Staying healthy be a challenge as we transition through the seasons. Getting through winter can be tough and then the second hurdle is managing the shift into spring. If you happened to escape the winter’s cold season scot free (I did for the first time ever this year!) you may still have some trouble once the blossoms start coming. Here are some tips that might be able to help navigate the changing temps and onslaught of allergens.
5 Immunity Boosters
1. Capsaicin – This is the main “hot” ingredient found in hot peppers. These peppers contain a whole host of nutrients that are beneficial including vitamin A, vitamin C and carotene. In addition to being terrific for chronic sinus infection sufferers, they contain powerful anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory substances. Peppers also work to keep sinuses clear of congestion.
Hot peppers are definitely an acquired taste. If you are not accustomed to eating spicy food, trying hot peppers may not sound very appetizing. If you are interested in incorporating them for health reasons there is a way to tone down the heat a bit. I wrote a post about roasting and pickling hot peppers last year. The roasting and pickling really takes out a lot of the spiciness and they can be a wonderful condiment to add to many dishes.
2. Fermented cod liver oil (find it here)– This is a staple in the world of traditional food lovers (and maybe your grandmothers) but not everyone knows about this powerhouse immune booster. Ever notice how we don’t usually get colds in the summer but almost exclusively in the winter? One of the biggest changes is that our sun exposure is often greatly decreased, and exposure to sun is one of our body’s best sources of vitamin D. Fermented cod liver oil provides an excellent source of vitamin D and vitamin A*. Cod liver oil has been well-known for some time to be a potent immune system supporter as well as for improving heart function, glucose tolerance, vision, and lowering systemic inflammation. The use of cod liver oil was first documented in 1789 at the Manchester Infirmary by a Dr. Darbey.
“A woman who laboured under the most excruciating rheumatism, and was an outpatient of this infirmary, being advised to rub her joints with the oil, was induced to take it at the same time internally. A few weeks restored her to the use of her limbs, and she was cured. However, little attention was paid to this case, as it was supposed that the alteration of the weather, and the medicine she had before taken, had caused the cure. About a twelvemonth afterwards, her complaints returned with double violence, and the same remedy restored her to health again. Encouraged by the second recovery, Dr. Kay (1766), one of the physicians to the infirmary, prescribed it for other patients, in similar cases, and it answered his most sanguine expectations. Since then, it has been used by the other physicians with the greatest success.”
If you’ve never taken fermented cod liver oil before, it can be… well… an interesting experience. There are companies that add flavoring to the oil to make it more palatable. It helps *some* but this is one of the supplements that I take ONLY for the health benefits. It’s definitely not something to ingest for the taste!
*Please use caution if you search for cod liver oil brands because some include many times more Vitamin A than is necessary and can lead to Vitamin A toxicity. Vitamin A and Vitamin D need to work in tandem to be effective but you do not need excessive amounts of it.
3. Turmeric (find it here)
The turmeric plant comes from Southern Asia. It is related to the ginger plant and can grow up to 6 feet in length. Turmeric is used extensively in Asia in the cuisine and is also recognized there for its medicinal properties. It can also be used for natural food and textile coloring. The Chinese have used it for centuries as an anti-inflammatory agent.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. This is the component that gives the root its yellow color. In addition to treating colds, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine believe that turmeric can treat many different conditions such as:
- chest pain
- digestive issues
- menstrual problems
Its anti-inflammatory properties make turmeric a great immunity booster to prevent or lessen the effects of the common cold. Turmeric can help to relieve the inflammation in the nasal passages making it easier to breathe. One important tip to remember is that the active ingredient curcumin is not water soluble. To increase its bioavailability, it is important to take it with some sort of fat or oil. Here is a homemade remedy to treat colds:
- 1 tsp ginger powder (find it here)
- 1 tsp turmeric (find it here)
- pinch of black pepper
- 1 tsp of melted ghee or coconut oil (find coconut oil here)
- 1/2 tsp honey (find it here)
Mix all of the ingredients together and take with some warm water.
While you can take turmeric in pill form*, my favorite way to incorporate these super foods and spices is into foods. I did a recent post about Butter Paneer Masala that includes turmeric as one of the ingredients. Indian cuisine uses turmeric as a spice in countless dishes.
Western medical researchers are now looking into the benefits of turmeric. They are conducting studies to see if it can be used to treat tumors and arthritis.
*If you are pregnant, nursing or taking medications, make sure you discuss with your physician any intention to supplement with turmeric in case it might contraindicated.
4. Bee pollen (find it here)
Bee pollen is a small pack or mass of pollen gathered together by worker honey bees. There are bits of honey and/or nectar in each of the granules. The composition of the granules will vary from hive to hive and from region to region. While it’s impossible to get exact figures because of the multiple variations that occur, here is an average composition that can be found in most bee pollen.
- 55% carbohydrates
- 35% proteins
- 3% minerals and vitamins
- 2% fatty acids
- 5% variety of diverse elements
Bee pollen is especially helpful to those who suffer from seasonal allergies. It is a strong antioxidant, and many practitioners of natural medicine believe that if you ingest the pollen it will help to build up your resistance to allergens. Consuming bee pollen sourced from your region is important, as well, as it will be comprised in part from the allergens in your area.
A very interesting fact about bee pollen is that it cannot be recreated in the laboratory. Scientists have tried to feed bees man-made pollen and the bees die every time. The nutrients are exactly the same, as the scientists claim, but the bees do not survive on it. It is clear that nature has some mysteries that cannot be created in a laboratory. It may also be a reason that it has been used successfully for thousands of years.
Bee pollen has been eaten for millennia dating back to the time of Phoenecians, however, it should be used with caution for those who know they have an allergy to pollen. Anaphylaxis has occurred on rare occasions.
5. Massage – This immune booster is really meant to be used as a preventive measure. If you’re coming down with a cold, your massage therapist may not appreciate it if you showed up with your germs to infect him or her!
Massage lowers cortisol levels in your blood. The more inflamed or stressed your immune system is the more prone you are to illness. Massage is a great way to slow your mind and body down and just relax. In addition to the relaxation, it increases blood and lymph circulation. People tend to be less active in winter months and the lymphatic system can become a bit sluggish. Having a massage can help to keep your lymphatic system flowing as it should to flush the toxins out of your body.
Massage is often thought of as a way to treat soreness or a troubled back but a study was conducted at the University of Miami that concluded that regular massage was linked to a stronger immunity.
In conjunction with the information about massage, I wanted to include a bonus immunity booster, as well:
Lymphatic pumping is an osteopathic treatment used to gently increase the flow within the lymphatic system. We do lymphatic pumping with regularity if anyone in our family comes down with something. I will be interviewing an osteopath soon who will go into the details of how lymphatic pumping can help to boost your immune system.
Happy “Spring -ing” everyone!
Live well and be happy!