Thanksgiving is the most-traveled holiday of the year and a good time to explore the items we should have in our health-supporting toolkit to help us make it through the season without getting sick.
Holidays are a time when family obligations and get-togethers often lead to heavy eating and drinking and disturbed sleep. For many of us, it can be a stressful time. Help strengthen your immune system with antioxidant-rich plant foods and natural remedies.
Ten Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays:
1. Eat your greens: Add an extra serving of kale, broccoli, collard greens or bok choy to your diet daily to boost your immunity by providing vital nutrients. If for some reason you cannot include these powerful vegetables every day, substitute an organic, green powder every morning.
2. Toss in some mushrooms: Mushrooms, such as Shiitake, Reishi and Cordyceps have powerful immune-boosting qualities due to beta-glucans present in their cell walls. Eat mushrooms regularly to improve your body’s ability to fight off colds. Cooking mushrooms in water is the best way to enhance their immune-boosting qualities.
3. Take Black elderberry extract: Black elderberry is a powerful antioxidant and studies have shown that it has anti-viral and anti-influenza properties. Take between 3,800-5,000mg daily for its protective effect. Black elderberry can help you to avoid catching the flu.1,2,3
4. Load up on Vitamin D3: If you are traveling and you don’t currently take vitamin D, you can take 10,000 IU daily for three days to boost your immunity. Vitamin D.
5. Take a daily dose of Vitamin C with Quercetin: Vitamin C has been shown to increase the body’s resistance to colds, and its powerful antioxidant effect helps enhance vital cellular processes and protect DNA from damage.4,5,6 Take 1,500mg of Vitamin C with 500mg of Quercetin, which helps to enhance its action.
6. Supplement your diet with a probiotic: Probiotics, such as the acidophilus and bifidobacterium, are healthy bacteria that populate our intestines. These beneficial intestinal flora actually communicate with our immune system to keep it functioning appropriately. A recent study showed that a probiotic was able to reduce the severity and frequency of cold and flu symptoms in children.7
7. Balance your Zinc: Zinc is an important trace mineral that serves a critical role in the formation of antibodies, which are proteins that bind to viruses and bacteria and help neutralize them. Plant sources of zinc include, pumpkin seeds peanuts, beans, brown rice and wholegrain cereals. Take approximately 20mg Zinc with 1mg Copper.8,9
8. Boost your glutathione levels: Glutathione is the body’s main detoxifier. Produced in the liver, but also present in the brain in significant amounts, glutathione protects the body from all types of toxins and free radicals, the renegade electrons that damage cells. The best way for the body to make glutathione is from the amino acid cysteine. Plant-based sources of cysteine include red peppers, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, oats, granola and wheat germ.
9. Moderate your drinking; stay hydrated: Too much alcohol inhibits your immune system, dehydrate your body and makes you more susceptible to cold viruses and the flu. It’s a good idea to keep a steel canteen filled with fresh water by your desk as a reminder to drink at least eight to ten 8-ounce glasses per day.
10. Get plenty of rest: The holidays are all about getting in touch with our selves and reconnecting to the rhythm of life. Put down that blackberry, disengage from the Internet, hang up the phone, slow down and connect with those around you.
Vincent Pedre, M.D. is an Integrative, Holistic General Practitioner and Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City.
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1 Zakay-Rones et al. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter;1(4):361-9.
2 Zakay-Rones et al. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 May-Apr;32(2):132-40.
3 Roschek B. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry. 2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61. Epub 2009 Aug 12.
4 Pauling L: Vitamin C and the Common Cold. San Francisco: WH Freeman, 1976.
5 Hemila H, Chalker E, Treacy B, Douglas B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Sytemic Reviews 2007, Issue 2.
6 Sasazuki S, et al. Effect of Vitamin C on common cold: randomized, controlled trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2006);60,9-17.
7 Gregory J. Leyer, PhD, et al. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics Vol. 124 No. 2 August 2009, pp. e172-e179.
8 Klaus-Helge Ibs & Lothar Rink. Zinc-altered immune function. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences, J Nutr. 133:1452S-1456S, May 2003.
9 Al-Nakib W, Higgins PG, Barrow I, et al. Prophylaxis and treatment of rhinovirus colds with zinc gluconate lozenges. J Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 1987;20:893-901.