(NaturalNews) The best way to avoid developing colds, influenza, and other viral diseases this winter is not to go out and get more vaccines and over-the-counter drugs. Your immune system is fully equipped to thwart these conditions naturally on its own, provided you feed it the nutrients it needs in order to maintain homeostasis. Here are five ways to strengthen your immune system naturally using simple food choices:
1) Garlic. This powerful member of the onion family comes up frequently in lists of food and herbs that promote health and prevent disease, and for good reason. Garlic's high allicin content is largely responsible for its disease-fighting effects, as this powerful antioxidant compound neutralizes free radicals and quells disease-causing inflammation. As a whole, garlic has been used for thousands of years to prevent and treat respiratory, bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections as well.
A 2009 study published in the international chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie found that allicin in particular is uniquely effective at targeting free radicals, far surpassing virtually all other natural antioxidants in terms of both its efficacy and efficiency. According to Dr. Derek Pratt, a professor of chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Free Radical Chemistry, no other known compound, either natural or synthetic, works as effectively as an antioxidant as does allicin. (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090130154901.htm)
2) Homemade chicken soup. Arguably one of the most effective, and delicious, natural remedies for preventing and treating viral infections, homemade chicken soup made from whole, pasture-raised chickens is loaded with disease-fighting nutrients such as cysteine, an amino acid released during the cooking of chicken that, according to Prevention.com resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine. Real chicken broth made from whole chickens, bones and all, also contains a host of beneficial fats, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that support vibrant immunity.
Gelatin, for instance, which is naturally formed in chicken broth, is a food substance composed of both essential and non-essential amino acids that is critical for regulating immunity, promoting healthy digestion, improving liver function, and strengthening bones. Dr. Kaayla T. Daniel, Ph.D., C.C.N., writing for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), explains in further detail how the gelatin found in natural chicken broth is essential for health. You can read her paper here: http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/why-broth-is-beautiful
You can also learn how to make your own immune-boosting stocks and soups at home by visiting the following recipe page put together by Healthy Home Economist and WAPF Chapter Leader Sarah Pope: http://www.westonaprice.org
3) Sweet potatoes. A rich source of both vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes are another essential immune-boosting food. Sweet potatoes are particularly beneficial for your skin, which just so happens to be your body's largest organ, and the first line of defense against harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. But this starchy root vegetable also contains nutrients that improve cardiovascular and nervous system health, and also boost immunity.
Sweet potatoes are also one of the most effective foods for boosting glutathione levels in the body. Glutathione is often referred to as the "master antioxidant," as it plays a primary role in detoxifying cells and fighting off free radicals. In general, high glutathione levels are absolutely vital for maintaining strong immunity, which in turn helps lengthen lifespan and improve overall quality of life. (http://drnevillewilson.com)
4) Mushrooms. Long revered in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for their incredible ability to stimulate the immune system, mushrooms of numerous sorts may hold the key to keeping you and your family healthy during the winter season. Copious research, including a 2009 study out of Arizona State University, has revealed that white button, reishi, maitake, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, to name just a few, all possess unique immune-boosting properties that make them a worthy addition to a healthy diet.
"[Mushrooms] are 'functional foods' and/or 'dietary ingredients,' which help support the immune system on a fundamental, multi-factorial level," says acupuncturist and nutritionist Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald. "We need all the support we can get as our immune systems and health are under assault from pollution, stress, contaminated food and age-related diseases as our lifespans increase." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com)
5) Brazil nuts. One of nature's richest sources of selenium, Brazil nuts are distinctively beneficial in promoting a healthy immune system. Recognized for its ability to stimulate the production of antibodies, selenium is involved in most functions of cellular biochemistry, and is absolutely essential for proper immune function. Selenium also plays an important role in the production and function of glutathione which, as mentioned earlier, boosts adaptive immunity and promotes the production of white blood cells.
"Dietary selenium is essential for an optimum immune response (as it) influences both the innate, 'nonadaptive' and the acquired, 'adaptive' immune systems," explains a 2003 study on selenium published in The Journal of Nutrition, which found that multiple aspects of immune function are dependent on selenium. (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/5/1457S.full)