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FOOD AS MEDICINE: AVOIDING WINTER BUGS

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People who know me are always wondering how I “never” get sick! In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I had to deal with a cold, sinus infection, allergies, etc. I’ve never had the flu, and intend to keep it that way. No, I wasn’t born with a super-human resistance to viral and bacterial infections. I just use my food as medicine to prevent certain health conditions from sneaking into my life.

Catching a cold in the winter does not have to be the norm! Are you tired of getting sick, even if just once a year, each year? Are you tired of playing your part at home only to go into work/school to get infected by a coworker/schoolmate? I know I would be!

In fact, the usual cold prevention checklist just wasn’t enough for me (i.e. wash your hands, avoid sick people, keep surroundings clean, etc.). What if I come into contact with someone I don’t know is carrying a bug? What if I work in a profession that brings me into constant contact with sick people? I figured that rather than running from the bug, I’d face it head on by building a fortress around me (in the form of my immune system) so strong that it would be difficult for any bug to penetrate it, no matter who I came into contact with, what time of year it was, etc. Here are five things I consume to keep my immune system at an all time high!

  1. WATER | I’ll begin here, because this is definitely my wellness secret weapon! Water (when consumed properly) can single-handedly boost your immune system and turn your health around…and very quickly at that! What do I mean by “consumed properly”? Well, I’m mostly referring to the correct type and amount. As far as the type is concerned, I’d definitely avoid tap water (it’s filled with a bunch of unhealthy things you don’t need in your body, like heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine, medications, and hundreds od other chemicals that aren’t even measured or regulated)! The most hydrating type of water is spring water (it’s naturally purified, containing a wide variety of minerals and a higher pH than most other waters). Alkaline water is also a great type of water to consume (it hydrates extremely well and works to create a more alkaline environment within your body to prevent diseases from manifesting or worsening). Even more important than the type is the AMOUNT you should be consuming. A good place to start is by drinking half of your body weight in ounces each day. This, of course, will need to increase if you’re in a hot climate, ill, pregnant, working out frequently, trying to lose weight, etc. For more details on the importance of water, the various types of water, and tips on how to consume half of your body weight in ounces each day, please refer to my three-part water blog!
  2. SUPERFOODS | These foods have made their way into the “Superfood Hall of Fame” for unique reasons, whether having to do with its extremely high nutritional content, or it’s potent impact on the prevention or even reversal of symptoms/diseases. Incorporating at least one superfood in each meal is a great way to boost your immune system and enhance your overall wellness! Some of my favorites are: kale, avocado, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, oats, seaweed, spinach, almonds, ginger root, quinoa, mushrooms, chia seeds, maca powder, hemp seeds and lentils.
  3. NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS | The right selection of supplements can help to take your immune system to an all time high! I’m sure you’re wondering why you need supplementation if you’re consuming superfoods and downing half your body weight in ounces of water. Well, thanks to the quality of our soil today (due to over-farming, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) the crop that comes from it is sub par as a whole. In addition to the fact that so much of our food is now genetically modified, as well as the fact that many nutrients are lost in the preparation/cooking of the food, it’s just difficult in general to consume literally every single vitamin and mineral that you need with every single meal! Regular consumption of HIGH QUALITY supplements (i.e. high potency, high absorbability, fast biodegradability, etc.) will definitely take your immune system to the next level. Here are the supplements I take on a daily basis (you can add extra Vitamin C and Turmeric during the cold and flu season): A Multivitamin, Vitamin D, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Probiotics/Digestive Enzymes. For more information on why these four are the essential supplements I feel everyone should be taking, please feel free to download my E-Guide from the home page of my website (www.returningtonature.com).
  4. ANTIOXIDANTS | These powerful substances are a must when talking about boosting your immune system and preventing disease.  The human body constantly produces harmful free radicals, and it’s the job of the antioxidants to counteract their damaging effects by removing them from the body. The bad news is that in most cases, the free radicals far outnumber the naturally occurring antioxidants, and when left unchallenged, can cause tons of illnesses and chronic diseases. This is why it’s so important that you continuously supply your body with EXTERNAL antioxidant sources! Some of my favorites are: berries (blueberries, raspberries, acai berries, etc.); black foods (black rice, black garlic, black beans, etc.); fresh organic vegetables; etc.
  5. AVOIDANCE | The final thing I want to leave you with is that sometimes it’s not all about adding things to your lifestyle. Avoiding certain things can cause just as much of a transformation on your immune system as adding the above four items! There are two main food groups that directly impact your immune system in a negative way: sugar & dairy products. Sugar directly suppresses the immune system, so much so that if you are in the midst of battling a cold, avoiding all sugar/sweets GREATLY accelerates your healing process! Resorting to NATURAL sweeteners within your diet, such as raw organic honey, is a great way to boost your immune system. Almost as detrimental as sugar are dairy products, which increase the mucous production within the body, leading to the creation (or worsening) of chronic inflammation and disease. Resorting to more plant-based dairy options within your diet, such as almond milk, is a great way to boost your immune system!

Best wishes to you on making this season a sick-free winter! Also, be sure to stay tuned to the website for more wellness blog posts!

 

Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.

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