Have you ever wondered why some people catch everything, why some struggle to shake off symptoms and why others keep getting reinfections? And then you have others that just don’t?
It comes down to your immune system.
And the strength of your immune system comes down to what you eat and inflammation in the body.
I’m a total geek when it comes to immunity. That’s why the Today Show brought me on to do a live segment to share my best immune-boosting foods that also relieve common symptoms for blocked and runny noses, sore throats, headaches, and upset tummies.
Before we go into each one of these incredible natural relievers, I’d love to share that these foods, herbs, and spices will build up your immune system because they have powerful nutrients that are antiviral and antibacterial.
So not only will you feel a sense of relief, you’ll minimize the severity of your symptoms and potentially avoid a secondary infection. Meaning, a much more pleasant and hopefully symptom-free winter for you.
Now let’s get into the natural alternatives. I’ve selected options we can easily source at our local supermarket. From the choices below, choose what’s most convenient and easy to consume. And then consume. That simple.
Best foods and spices for a blocked and runny nose:
- Horseradish: One of the most potent decongestants around but is not for the faint-hearted. It can offer fantastic relief and you don’t even need a lot! This root is full of minerals and anti-oxidants, so its benefits go past instant relief. Have some before bedtime to clear the sinuses.
- Radishes: If you’re not into very spicy foods, radishes may be right up your alley. Not only are they delicious when eaten raw (especially when dipped in hummus), but it’s not as spicy and with many of the benefits. Radishes are rich in Vitamin C and contain antibacterial and antiviral properties.
- Ginger: A powerful combo of antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and pain killing properties. Ginger is an excellent choice for a host of ailments, including coughs, sore throats, and nasal congestion. Use in your cooking, add some to smoothies, juices, baking, and tea. Don’t forget to inhale the steam from the tea, as the warmth and steam will help relax and decongest your sinuses.
- Onions: Onions are spicy and pungent, even if you’re not consuming them. Just peeling and slicing an onion makes your eyes water and can help drain your sinuses. Onions have natural antihistamine properties that help reduce inflammation and congestion. Add onions to your salad, sandwiches, salsa.
- Chile Peppers: If you are addicted to spice and can’t get enough of it, chili peppers are for you as they’re a great option for nasal congestion. Chile peppers contain a natural pain reliever. So, if you like the extra punch, eat chile peppers raw, out of a jar, in salsa.
- Garlic: One of mother nature’s best antiviral and antibacterial foods. Add garlic to all your savoury meals, from soup, salad, and dressing. Health enthusiasts eat it raw! Having garlic in your diet regularly is also a powerful preventive as your immune system loves it.
Best foods and spices for sore throats and coughs:
Liquids: It’s so important to drink even though its uncomfortable, drinking plenty of fluids will make the throat feel better. It keeps the throat’s mucous membranes hydrated so that they can heal. Teas are fabulous: Ginger tea, peppermint tea, and chamomile tea have potent nutrients to help numb the throat and reduce inflammation.
Honey: Has anti-microbial properties that can help soothe an inflamed throat. Use raw, unfiltered honey… and local honey is always best if available. Great for coughs too.
Cinnamon: In Traditional Chinese medicine, cinnamon is used as a remedy for colds, flus, and sore throats thanks to its antimicrobial properties. When you’re sick, cinnamon tea work wonders. What I love to do is get a herbal tea, combine a teaspoon of honey and stir it with a cinnamon stick. Your throat and immune system will thank you.
Apple Cider Vinegar: ACV is a natural health tonic. It’s a powerful antibacterial. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as the father of medicine, prescribed a combination of apple cider vinegar and honey to throat flu symptoms, such as coughs and sore throats. A common elixir to relieve throat pain, drink 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 tablespoon of ACV and 1 tsp of honey for taste.
Salt water gargle: Gargling with salt water is a well-known natural remedy to get rid of a sore throat. The salt helps reduce swelling and helps to kill harmful microbes in the throat. Combine 1 cup of warm water with 1 tsp of salt and stir to dissolve. Gargle for 30 seconds once per hour.
Best foods and spices for headaches:
Avoid triggers! With headaches, the strategy is to reduce the severity and length, so it’s really important to remove headache and migraine triggers. Common triggers include MSG, sulphites, gluten, dairy (especialy aged cheese like mature cheddar), tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate, and additives.
Best foods to eat: To relieve the pain and pressure – make healthy food choices. You want to eat foods that reduce inflammation so think:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and chard
- Bright-colored vegetables such as carrots and bell peppers
- Spices such as ginger, turmeric, and garlic
- Root vegetables such as sweet potato and beets
- Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries
Essential oils: Essential oils can be very helpful in addition to the above. I recommend:
- Peppermint oil which increases relaxation and helps lower pain. Add oil to your bath, have it as a tea or roll a small amount onto your temples.
- Lavender oil can really help with headaches, as well as calm nerves, stress and helps with insomnia and even mental health. One 2013 study found that people reported a significant reduction in pain after only 15 minutes of inhaling lavender oil.
Caffeinated drinks: Traditional Chinese Medicine uses Green Tea for migraine pain. Coffee can also help and was originally recognised in the Middle East as a pain relief.
Coriander Seeds: Traditional Ayurvedic Medicine used coriander seeds to relieve sinus pressure and headaches. Simply pour hot water over the fresh seeds in a bowl and inhale the steam.
Cayenne Pepper: If you like spicy food, cayenne pepper should be a top choice for migraine treatment. The spice is able to divert pain away from the head, making it easier to cope and sometimes even increasing the pain threshold. Add a pinch to your savoury meals, or try a teaspoon mixed with hot water and lemon if you dare. The fiery spice also aids digestion and stimulates circulation.
Ginger: Ginger has been used for hundreds of years as a natural remedy for multiple health concerns. It can reduce nausea, a common side effect of chronic migraines, and combats headaches. Try adding fresh ginger to your evening meal, as well as juices and teas.
Best foods and spices for an upset tummy recovery (vomiting, diarrhea, constipation)
The key here is to have plenty of clear fluids. Drink small amounts of water frequently to avoid dehydration.
It is recommended to give your stomach a rest for the first six hours after vomiting or diarrhea. Then want to start replacing those lost minerals as you continue to hydrate the body with high electrolyte fluids.
- Coconut water: Studies have found that coconut water effectively treats dehydration and is comparable to sports drinks at promoting rehydration and restoring lost minerals and electrolytes. It is also full of goodness thanks to its antibacterial and antiviral properties supporting the immune system to counteract what got you sick in the first place. A must have!
- Vegetable and fruit juices: Alkalising vegetable juices great as well as broth to restore all those lost essential nutrients and minerals (electrolytes) and getting those restored back in the body. Both of these options are easy to digest and will aid in a speedier recovery.
- Ginger: Ginger can assist in relieving nausea and vomiting. Eat fresh, as a juice or in tea. Ginger has proven to help reduce nausea in motion sickness, pregnancy, and even chemotherapy. It can help reduce the intensity of nausea symptoms and the speed of recovery time.
- Chamomile: This herb is widely known for its gut-soothing effects. It’s a traditional remedy for upset stomachs and can help reduce vomiting and soothe intestinal discomfort.
- Green bananas: The opposite to ripe yellow bananas can help relieve diarrhea. Several studies have found that giving cooked, green bananas to children and babies with diarrhea can help reduce the amount, severity, and duration of episodes. It’s the fibre they contain (high amounts of resistant starches) which the good bacteria in the gut love.
- BRAT protocol: BRAT stands for Banana, Rice, Apple Sauce, Toast. This is a traditional remedy that’s been passed down from generation to generation. It can be helpful for the first 24 hours only. The idea is to consume these more bland foods after diarrhea and vomiting because they are easy on the digestive system and help ‘bulk up.’ However, do not prolong beyond 24 hours as we want to replenish all the lost minerals and nutrients. The key to eating when suffering from diarrhea is to choose nutrient-rich foods that add bulk to stool and help the body absorb vitamins and minerals. What I prefer is a traditional bowl of porridge with rolled oats. Add some homemade pureed apple, cinnamon, and sliced banana. That is a perfect bowl to help you recover from an upset tummy.
Choosing nutrient dense foods like these and regularly cooking with garlic and onions and having delicious herbal teas with a diet high in fruit and vegetables will undoubtedly support your immune system and ensure you get relief from common colds and flus.
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