Eat This to Keep Your Family’s Immune Systems Strong

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When you couple healthy eating with a vibrant emotional, spiritual and social life, your immune system can weather a whole lot of bugs.

If we allow our minds and bodies to go into fear mode, that puts us into fight or flight and suppresses the immune system. Therefore, appreciating and understanding the power of our minds is our most important first line of defense.

In addition to getting plenty of sleep, exercise, getting outside, and regular hand washing, as well as a sense of gratitude toward your body, I recommend the following tips for keeping your family healthy during the winter:

Alkalinize your diet.
Eating foods like green leafy veggies, cucumbers, avocado, almonds, and lemon, just to name a few, help your body to be less acidic. This allows all of your systems to work optimally, including your immune system.

Cook with spices, onions and garlic.
Many spices like thyme and turmeric have wonderful health benefits. Thyme is great for cough and congestion, and turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Include these spices along with onions, garlic and vegetables to slow cooked soups and stews and you are giving your body a big dose of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and prebiotics (these feed the bacteria in our gut and promote the growth of the good healthy bacteria).

Most of our immune system happens in our gut. This is why it is so important to keep it healthy and chock full of good bacteria. We do this by eating fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha regularly.

Get your Omega-3 fatty acids.
The virtues of omega-3 fatty acids are endless, including benefits to the heart, brain, nervous system, and immune system. My favorite ways to get omega-3 fats is through seeds and nuts. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain almost 5 grams of omega-3 fats. The recommended daily amount for an adult female is about 1 gram. So a really simple, clean and vegan way to get your omega-3 fats is by putting them in a smoothie every morning. Other ways are flax seed, hemp seed, almonds and walnuts. Cold-water fish like salmon and tuna are also an option.

Sheila Kilbane, MD, practices integrative medicine through her practice Infinite Health and Carolinas Natural Health Center.