With experts predicting a harsh, late-peaking flu season this winter, do you have a strategy for boosting your immune system? If not, you might want to consider these recommendations below.
That’s because this year’s prevalent strain of flu—influenza B-Victoria—is not a common strain. Health officials, despite still recommending the flu shot for most people, admit that this year’s vaccine is not a good match for the relatively uncommon influenza B strain. To stoke the flames of paranoia even more, a new SARS (swine flu)-like strain has just surfaced in Southeast Asia.
Who’s to say if your immune system is up to the challenge of keeping you healthy if a droplet of influenza B-tainted spittle lands on your skin or enters your nasal passages?
Hand-washing: Overrated for Flu Prevention?
Sure, the time-tested advice to obsessively practice squeaky-clean hygiene can’t hurt. On second thought, actually, it can. Using antibacterial soap poses a double safety hazard. First, antibacterial agents in sanitizers actually weaken your immune system, and may cause allergies. Furthermore, the ingredients in antibacterial gels and lotions contain potentially cancer-causing chemicals.
Without doubt, you should wash your hands frequently (with organic soap). But if someone with a cold or the flu is contagious and shakes your hand or opens a door before you do, or sneezes in your general direction, hand washing may not be enough.
And the same goes for eating healthy and exercising. The trio of hygiene, exercise and diet may help prevent getting struck down by flu. Eating a ton of fresh vegetables and performing moderate-intensity exercise daily can keep your immune system strong, and may even have moderate immune-boosting effects.
But here’s what else you can do to protect yourself...
Oils are Essential for Building the Immune System
When you think of essential oils, what comes to mind? Perhaps an aromatherapy candle or massage oil? Or maybe you use tea tree oil for dry skin and superficial cuts? But certain essential oils have compounds that have been shown in research studies to have positive immunomodulating effects (that means it’s good for your immune system).
The following 5 essential oils are by no means a comprehensive list. But these 5 have been the focus of research studies.
In a lab study, eucalyptus oil killed strains of influenza viruses within just a few minutes. Eucalyptus also stimulates macrophages. These are white blood cells that act like Pacman after eating the blinking dot, gobbling up dangerous germs in its wake.
Clove oil has powerful antibiotic properties. It’s also a potent virus killer.
Lemon oil improves the immune system by improving lymph node function. Think of your lymph nodes as mini trash cans located throughout your body. The more effectively your lymph nodes move trash (metabolic waste) into your elimination system, the more effective your immune system will be.
The needles of a rosemary bush not only offer a pleasing scent, but the compounds in rosemary oil also contain antioxidants that protect cells from premature death. These compounds also help to keep inflammation in check.
One more immune-building oil you can try is cinnamon. Like clove, cinnamon has powerful influenza virus-killing properties. It’s also a natural anti-bacterial.
How to Use Essential Oils for Immunity
There are a couple of easy ways to use essential oils to keep your immune system in good shape. The first way involves using an essential oil diffuser. You simply pour about 10 drops of an individual oil into a diffuser about half hour before you go to bed. While you’re sleeping, the vapors from the oil diffuse into the air, purifying the air, and possibly work to activate certain immune responses. (Although not enough research has been done on the vapors of essential oils and their long-term effect on immunity).
Another way to use essential oils is by applying them topically. However, make sure the essential oil is diluted with a carrier oil (almond, olive, coconut, jojoba). Essential oils that are not diluted may cause serious skin complications.
(You can also add essential oils to your nightly bath, which in and of itself is good for the immune system because it helps you relax.)
In addition, you can use these oils to disinfect your home. A few drops of lemon oil diluted in a quart of water, placed in a spray bottle, can make your home smell naturally, citrus-fresh. The volatile compounds in lemon oil can neutralize any harmful germs on floors, countertops, etc.
You can purchase immunity oil blends online, or, if you’re a DIY-type person, watch instructional videos and create your own blend.
Adaptogenic Herbs For Immunity
Adaptogenic herbs (adaptogens) are one of the biggest health trends in recent years. And for good reason. With many people leading chronically-stressed lives, adaptogens are a special class of medicinal herbs that help the body get back in balance, regardless of stressor types (emotional, physical, environmental). This huge positive effect alone helps keep the immune system healthy.
But these special plants and mushrooms have also been shown to specifically benefit the immune system by activating macrophages (remember those disease-fighting white blood cells from above?).
Adaptogens also stimulate killer T-cells. These are immune cells that neutralize harmful viruses, bacteria and fungi).
Research-backed immune-boosting adaptogenic herbs include astragalus root, reishi mushroom, schisandra fruit, and Asian ginseng (panax ginseng).
Unlike certain medicinal herbs, adaptogens are safe for virtually everybody to take; all adaptogenic herbs must be classified as non-toxic.
However, if you take medication, check with your doctor to make sure adaptogenic herbs are safe for you.
Keep in mind that the power of adaptogenic herbs are enhanced when they are combined with other adaptogens. Taking an individual adaptogenic herbal supplement may offer some benefits to your immune system. But finding a formula with several adaptogens is likely more advantageous.
Bonus Immune-Boosting Tip: Eat Miracle Noodles!
Can eating all the pasta you want, without the guilt, bloat and carbs strengthen your immune system?
Kinda, sorta. You see, one absolute must for keeping your immune system strong—
especially during a brutal flu season— is avoiding foods and drinks with added sugars. If you indulge in a large serving of soda or energy drink, not only will you experience a sugar crash, so will your immune system. In fact, immune cells that gobble up harmful bacteria are weakened for at least a few hours.
In addition, Miracle Noodles may boost your immune system because of the prebiotic fiber it contains. Think of prebiotic fiber as food for your good bacteria in your colon and large intestine. In order to have a healthy gut, where most of your immune cells are located, you need to feed the good bacteria with prebiotic fiber.
So in addition to getting plenty of rest and sleep during the winter, make sure you’re limiting your carbs for any foods that aren’t fruits or vegetables. Instead, eat all the pasta and rice you want by making the switch to Miracle Noodle.