Work to strengthen your body’s natural defenses so you stay well, even if you’re caught in a downpour
As seen in Metro Style, June 8, 2023
June is here and that means goodbye to the hot summer sun and hello to many more rainy days. As we go into this gloomy, cozy time of year, you might notice it’s pretty common to catch a cold or flu. With the weather changes, more moisture and humidity can breed more viruses and bacteria, while the cooler, damp conditions can weaken our immunity too.
Whether you love or hate the rainy season, it’s no fun to be sick! But you can work to strengthen your body’s natural defenses so you stay well, even if you’re caught in a downpour. A strong immune system also means good health in general, so you feel good and can focus on living your life. So here’s some foods you can add to prevent sickness, and a few lifestyle tips too.
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Citrus and Tropical Fruits
We probably think of vitamin C first when we hear immune health, and it is true that this vitamin helps our bodies produce white blood cells. But evidence shows that supplements don’t work as well as eating vitamin C-rich foods, possibly because the fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals also play a role in immunity. Choose fruits like papaya, pineapple, kiwi, mango, orange, and calamansi. Bell peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli, are high in vitamin C too.
Fish, Eggs, and Lean Protein
Our immune cells are made of protein, so if you’re not eating enough, that might mean your body isn’t making enough cells, and more colds to fight off this season. Animal products like fish, lean meat, and poultry are common sources, but there are plant-based options too, like nuts and seeds, tofu, soy milk, beans, peas, and chickpeas. Protein foods also have good amounts of selenium and zinc, while fatty fish has omega-3s which are all involved in immune health.
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Prebiotics and probiotics
If you haven’t heard of gut health yet, here’s an area to focus on to improve your immunity. With new research, we’re finding out that the bacteria that live in our intestines have a big effect on our immune cells. So keep yourself healthy by adding probiotic foods. These are foods like kimchi, miso, atchara, pickled foods, and even the fermented drink kombucha which contain beneficial bacteria that we want in our bodies. Plus, to keep the good bacteria alive and healthy, add prebiotic foods like garlic, onion, banana, saba, camote, gabi, oats, beans, apples, and pears. These have special types of fiber that our gut bacteria feed on.
Leaves and veggies are a powerhouse of nutrients like vitamin A , C, and iron which also play a role in immune function, and contain other antioxidants and phytochemicals. Lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin A, while kale is high in vitamin C. Even if you’re not a big salad fan, you can still add leafy greens by cooking them with some garlic and olive oil to make a side dish. Spinach is a good source of iron, and levels actually increase when cooked.
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Just because the weather is rainy, it doesn’t mean you can skip drinking water. Water is involved in many crucial functions in the body, especially removing waste and keeping mucous membranes healthy, which are a main line of defense against bacteria and viruses. If water is too boring or if you forget to drink, keep a big water bottle where you can see it, and add some chopped fruit, or make ginger tea which also has immune-boosting properties.
Sunshine or Supplements
Vitamin D is trending recently. It mainly plays a role in bone health as it aids the absorption of calcium, but recent research is also finding links to areas like mood, sugar metabolism, and immune health. It is recommended to get 15 minutes of sun in a day when the sun is higher in the sky, between 10 am and 2 pm. But taking a supplement may be the best way to get enough as our lives are largely indoors, and there are few food sources. But be sure to choose a good quality supplement, and I recommend testing your levels to choose the appropriate dose and avoid toxicity.
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A Health-Promoting Lifestyle
Eating well keeps your body nourished, but don’t underestimate the power of healthy lifestyle choices. High levels of chronic stress can make your body more susceptible to illness, and affects your gut health too. Exercise is also important for supporting our immune systems, but watch out for over exercising, or sitting in a cold room post-sweat which can both compromise your body’s defenses. And alcohol can also seriously suppress your immune system as it is a toxin and can have varying effects on many systems in the body, and also especially affect gut health. Smoking also damages the body’s cells, meaning a higher risk of more short-term and long-term illnesses too.
If you’re eating a highly processed diet, very busy, stressed, and skipping meals, or not eating enough food in an effort to lose weight, you may notice you’re more likely to get sick. Choose more nourishing foods, self-care practices, and listen to your body’s signals to feel your best and you can cut down your sick days.