Cold and flu season is upon us!

Many of us look to drugs as a easy way to keep us healthy. However, drugs tend to contain simple components and bacteria are constantly finding ways to adapt so these components are no longer effective. This results in antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains (or superbugs). Increasingly, superbugs are finding their way into our hospitals, hotels, vacation spots and more. And then there are viruses – they are sneaky, too. When you go to the doctor with a virus, they often tell you theres nothing they can do and you must fight it off yourself. This is because they adapt to almost any drug we throw at them.

The scientific community is looking more and more towards natural alternatives and preventative measures. There is a stronger emphasis on maintaining a healthy immune system instead of relying on drugs. Getting the right vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional components play a big part in this!

Here are some of the best natural ways to keep your immune system strong and healthy. We’ve included links to the latest scientific research on immune function, viruses, and nutritional health.

Vitamin A

Helps enhance the immune system as well as eye health.

Where to find it: pumpkin, squash, kale, carrots, spinach, broccoli, red peppers, cantaloupe, dried apricots, mango, goji berries, and grapefruit, liver, salmon, tuna, butter and cheese (or supplements).

Vitamin B

B vitamins are linked to antibody production, help metabolize fat, and produce energy. They are important to immune cell function and neurological function, and help with aging.

Where to find it: poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, milk, ginger, sunflower seeds, almonds, dark leafy vegetables, and citrus fruits, avocado and bananas (or supplements).

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant and crucial component in immune cells. High dose Vitamin C (intravenous) is even being used to support treatment for a variety of ailments.

Where to find it: grapefruit, oranges, lemons, lime, tangerines, mandarins, red bell peppers, spinach, papaya, and kiwi (or supplements).

Vitamin D

One of the most important vitamins for healthy immunity. Deficiency has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis and possibly to autism.

Where to find it: Vitamin D supplements, yogurt, salmon, trout, oysters, milk, eggs, shiitake mushrooms and sunlight – if you live in cooler climates, you will not receive enough vitamin D from the sun during the winter (e.g., in the Northern Hemisphere, above 37º latitude, you will not get enough vitamin D from the sun from October to April)

Vitamin E

Particularly important for the elderly as protection against pneumonia, Vitamin E becomes more important to our immune system as we age.

Where to find it: almonds, avocados, sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens, asparagus (or supplements).

Zinc

Critical for the immune system, it affects immune cell responses to pathogens as well as autoimmune function. It is also crucial to brain health.

Where to find it: oysters, meat, shellfish, ginger, seeds, legumes (or supplements).

Selenium

Selenium is an important component of glutathione, a very important antioxidant. It also helps with the production of certain immunoglobins and white blood cells.

Where to find it: brazil nuts, ham, pork, beef, dairy, chicken, and seafood (or supplements).

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)

An antioxidant that regulates immune function.

Where to find it: green tea, smaller amounts can be found in white tea, oolong, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, plums, and avocado.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

A nutritional supplement that supports the synthesis of glutathione, an extremely important antioxidant. NAC also helps reduce mucus and has been used to help treat bronchitis.

Where to find it: supplement at health food store

Probiotics

The digestive system is home to nearly 70% of the body’s immune system. Probiotics support the good bacteria living in your digestive system. These bacteria are responsible for helping with digestion and nutrient absorption. They also have a broader impact, including enhancing the immune system. Scientists are finding more and more evidence of probiotics and their connection to optimum health.

Where to find it: yogurts and fermented cheeses, kombucha, and other fermented foods (or supplements).

Allicin

Anti-inflammatoryantibacterial, and immune boosting. It has been found to have anti-cancer properties as well

Where to find it: crushed or chopped garlic. Increase your allicin intake by enjoying some garlicky, guacamole, brushetta, or pasta carbonara. Can also be found as a supplement.

Beta-glucans

Stimulates immune function and promotes healthy gut bacteria.

Where to find it: reishi, maitake, and shiitake mushrooms, barley, oats, whole grains, seaweed (or supplements).

Cordyceps

A fungus that enhances immune function, as well as preventing the reproduction of bacteria. It has also been demonstrated as an anti-influenza agent.

Where to find it: supplement at health food stores.

Anthocyanin

Anthocyanin is a natural, dark pigment found in foods. Studies have shown anthocyanin increases immune response and reduces inflammation.

Where to find it: darkly coloured berries (like blackberries, acai, blueberries, etc), eggplant, and black rice.

L-arginine

Crucial for healthy immune response, helps prevent and treat bacterial infection.

Where to find it: turkey, chicken, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts (or supplements).

Chondroitin sulfate

As well as being used for bone and joint health, chondroitin sulfate is anti-inflammatory and immune-enhancing

Where to find it: bone broths, homemade chicken soup, or supplements. No wonder, grandma always swore by chicken soup when anyone had a cold!

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