By Dr. Nicole Kilian, ND, LAc
Protecting our immunity is a key goal of many patients during the winter. Foods that help the immune system are often requested, but it is important to keep in mind that no single food will keep you from getting sick. Rather, focusing on eating healthy, resting, and reducing your stress will have the biggest impact. With that said, the foods below are great to incorporate as part of a healthy diet to promote overall vitality and avoid illness too.
Garlic is not just great for warding off vampires, but are also great at keeping the flu at bay too. Effective against many bacterial strains and viruses including rhinovirus, adding garlic to a meal is a great flavor and immune supporter. Raw is the most effective form, but it can cause digestive upset. Incorporating garlic into a healthy diet is a great way to give a meal a little immune enhancement.
Ginger is a wonderful do-all herb, most famous for helping with nausea. It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and can be helpful for both gastrointestinal and upper respiratory infections. Fresh ginger tea with a bit of other immune boosters such as citrus/lemon and honey is a great blend for when you have a sore throat.
If you’re starting to feel a little run down, swapping out green tea for coffee can be an excellent idea to strategize your caffeine intake. Due to its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, green tea is a great option to improve energy.
Mushrooms have many immune regulating properties, including providing a great source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in our immune defenses. Further, many mushrooms have been researched for their benefits in immune regulation for cancer. Pro tip: I like to incorporate mushrooms into soups for a little immune boost.
Citrus of all varieties are rich in Vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Most of the research on Vitamin C is on a higher dose form than can be found in most citrus, but it is still a worthwhile addition. Swap out citrus for dessert to reduce overall sugar load and get a dose of Vitamin C at the same time.
Honey is a great antimicrobial and can even be used on wounds. Honey can also be soothing to the throat and help with coughs. A handy tip: be mindful of the extra sugar and sweetness that may come with adding honey to your diet, and be sure to use sparingly in teas.
Sauerkraut is full of probiotics which help support a healthy gut microbiome. They can compete with the pathogens (microorganisms that can cause illnesses), helping your internal immunity fit off a cold or flu. Furthermore, these healthy bacteria will also produce antimicrobial compounds that can be protective to your system.
These are just some of the ways you can support your immunity naturally! Consider bringing in some of these immune boosters if they are not already in your diet this winter, and let us know if we can provide any guidance or support along the way.
-Dr. Nicole Kilian, ND, LAC
Naturopathic Physician and Acupuncturist
Dr. Kilian asks a lot of questions because listening is the foundation of her practice. With degrees in both Naturopathic medicine and Acupuncture, Dr. Kilian is rooted in traditional medicines while keeping the pulse on evidence-based solutions. Dr. Kilian treats many different conditions, but is most interested in how the patient’s daily life is impacted. Dr. Kilian has a collaborative approach to treating her patients. Read more about Dr. Kilian.
- Gaby, Alan R. Nutritonal Medicine. Fritz Perlberg Publishing Concord, NH. 2011
- Pitchford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition 3rd Ed. North Atlantic Boooks Berkeley California
- Tilgner, Sharol Marie. Herbal Medicine: From the Heart of the Earth. Second edition 2009 Wise Acres LLC