1. FOOD AS MEDICINE: Garlic and onions are the absolute best foods to load up on for immune support. Allicin is the anti-microbial chemical produced when these foods are chopped, chewed, or bruised. Add lots of garlic and onions to every meal including eggs, green leafy vegetables, soups, casseroles, etc. Other foods to incorporate every day for a healthy immune system include: local honey, coconut (oil, milk and flesh), cold water fish (and a quality fish oil supplement), mushrooms, spices like turmeric, ginger, and cayenne.
2. HYDROTHERAPY is one of the greatest tools you can use in your home for nearly any illness. Contrasting hot and cold water applications stimulates circulation and lymphatic movement, ultimately promoting a healthy immune response. Always follow up hot applications with a cool application. End every shower with a cool water spray, starting with the extremities and finishing with the low back for 15-30 seconds. This returns blood flow to your internal organs.
3. BONE BROTHS are incredibly rich in nutrients – particularly minerals and amino acids. Bone broth inhibits neutrophil migration, helping mitigate the side effects of colds, flus and upper respiratory infections. The glucosamine and chondroitin are more easily absorbed from bone broths than from a supplement, aiding musculoskeletal injuries and arthritic conditions. Soak cooked bones (leaving some meat on is fine) for 1 hour in slow cooker filled with water and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. Bring down to simmer for 1 hour then keep on low for 24 hours to leach the vital nutrients from the bones. Drink 1-3 cups per day for prevention and even more as treatment of nearly any condition.
4. CASTOR OIL PACKS improve immunity by increasing white blood cell production, moving the lymph to facilitate the movement of toxins out of the body, and decreasing inflammation. When applied topically, the oil is absorbed into the lymphatic circulation to provide a soothing, cleansing, and nutritive treatment. This treatment also helps to tonify and cleanse the liver, gall bladder and digestive tract. Drop 1/8 c of oil onto a square flannel (it should not be dripping with oil). Apply to entire abdomen and cover with an old towel. Careful, the oil stains fabrics. Apply heat with a hot water bottle. Castor oil packs should be done nightly for 45-60 minutes in a relaxed state. Store the flannel in a large zip-lock bag, adding a tablespoon to the flannel each time for the first week or so, eventually only needing to add more oil 1-2 times per week.
5. ELDERBERRY SYRUP: Make your home-made immune aid and cough soothing syrup! Elderberry is an anti-viral herb high in flavonoids and antioxidants, excellent for preventing and treating colds, flus and coughs. Take 1/2 cup dried elderberries (or 1 cup frozen/fresh berries), 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger, 5 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick and 2 cups of water to boil. Bring down to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Strain into bowl and add 1 cup of local honey. Pour into jar and let cool, keep in refrigerator. Take 1 Tbsp every day as prevention or 1Tbsp every hour or two as treatment of cold and flu.
6. VITAMIN D: Vitamin D is an important nutrient and hormone for the immune system. Studies have shown that a deficiency of Vitamin D (25-OH= <50 ng/mL) is associated with increased autoimmune activity (MS, Lupus, etc) as well as increased susceptibility to infection. Vitamin D has extensive research showing its effectiveness in preventing cancer. Get your levels checked. You may want to start with taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily. Talk with your doctor about a therapeutic dose.
Questions? Contact Dr. Alicia Birr at Origins Natural Medicine to see how you can optimize your immune health and stay healthy this winter!
Dr. Alicia McCubbins is a naturopathic physician who strives to educate, motivate and inspire. Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions so that we may collectively grow through knowledge.