We’re relentless in our search for ways our families (and we) can become healthier, stay healthy and fight illness.
We are becoming more active and finding ways to fit in fun and invigorating activities into our daily routines.
It may take more effort, but it’s worthwhile.
We have made improvements in our eating habits, we are cooking more from scratch at home, using whole ingredients and fewer processed foods, and we are finding ways to cut back on added sugars.
These are all healthy habits to develop and instill in our children.
But is there a bit more we can do to help our bodies stay healthy? There just might be!
Actions in Fighting Illness
Our bodies are remarkable machines designed to work hard every second.
In our everyday life we come in contact with a variety of microorganisms that can make us ill.
Our immune system functions to fight infection and inflammation that results so that we can stay well.
There may be some things that we can do to help strengthen our immune systems so that they can fight for us. While research into what could benefit our immune systems continue, there is no real conclusive evidence that doing one thing will boost our immune systems. However that doesn’t mean that incorporating some new ideas into your lifestyle won’t help.
As long as what we are doing isn’t detrimental to our health it might be worth a try.
Here are some things we can do to help our immune systems that are currently under investigation:
- Eat a meal plan that contains fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains; limiting saturated fats is also helpful
- Include sources of probiotics in your diet
- Be physically active, get moving every day
- Get restful, adequate sleep
- Wash your hands frequently!
- Manage your weight to be in the normal range
- Keep your blood pressure in control
- Manage your stress
- Don’t smoke
- Be proactive in maintaining your health with regular preventive wellness checkups and screenings
Taking supplements claiming to boost your immunity most experts agree should be met with skepticism. There is just not enough evidence that they will prevent illness, boost your immunity or not be harmful. Because supplements are unregulated, there could be more risk of harm than benefit.
Immunity Strengthening Herbs
The immune system requires assistance to stay strong to defend us.
There are properties in the food and fluids that we choose to consume that give hope to be able to impact our immune system to help it do the best it can to ward off bacteria and other invaders with which we come in contact on a daily basis.
Our immune systems benefit from good nutrition and a variety of nutritional components. Deficiencies in micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins have been shown to impair the immune system in research animals. Therefore, it could be likely that if your diet doesn’t provide nutrients beneficial to your overall health, it would be a good idea to find ways to bolster your diet with more choices that could give you what you are missing.
Here are a few herbs and botanicals that show promise to help our immune systems.
Echinacea has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties due to the phenol compounds found in the root and flower. The root is best used at the onset of an illness and the flower for ongoing use.
This plant is a member of the daisy family and is often used to prevent and treat upper respiratory tract infections and colds, in kids treat for ear and throat infection. Many experts agree that it shouldn’t be taken long term and don’t take if you have ragweed allergies.
This daisy-type plant has many varieties. Its flowers are most often used as an infusion in tea for relaxation and to treat stomach upset.
Chamomile is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties that aid digestion, ease colic, relieve tension, act a gentle relaxant and even reduce hemorrhoid discomfort when applied topically.
If you are allergic to ragweed, you should avoid this plant.
Some drink one to four cups of chamomile tea a day to soothe what ills them. Chamomile does have a blood thinning affect when used in high quantities so caution before surgery is recommended.
This root has been touted to have anti-inflammatory properties in its active component ginsenosides. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has been supporting research into its properties to stimulate the immune function.
Garlic is a member of the onion family that has a centuries-old tradition of use for its many benefits, including anti-microbial effects.
Scientists have seen garlic work against bacteria, viruses and fungi and some think it can help prevent a cold, but further studies are needed to prove its effects. Heat could reduce its effectiveness so add to cooking at the end.
Clove is a spice, actually the dried bud of a flower, that many feel has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Many combine in tea with Echinacea and elderberry.
Thought to be anti-inflammatory, this botanical could help fight cold and flu symptoms by shortening the illness. It is said to have antioxidant properties as well.
Elderberry flowers and berries are active and many like the taste of it in syrup and juice. There are many compounds in elderberry, such as tannin, carotenoids, flavonoids, and vitamins that give its beneficial effect.
Caution is advised for uncooked berries depending on the variety may be poisonous. You will find elderberry juice, wine, jelly, pie, and syrup.
Turmeric is a spice (the main spice in curry) containing curcumin and believed to have antioxidant antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.
The root of the plant is most often used for medicinal purposes. Caution if you are taking blood thinners. Few trials have been conducted on its benefits including Alzheimer’s disease despite claims.
Precautions in Taking Herbs & Spices
The best advice at this time is to proceed with caution on taking herbs or spices in the form of supplements to improve your immune system and give you energy because the data doesn’t yet support that and it could be dangerous.
If you are taking medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking herbal supplements that might cause your prescriptions to be ineffective or cause harmful side effects.
If you are pregnant or breast feeding, using some herbal products is not recommended nor are they recommended for young children.
The healthiest thing we can do is improve our health habits and lifestyle and eat a more varied diet.
We can try adding some of these herbs and spices into our foods for flavoring or as teas that could give you a benefit. Some of them are quite tasty and could infuse your meals with not only flavor but variety and nutrition.
Remember what Hippocrates said:
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”