this season's virus or fighting an illness that has taken hold, your immune system is hard at work and needs some extra TLC. Avoiding illness all together is part luck. How fast you can kick it out is up to your immune system. 

As you know, it is the job of the immune system to fight off foreign invaders and keep systems running free from interference. But did you know that 80% of the immune system resides in the digestive system? The food we eat has a direct impact on our ability to fight disease and stay healthy. Here are some of the best ways to nourish your immune system simply using your diet:

  • Munch on fermented veggies. Fermented foods including unpasteurized kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and miso are rich in probiotics that help nourish your digestive system.
  • Avoid sugar. Excess sugar encourages growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut and disrupts its natural balance.
  • Eat beta-carotene. Carotenes are found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables including carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens. Foods in this category help activate the thymus gland, an important source of immune protection.
  • Pile on the cabbage. Cruciferous vegetables (including cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts & kale) help boost the liver's ability to flush out toxins.
  • Serve up some Japanese mushrooms. Enoki, maitake and shitake mushrooms are great sources of antioxidants and boost white blood cell production which help you fight off infection. Add some to a pot of soup or your favorite stir fry.
  • Add avocado. Avocados are rich in antioxidants, amino acids and healthy fats. All essential to keeping the immune system healthy.
  • Spice it up with ginger. Ginger is used in Indian traditional medicine to clear toxins from the lungs and sinuses. Make your own ginger tea by simmering a few slices for 10 minutes. Add lemon, honey and echinacea for a tasty immune boosting treat.
  • Stir in some garlic. Eating garlic helps fight infection and bacteria. Garlic is most potent raw but adding crushed garlic to cooked dishes will also give your immune system a boost.

Keeping all of your body's system running strong means eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting 7-9 hours of sleep and drinking half your body weight in ounces of water (150 lb=75 oz)per day. Including each of these elements in your life on a daily basis will help you stay healthy and strong this cold and flu season. For more ideas on how to eat for immune health contact me.