Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
In the new year you may have resolved to lose 20 pounds or stop biting your nails — but shouldn’t resolving not to get the nasty flu bug that’s currently running rampant be at the top of your list? After all, nobody wants to start 2019 with a fever, body aches, cough, congestion and fatigue.
Try this all-natural, multi-pronged approach to boosting your immune system, which will go a long way toward keeping the germs at bay.
1. Food first
“Keep your kitchen stocked with flu-fighting foods that have been shown to boost your immune system, like cranberries and shitake mushrooms,” says Dr. Ken Redcross, MD, author of “Bond: The 4 Cornerstones of a Lasting and Caring Relationship with Your Doctor,” and founder of Redcross Concierge. “Stock up on fish that contain high levels of omega-3s, like salmon, herring, albacore tuna and lake trout. The DHA in omega-3 has been found to increase white blood cell activity, which is helpful in fighting off germs and viruses.”
2. Household habits
Since the living room is a popular spot to hang out, Dr. Redcross urges everyone to sanitize remote controls, light switches and touchscreens frequently, and crack a window to let fresh oxygen in. For the bathroom, he suggests preventing the spread of germs through bathroom towels by purchasing disposable paper towels.
See Also 7 Essential Oils for Cold & Flu
3. Probiotic power
Because your own immune system is your first line of defense in fighting a cold, it’s crucial to have enough “good bacteria” in your system. Otherwise, pathogens can take over and leave you susceptible to disease, says Rebecca Park, a registered nurse from New York and creator of RemediesForMe.com. “Since 80 percent of our immune system is found in our digestive system, it is vital to maintain appropriate levels of probiotics in our gastro-intestinal system.” You can either take a daily probiotic capsule or seek out the naturally occurring probiotics found fermented foods, such as Kefir, kombucha drinks, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and sauerkraut.
4. Tangy tonic
“Apple cider vinegar (ACV) contains antibacterial and antiviral properties that kill the microbes that cause sore throats,” says Park. “Plus, it contains prebiotic inulin, which builds up the immune system and sends out fighting white blood cells.” ACV is also touted for its ability to balance the body’s pH levels (acidity vs. alkalinity), and a balanced body is a less hospitable environment for bacteria, making it difficult to thrive. She suggests mixing 2 teaspoons of ACV into a cup of filtered warm water, plus adding a squeeze of lemon (vitamin C), a dash of ceylon cinnamon powder (antiseptic), and raw organic honey (soothes sore throats). Drink up to three times a day.
5. Spicy sips
According to Ayurvedic medicine, Park says that ginger has the power to boost the immune system, warm the body, and rid the lungs and sinuses of toxins — largely thanks to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Slice up 1 cup of fresh ginger (peeled), one lemon (with some rind), and one pear. Place in a pot of filtered water and boil for at least one hour. Mix with raw organic honey if desired. Alternatively, supplements are a great option if the taste of ginger is too strong for you.
See Also The Healing Effects of Ginger
6. Green goodness
Chlorella, a type of algae, is packed with antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals such as phytonutrients, chlorophyll, complete vitamin B-complex, several amino acids, and vitamins A, C, E. “Chlorella also increases the levels of (Ig) A antibody levels within the body,” says Park. “When the influenza virus comes into contact with your (Ig) A antibodies, it contains the cold and influenza virus and immediately stops it from spreading and infection the surrounding cells.” A study published in 2010 by the Plant Foods for Human Nutrition shows a direct correlation between chlorella and increased levels of (Ig) A antibodies in the body. Park says it’s best to take chlorella — which is available in powder and tablet form — one hour before any medications or meals, with a big glass of water.