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Fall is here, bringing with it cooling temperatures splashes of color on trees, and a bounty of red, orange, yellow, and purple at the farmers markets. Due to the changing weather, now is the perfect time to prepare yourself for cold and flu season. People who get the flu are those with weakened immune systems. So instead of waiting around to get sick, use this time to build up your immunity. How?

Start by examining your daily diet. Is it loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and processed junk food? If so, then you are suppressing your immunity. Sugar lowers your natural killer (NK) white blood cells. These cells fight invaders such as viruses and bacteria. Sugar also inhibits the body from absorbing Vitamin C, which is a crucial component of a healthy immune system. HFCS, over loads the liver and leaves it unable to filter out harmful toxins. Processed foods are stripped of vitamins and minerals, and/or have synthetic vitamins added. These empty calories don’t support a healthy immune system, and they put an additional burden on your digestion, liver, and kidneys. Basically these denatured foods break the body down instead of building it up.

Eating a variety of brightly colored seasonal fruits and vegetables increases your antioxidant intake. Various colors contain a variety of phyto (from plants) nutrients. For example, orange and yellow produce is loaded with beta-carotene and vitamin C, both of which are important for immunity. The blues and purples contain anthocyanins, which act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. The best way to get all the benefits is pack your plate with color, every day.

There are many herbs and supplements that are beneficial for your immune system. Many medicinal mushrooms, such as shitake, reishi, agarikon, turkey tail, and maitake increase NK cells. Elderberry is an old folk remedy that we now know prevents viruses from replicating by coating and puncturing the viral cell walls. Garlic is not only tasty, it’s a potent anti-microbial. If your stomach can tolerate it, you can eat it raw when you feel a cold coming on. If not, it’s available in capsules and tinctures.

Herbal teas are comforting during colder temperatures and are one more layer of protection for your system. My favorite tea purveyor is Traditional Medicinals. They make potent herbal blends, including Breathe Easy, which contains Chinese herbs, eucalyptus, and licorice and is excellent for clearing congestion. They make a full line of cold care teas too. You can also use bulk herbs, and make your own concoctions.  Try slippery elm, for  soothing sore throats and Echinacea to support overall immunity.

Also, make sure to take time out for relaxation. When the body is under stress it weakens our immunity. Take a hot bath with Epsom salt and lavender oil, walk, read, or just take a few minutes each day for yourself.

These are just some of the possibilities for taking care of your self during the upcoming cold and flu season. Before you load up on over-the-counter drugs and medications at the first sign of the sniffles, first try supporting your body naturally.

Here is a seriously immune-boosting soup recipe that is perfect for cold days, whether you have the sniffles or just want to prevent them.  Astragalus has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and helps the body adapt to stress, is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Burdock root is a blood purifier and dandelion detoxifies the liver and kidneys.  Miso is packed with probiotics (benefical bacteria) which support digestion and immunity. To your health!

delicious immune boosting soup

1 ounce dried astragalus root

4 ounces fresh dandelion root, thinly sliced (or 2 ounces dried)

4 ounces fresh burdock root, thinly sliced (or 2 ounces dried)

1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot

1 tablespoon dried kelp, dulse, or other sea vegetable

2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil

1 medium-size onion, chopped

1 bunch kale or collard greens, chopped

8-10 medium-size fresh shiitake mushrooms

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup fresh miso paste

directions: Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and reduce heat. Add astragalus, dandelion, burdock, ginger, and sea vegetable;  stir well, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Strain, return broth to pot, and keep over medium heat. In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat; add onion and mushrooms, and kale saute until tender. Add garlic; saute for a few more minutes, and then add entire mixture to broth. Turn off heat and stir in miso paste.

Recipe adapted from: From Body + Soul, November/December 2006


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18 Responses to “fall into health”

  1. Louise Edington

    An interesting post Sho Shanna – I’m afraid you lost me on the soup when I got to ginger and ghee though – I cannot bring myself to eat either! Luckily I do try to eat a healthy diet and avoid processed foods but thanks for the reminder of how important it is to stave of winter ailments. Can I share your post on my work blog to remind my host families and Au Pairs of the importance of eating healthily at this time of year?
    Louise Edington
    International Au Pair Finder

  2. Hope Desroches

    Great post! I have to say I used to have an aweful diet that was high fat and high sugar. Now that I have started eating better I feel SO much better. I appreciate you spreading the word of good health.

  3. Darcie Newton

    Great information. I didn’t know that sugar inhibits vitamin C absorption. So those little Vitamin C tablets that you give to your kids that have a bit of sugar in them to make them palatable are really counterproductive.

    I love a good soup recipe but I am unfamiliar with a few of the ingredients in your recipe. Where would find Astragalus root?

  4. Judy Stone-Goldman

    I’m happy to be reminded about the importance of diet in immune health. I am sugar-free in every way and I eat healthfully, so I am starting the season out right. Your soup recipe is a bit intimidating–maybe another blog to explain some of those ingredients?

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer

  5. Irene Turner

    GREAT article Sho Shanna! I love it for many reasons…I’m an alternative health junkie…prevention is key! I love the reference to color, and seasonal eating, very slow food. And sounds like a great recipe. It’s definitely a Little Bit of Beauty™ for sure!

  6. Michael Cavitt

    Sho, does this bring it back. I followed a macrobiotic regime for a number of years. I would still follow it if I could find someone to cook for me. Don’t have the time or patience anymore.

    Your points about the immune system, prompt me to be a bit more vigilant this year.

  7. amy donovan

    i’m getting better about eating healthier but i do sometimes fall off the wagon! thanks for the reminder that it’s not always about eating healthy to maintain a healthy weight – it’s so much more than that, + keeping one’s immune system in tip-top shape around this time of year (+ year-round) is of the utmost importance. thanks for a great post!

  8. Heidi Alberti & Atticus

    We are on the same page, Sho Shanna. I didn’t know about some the roots your wrote about (have to do a little more research), but the soup sounds interesting & yummy.
    I love to make veggie pho at home this time of year. The aroma of the simmering broth (w/ginger root, garlic, star anise, cinnemon stick & a few other oddities) is scrumptious!! When the broth is done & strained, just add veggies & rice noodles & top w/cilantro or basil, jalapeno, bean sprouts & lime. yummy!

  9. sho

    Louise, you could use coconut oil and skip the ginger. Of course you can share the post. The more people that have this information, the healthier we can all be! Thanks!!

  10. sho

    Hi Judy, You can get those herbs at any health food store that has bulk herbs. You can also use other herbs. The general idea is to add immune boosting herbs to the soup. Also, let me know if you have specific questions about any of the herbs.

  11. Rachel Lavern

    Great post Sho Shanna! I love the idea of supporting my body naturally. While I have heard that getting a flu shot is a very effective way for preventing it, I prefer a proactive approach to warding off colds and flu. Your suggestions are apt of make our entire life healthier.

  12. Bill Browning

    Thanks for the reminder that eating is more than energy and weight control. I’ll start incorporating some of the colorful veggies into my meal plans by going to the Farmer’s Market this weekend.

    Thanks Sho Shanna

  13. Kerry Hargraves

    Love the tip about making a colorful plate. Garlic, ginger, and a long soak in a hot fragrant tub with a good book are some of my favorite things. Not necessarily all at the same time.

  14. Ann Evanston

    We just planted our “winter garden”: many greens like collards, kale and mustard’s as well as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. I find that eating seasonally also helps me from getting sick and keeps this Warrior strong!

    ann Evanston
    Discover Your REAL Edge

  15. chrislwagner

    Sho, wonderful post and so full of great information. I eat pretty healthy, but from your post, I could eat a lot better. I love eating holistically for the whole body to work better as a unit.

  16. Donna McCord

    This is great advice, and something I have been trying to do over the last couple of months — focusing on fresh veggies and fruit and good proteins. Love your suggestions for teas and other medicinal herbs, etc. We will all have a healthy winter this year! Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

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