Staying healthy in the midst of cold and flu season (and a viral pandemic) can be tricky, but there are some things within our control we can choose to focus on. The best way to stay healthy, in our opinion, is to leverage the bounty of immune boosters that the natural world has to offer!
These natural immune boosters aren’t meant to replace getting a flu shot, however. Doctors and the CDC largely agree that it’s the best way to protect yourself against the flu virus, this season in particular. That said, natural immune bolsters are a fantastic addition to getting a flu shot.
Here are some of our favorite natural immune boosters to stay healthy this winter:
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Vitamins A, B6, C, and E
You’ve probably taken a Vitamin C supplement before; Emergen-C has become somewhat of a household name, especially among travelers. Vitamin C is essential to the human body for a few reasons, but it’s been long recognized as a key player in the functioning of the immune system, thanks largely in part to its antioxidant properties. And the good news is you don’t have to look far to find it: oranges, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes are all rich in Vitamin C.
Vitamin A also plays a big role in the development of the immune system and acts as a regulator to cellular immune responses. Vitamin B6 (found in many meats, fruits and starchy foods) supports biochemical reactions in the immune system, and Vitamin E (found in nut and seed oils and leafy greens), has been shown to improve the immune response during aging.
Elderberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins, so it’s no wonder they’re lauded by scientists as a natural remedy for fighting off threats to the immune system. You can find elderberry extract in supplement form or in certain juices. (Before taking any supplements, be sure to read the label for possible side effects and warnings).
Hot Lemon Water
Hot lemon water is soothing, especially on a chilly morning. The citrus is also a great source of the immune-strengthening superpower Vitamin C. Adding a few slices of fresh ginger will also pack a powerful punch for your immune system!
Photo by Tina Witherspoon
Best-known as the main ingredient in Golden Milk, turmeric is a spice related to the ginger family. It’s been long revered as an immune supplement, and it’s found in many delicious Southeast Asian dishes as well!
Zinc is a natural element that possesses properties similar to Vitamin C. You can find zinc in supplement form or in foods like egg yolks, seafood, sardines, pecans, and various seeds.
According to UC Davis Health, specific amino acids found in protein are essential for T-cell function, which are cells that defend the body against pathogens. Protein comes from a variety of plant and animal-based foods, including meat, eggs, fish, tofu, beans, quinoa, and nuts.
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This is absolutely easier said than done, especially in a year like 2020. But there’s some merit to finding calm within the chaos: chronic stress is known to repress the functions of the immune system, per Harvard Health. Incorporating mindfulness techniques into your daily routine, such as journaling or yoga, can help combat stress and anxiety.
Cecilia is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She writes largely about sustainability, especially as it applies to beauty, wellness, and the future of technology. She is a graduate of the journalism department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is based in Los Angeles, CA.