Who has time for getting sick? I know I don’t! Whether it’s just a common cold or something as miserable as the stomach flu, it always seems to come at the most inconvenient times—especially during the fall and winter season when kids are in school and the holidays are in full swing.
The more things you can do to boost your immunity and keep your immune system strong, the less likely you will be run down by a pesky virus or stomach bug. Diet, lifestyle, and even emotional health all play into the strength (or weakness) of the immune system.
Follow the five tips listed below to help boost your immunity and keep you protected from sickness this holiday season.
1. Eat Garlic
Sounds interesting, right? Well, there is a reason garlic is hung in houses to keep vampires away. It’s powerful! There is a component in garlic called allicin that is known for its antibacterial properties. In fact, garlic has been used to fight infectious diseases for centuries due to its abilities to be resistant to multiple different types of bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli. It also has the properties to differentiate between beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria in the gut because garlic is a prebiotic. A prebiotic brings balance to the gut flora by inhibiting growth of harmful bacteria.
Not only is garlic antibacterial, but studies have shown that it also has antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Because different illnesses can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or harmful microbes, garlic covers everything!
Garlic is most powerful in its raw form so it still contains all its anti-microbial properties. The simplest way to consume it is to crush up a clove of raw garlic, add it to 2 oz. of water, and take it as a shot. Even if you don’t consume it raw, adding it to as many different meals as you can will also be beneficial. If you can’t stand the taste of garlic, garlic supplements are also an option.
2. Consume Foods with Vitamin C
Vitamin C is widely known to be beneficial for your immune system. It’s an essential micronutrient for humans that has antioxidant properties and supports the immune system on a cellular level. Specifically, certain cells in your body, known as phagocytes and t-cells, accumulate vitamin C in order to perform their functions. Studies have shown that vitamin C can prevent and even treat systemic infections in the body.
Many foods naturally contain vitamin C, and you can also take it in supplement form. Some of the foods with the highest vitamin C content include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Leafy greens
It’s hard to consume too much vitamin C, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends not to consume more than 2,000 mg/day. Consuming too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, and nausea.
3. Keep Your Gut Healthy
Did you know that your gut (microbiome) is the center of your immune system? Your microbiome can contain both harmful and helpful (probiotic) bacteria. Probiotics are considered beneficial bacteria, and studies suggest that they can help regulate the immune system in a way that can both prevent and treat immune-response–related diseases, such as allergies, eczema, and viral infections. It’s important to keep a healthy level of good bacteria in the gut so it will prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria. The overgrowth of harmful bacteria is what contributes to disease. And a lack of beneficial bacteria can make you more susceptible to infection.
Consuming probiotics can give your body beneficial bacteria in order to boost the immune system as a whole. Probiotics can be taken in supplement form as well as through food. The following are all great sources of food-based probiotics:
4. Reduce Stress
Life is stressful. There is no doubt about that. But did you know that being “stressed out” can hinder your immune system? There is a reason a lot of people get sick during the holiday season months—they are stressful times of the year!
Studies have shown that due to the inextricable connection between the mind and body, even simple stresses like taking an exam can weaken the immune system. The more you can relax, the less stressed you will be. For some, de-stressing might mean walking outside or curling up in a blanket with a good book. Whatever helps you de-stress, do more of that!
5. Drink this Immunity-Boosting Drink
Combining immune powerhouses into one concoction is a great way to power up the immune system. This drink has been something I use to boost immunity the minute I start to feel sick. It contains ingredients like lemons and pineapple for vitamin C, ginger and turmeric for anti-inflammatory properties, and garlic too! Here is the recipe:
- Juice of 6 lemons
- 3 cups pineapple juice
- 6 cloves raw garlic
- 1 tablespoon raw local honey
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
Drink half a cup three times a day at the first sign of getting sick, or a half a cup per day to boost immunity during the flu season.
By incorporating these five ways to boost your immune system, you will give yourself a much better chance at avoiding common illnesses this fall and winter!
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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