With cold and flu season around the corner, it is more important than ever to bolster your immune system this fall and winter. Here are some natural, simple solutions that will help protect you!
1. Chestnuts bolster immunity
In both Asia and the Mediterranean region, chestnuts have been popular for centuries. Chestnuts differ from other nuts with their low fat content and high fiber. They have a mild, sweet taste and a crumbly consistency. An excellent source of potassium, folate, vitamins B6 and C, chestnuts strengthen the kidney-adrenal system and bolster the immune system to fight off the flu and combat infections. This flu season, introduce more chestnuts into your cooking: they are good roasted in the oven, cooked with chicken, lamb, beef, or pork, or in any dish with beans and legumes.
2. Stimulate your thymus
Your thymus is a fist-size gland located behind your sternum in the center of your chest. It plays a critical role in the functioning of the lymphatic and immune systems. It develops over time, reaching peak size when you are in your early 30s, then begins to physically diminish until it shrinks to the size of a pea around age 70. You experience the gland's waning as waning energy in your body.
To support thymus health, the Chinese use astragalus root. Studies show astralagus is an adaptogen, which means it corrects both high and low metabolic imbalances, acts on invaders wherever they attack the body, and promotes overall vitality. The usual dosage is 100 to 150 mg per day in capsules or you can drink astragalus tincture or tea.
Another way to stimulate your thymus is to use acupressure. With your index and middle finger, gently tap against the sternum (midway between the nipples) 50 times, in the morning and evening.
3. Immune-supporting herbs
You can use the following herbs to help strengthen your immune system:
• Ligustrum has undergone much research recently, which has revealed this herb's immune boosting functions. Its actions include increasing white blood cell production, phagocytosis, and T-lymphocyte help cell activities.
• Cherokee Rose is traditionally used to protect the body from external pathogens with its astringent properties. It is also one of the highest natural sources of vitamin C.
• Honeysuckle is a natural anti-microbial herb that has been used for centuries to increase resistance and fight against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
You can find these herbs in health food stores, online, and at the offices of acupuncturists and Chinese herbalists.
Or look into a formula that combines all of these herbs in one immune-boosting herbal formula, called Perpetual Shield.
4. Be healthy with bee products
Royal jelly has long been regarded in Asia as a longevity tonic that enhances energy, virility, and immunity. Rich in vitamins and collagen, royal jelly is used to feed queen bees. An antibacterial protein in the substance, dubbed royalisin, is effective against certain bacteria, including streptococcus and staphylococcus.
Bee propolis is rich in flavonoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains terpenoids that possess antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiprotozoan agents. Not unlike some prescription antibiotics, propolis prevents bacterial cell division and breaks down the invading organism's cell walls and cytoplasm.
Find royal jelly and bee propolis in enriched honey or in supplement form from herb shops and health food stores.
5. Beta-carotene Builds Immunity
Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that improves immune function and promotes mucous membrane health. In fact, a 1997 study conducted by the Institute of Food Research in the United Kingdom suggested that dietary intake of beta-carotene can enhance cell-mediated immune responses. How to get these beta-benefits this flu season? Eat more orange-colored vegetables, including carrots, winter squash, butternut squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and yams. Additionally, these are all an excellent source of Vitamin C, a famous immune support.
6. An All-In-One Immunity Soup
Cook up a broth of shiitake mushrooms, any kind of seaweed, cabbage, any type of squash, carrots, fresh ginger, oregano, and onion in chicken or vegetable stock. Shiitake mushrooms contain polysaccharides, sterols, and coumarin, as well as vitamins and minerals that increase your immune function. Seaweed cleanses the body, cabbage has ability to increase your body's ability to fight infection, ginger supports healthy digestion, and the remaining ingredients promote general health and well-being. Eat this soup every other day to build a strong and healthy immune system.
7. Treat Your Body Right
Encourage your body to fight flu and other infections by giving it the care it needs.
• Get at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night. Studies show that your immune system function drops by an average of 60% after just three nights of poor sleep.
• Keep your stress level low with meditation, tai chi, or yoga.
• Dry body brushing daily can activate lymph circulation that is important to clear out toxic debris and stimulate immunity.
• If you feel your immune system has already been compromised and illness is on the way, consider this Cold & Flu elixir, which supports recovery as it boosts your immune system.
I hope you find the ways to build your immunity for a winter free from cold and flu! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
[Originally Published in a November 2009 newsletter on Acupuncture.com.]
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[Reprinted with the kind permission of Dr. Maoshing Ni. Please check out his wonderful resource the Tao of Wellness.]
Dr. Maoshing Ni, L.AC., D.O.M., PH.D., DIPL. C.H., DIPL. ABAAP
Dr. Maoshing Ni is a doctor of Chinese medicine, bestselling author and an authority in anti-aging medicine. He runs an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice in Santa Monica, California, called Tao of Wellness, where his patients have included physicians, Fortune 500 CEOs and celebrities. He is co-founder and Chancellor of Yo San University in Los Angeles, where he teaches the art and science of Wellness Medicine. Dr. Mao, as he is known to his patients and readers has lectured internationally and has been featured on radio and television as well as on the pages of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. He is currently featured as an expert on Yahoo Health, where he writes a blog about longevity. For more information on his bestselling book, Secrets of Longevity and his latest book, Secrets of Self Healing and his other books, go to http://www.askdrmao.com/.
[Photo Credits: Photo of Dr. Maoshing Ni & of the Chinese Year of the Ox from Dr. Maoshing Ni's newsletter.]