It's that time of year. Everyone around you is starting to develop some sort of sniffle, cough, sneeze or runny nose. You'll try your absolute best to avoid all contact with those you know are infected, but eventually someone you don't know will sneak up behind you and cough in your direction, almost as if they're doing it on purpose. Like you are sworn enemies and the target of their biological warfare in a battle you never wanted to be a part of. Cold and flu season is here whether you like it or not, but you can do something about it! The best offence is a good defence, so let me tell you about some foods you can eat that will help you fight off these nasty viruses this year!
Mushrooms are quite impressive organisms. This Honey Mushroom currently holds the record for being the largest living organism on earth, spanning 3 square miles across the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon. Aside from their incredible ability to adapt and thrive, some species of mushrooms are incredibly nutritious and have been used medicinally for centuries. The fungal polysaccharides found in mushrooms are responsible for boosting our immune system and helping us fight the good fight against colds and flus. Not all mushrooms are created equal however, as certain species will have stronger immune boosting effects than others. Maitake, shiitake, reishi, cordyceps and chaga mushrooms have the strongest immune boosting effects and as an added bonus, act as adaptogens to better manage stress.
This one came as a bit of a surprise to me as well, but this common household condiment can be used to fight infection as well. Aside from it's immediate sinus clearing actions from the burn you feel when you eat it, horseradish actually has bacteria fighting properties. Throw in some garlic and you've made yourself a tasty, virus fighting garnish!
Oil of Oregano
This stuff works! It definitely is not pleasant to take and should not be overused, but taking a few drops when you feel the beginnings of a cold or flu coming on can sometimes stop that virus dead in it's tracks and prevent it from ever becoming a full blown attack. Some people have sworn by this virus busting oil for some time now and we know it can fight bacteria with force. Definitely worth keeping on hand.
I can't stress this last point enough! Vitamin D is absolutely crucial to anyone living in Canada, and even more so in the winter months. It's no wonder cold and flu season begins when we enter into eternal darkness (a.k.a. winter). We simply do not get enough. Vitamin D actually acts more as a hormone than a vitamin and is strongly linked to our immune defences. Up your Vitamin D intake and you'll greatly increase your chances of not getting sick this season while everyone around you starts to sniffle. Good food sources include fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, egg yolks and certain mushrooms as well like portabella, chanterelles, and maitake.
As a last point, remember to do your part to stop the spread of germs as best you can. Wash your hands with soap and water and avoid contacting areas of your body where germs can easily enter like your eyes and mouth. Minimizing your exposure while increasing your defences are the best way to avoid any nasty viruses this cold and flu season! Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)