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Strengthening the Immune System

It’s that time of the year again. It seems like everyone around me is getting sick! I always tell others: “I get sick once a year, at the most”. Well, not this year! I fell victim to a virus which gave me a reason to look into methods of natural immune boosters, as well as preventative remedies, most of which I used.

Our immune system (IS) certainly is an amazing defense mechanism protecting us against bacteria, viruses, and toxins, to name a few. It protects us mainly by creating a barrier that inhibits the entrance of bacteria and viruses into the body; it fights and tries to remove any harmful invaders before they multiply, in case they do enter the body; and finally your IS will fight to remove any of the bad guys when they reproduce and make you sick. Thus, the stronger our IS, the better it can function at all three levels.

I will not be getting into cellular biology or chemistry here, rather, I’ll list some ideas that might be helpful in preventing a sickness or get over one faster. Keep in mind, though, that these tips are alternative ways of treatment, and they may be used by themselves or with your prescribed medication, but always with doctor’s approval.

1. Support your immunity with a herb called echinacea when sick or exposed to others who are sick. Echinacea can be found at any drug or grocery store, and it usually comes in a form of a pill or liquid. Remember to stop taking this herb when the sickness has gone away. Otherwise your body will become used to it and its effectiveness will lessen.

2. If suffering from a bacterial infection, try eating raw garlic. This sounds terrifying, I know, but garlic has germicidal properties and can help fight infection. Try sprinkling a

clove of garlic on your dinner, and the smell and taste should be gone by morning. For the brave ones out there, take a half a clove of garlic, chop it finely, and add to a tablespoon of honey. The taste becomes a bit easier to tolerate and the honey is known to have antibiotic-like properties.

3. Honey is also great for the throat, so when suffering from a throat infection, try slowly sucking on a teaspoon of honey 3-5 times a day. Also, add honey to a herbal tea and sip when battling a cold. It will add some much needed nutrients in the times of sickness and lack of appetite.

4. Nourish your body with fruits and vegetables and stay away from junk food. Providing your body with a balanced diet full of fresh foods and good-for-you proteins is especially important when the body is trying to heal itself. Soups are a great food during sickness due to a good ratio of liquids to solids and the ease of swallowing.

5. Exercise is proven to contribute to how well your IS is functioning, so be active if you want to keep away from colds. When sick, most of us stay away from exercise. Continue being active to the best of your ability as long as you don’t have a fever or when the symptoms of your cold are located above the neck. Try taking a short walk, ride your stationary bike, or lifting lighter-than-normal weights. Slightly increased circulation might help with sinus congestion, low energy level or headaches.

6. Empty your nose often, use a saline nose spray or use a neti pot. A neti pot is a

traditional Indian remedy that helps clear sinuses and cleanses your nasal passages, making it more difficult for bacteria and germs to grow. The treatment also helps to remove mucus more efficiently than nose blowing by itself. Neti pots are available at drug stores for $8-$11, and they can be used preventively as well. More on neti pots here.

7. Sleep! This one is very simple: try to rest and sleep as much as your body wants to. Most of the healing and regeneration happens during sleep, so zzz away and your cold will go away faster.

8. Drink plenty of fluids, mostly water. The body releases toxins and byproducts in the urine, so it is important to stay hydrated when healthy or sick.

9. Increase the consumption of vitamin C and zinc. Foods high in vitamin C include broccoli, bell peppers, green leafy veggies, cauliflower, kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges and tomatoes. Apples will work too! Especially that grocery stores are packed with many varieties of apples this time of year. Some common foods containing zinc are: beef, pumpkin and sesame seeds, dark chocolate (yep, that’s right), chicken, peanuts, beans, almonds, and fish.

10. Gargle salt water to ease throat ache or use it as a preventative method of cleansing the throat from any potential bacteria.

Stay healthy!

Questions, comments, ideas? All of them are welcome!