Flu season and why it is important to boost your immune system
Saying that flu season is upon us is an understatement. In the midst of an unprecedented viral outbreak (at least in modern times) and the weather going completely crazy, it is safe to say that we all need to stay healthy.
A big part of that is to figure out how to boost your immune system. After all, when it comes to viruses, nothing really helps fight them off as much as your immune system. So, let’s talk immune-boosting tips and tricks.
Foods for boosting your immune system
Our immune system is not easy to understand. As a medical professional, I completely appreciate how complex they are. However, trying to keep the medical talk to a minimum, let’s just say that our immune system works in layers. While they all work together, each of these layers has a specialized role. And, just like anything in our bodies, our immune systems are only as strong as our environment and lifestyle allow.
Two huge aspects of everyday life make all the difference when you’re trying to boost your immune system. One is the amount of rest you get, and the other is the type of food you eat.
In terms of rest, nothing can be simpler – anything under 6 hours of sleep is insufficient, even if you’re not training on a regular basis.
When it comes to food, you’ll need to reconsider what you consider as healthy food. Certain foods have immune-boosting qualities, and those are exactly the ones you want in abundance during flu season (flu season on steroids in our case). The usual guidelines for healthy meals and food choices stand, but do try and include as many of the following as possible:
You already know that you should eat your veggies. How many is up to you, but a good rule of thumb is to try to eat at least 5 different ones every day. That said, the more important thing is knowing which vegetables can help you boost your immune system.
Red bell peppers are first up, richer in vitamin C than any other immune-boosting foods out there. Plus they contain lots of other useful micronutrients, like beta carotene.
Broccoli is another of the immune-boosting superfoods you need during flu season. It has just about every vitamin and mineral your immune system needs as fuel to fight off viruses. On top of it all, there are antioxidants and lots of fiber in broccoli. The only trick is cooking it only slightly, or not at all.
Garlic. Apart from making food tasty, garlic is extremely powerful as nature’s number one antimicrobial food. This is down to a host of sulfur-containing compounds that help your immune system fight off infections.
Ginger is another awesome option during the flu season. Making tea with it is my preferred option, but you can do just about anything, from juicing it to cooking with it. It helps decrease inflammation, helps digestion, contains gingerol, and even helps with pain.
Of course, citrus fruits top the list when it comes to immune-boosting foods. Grapefruits, oranges, clementines, lemons, take your pick. They contain lots of essential vitamin C to fight off every bug that comes your way.
Kiwi might sound like an unusual choice, but they’re vitamin powerhouses. They don’t just have massive amounts of vitamin C, but also lots of potassium, vitamin K, folate, and other essential nutrients.
Papaya is a fruit that probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of how to boost your immune system. This powerful fruit contains vitamins B, potassium, folate, an integral digestive enzyme called papain, as well as 224% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C.
Not an unusual superfood, but rarely considered as immune boosters; mushrooms are easy to sneak into just about any dish, vegetarian or otherwise. Different types of mushrooms offer different immune-boosting qualities, including but not limited to sources of antioxidants, brain-boosting, hormonal balance, etc.
In terms of choices, you can’t go wrong with Shitake, Reishi, lion’s mane, turkey tail, and Tremella. These choices offer extreme immune-boosting properties as well as a whole host of different ways to incorporate them into healthy meals.
Probably not something you consider as food, but in essence, they’re foods and not supplements. Honey, for example, is as simple as it gets. On its own, or mixed with turmeric or nuts (or both), honey is a really sweet way to help your immune system.
However, the power of bee products extends well past just honey. Pollen is the bees’ food of choice, so you can bet it has some amazing health benefits. Speaking of health benefits, propolis is a bee product whose medicinal properties border on magical. It is the number one natural anti-viral remedy in existence.
Looking for another way to boost your immune system? Include spices In your meal plan.
Start with Turmeric AKA curcumin. This slightly bitter, earthy, bright-yellow spice is a staple of many Asian dishes, and for a good reason. It has incredible anti-inflammatory properties and can help even with extreme chronic conditions like arthritis.
Cinnamon also deserves a mention here. It can help curb sugar cravings, helps heal damaged tissue, wards off infections, and lowers inflammation. In terms of polyphenol content (a powerful antioxidant) cinnamon taps out any other superfood with ease.
Cayenne pepper is not just tasty sprinkled on, well, anything, but also has some amazing health benefits. The capsaicin it contains is extremely potent in suppressing the inflammatory process. It also helps with circulation and has massive amounts of vitamin A.
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts And Seeds are staples of most healthy meal plans out there.
Start with almonds. They might not be as rich in vitamin C, but they do have vitamin E in abundance. Vitamin E works in conjunction with vitamin C to help strengthen your immunity.
Sunflower seeds are also full of vitamin E. However, they also contain phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and very powerful antioxidants. Plus, they go well with everything from salads to desserts.
Supplements you can take during flu season
If you decide to get a full panel blood test, look at any micronutrient (vitamins and/or mineral) insufficiencies you might have. More than 90% of the population will be lacking at least a few of them. In other words, taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement is likely a good idea.
When it comes to boosting your immunity, you don’t just want any multivitamins. Apart from getting as many of the macronutrients as possible through food, you also need a supplement, and a potent one at that, the better for your immune system.
Think of your immune system as your muscles. Vitamins and minerals are like protein and carbs for muscles, building the immune system and giving it energy. So anything that contains a wide variety of vitamins and a bunch of minerals is going to be a great idea. Vitamins C, E, and B6 are the most important ones during flu season, though.
There’s another supplement you might not think of when considering how to boost your immune system – Spirulina. Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that contains crazy amounts of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, antioxidants and even lots of protein. In other words, it is a natural multivitamin and mineral supplement. It might taste a bit algae-like, though, so try pills instead of a powdered version.
Last but not least, stress and recovery play a huge role. In order to make sure you destress, you need to rest. A melatonin supplement will help you in your quest for better sleep, and in turn, indirectly help you support your immune system.
Advice for training during flu season
I would say skip BJJ training if you’re feeling under the weather, but that is irrelevant in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic. With a lot of us at home though, training motivation can be hard to find. However, when it comes to training and our immune systems, it is more important what you do not do, rather than what you do.
First of all, binge eating everything in your sight and not exercising is a great way to compromise your immune system. Alcohol and smoking only add fuel to the fire. Instead, since we’re all stuck at home, make sure you stay active with BJJ drills, bodyweight workouts or yoga. It will do wonders for your health, as well as help you stay in shape.
Looking after our minds is also hugely important. Do not underestimate the effects your mindset can have on your body and immune system. Apart from de-stressing and resting, make sure you take the occasional walk or stroll in nature. You need clean air, and with all the virus prevention measures in place, you’re also going to get some me time in the process. Go for it!
Discovering ways to boost your immune system is not hard. Our bodies are extremely smart and efficient, meaning that if you provide the right “fuel” they’ll operate at maximal capacity. Think of this quarantine period as the time to do an overhaul of your “meat vehicle” as Joe Rogan likes to say. Give your body and all of its systems, especially the immune system, the attention they need. Summer is not far away, so let’s make sure we’re ready for all the sun coming our way.