Usually, your immune system does an excellent job of protecting your body against disease-causing microbes. However, sometimes bacteria or viruses can slip past your body’s defense line and make you sick. If this happens, many people rely on prescription medication or antibiotics to get rid of the sick-making invaders.
Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 gave rise to the era of antibiotics. While antibiotics have saved many lives in the past, today they don’t seem to be as efficient and revered as they once were. Now they come with a host of health-damaging side effects and add to the growing antibiotic-resistance thread.
Once recognized as one of the greatest advances in conventional medicine, the era of antibiotics is coming to an end. So what do we do? Did you know that our ancestors used immune-building foods and herbs to strengthen their body’s defenses and kill sick-making germs?
While it takes more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away, looking after your immune system and feeding your body the right nutrients are paramount to keep sickness at bay. Below you’ll find a list of six superfoods you should eat regularly to boost your immune system and health.
1. Iron-rich foods
Iron plays a crucial role in the cytokine-mediated immune response. Too little of this vital trace element can cause inflammation or weaken the immune system significantly. Therefore, it is important to eat a diet rich in iron. Iron-rich foods include organic, grass-fed beef, poultry, fish and seafood, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Too much iron, however, especially from non-food sources, can increase the risk of heart disease.
2. Foods rich in vitamin C
Most of us have probably heard about the importance of vitamin C to support the immune system. Vitamin C may be one of the most important nutrients to protect your overall health. Next to boosting the production of T helper (Th) cells, a type of T cell that plays a crucial role in the regulation of the immune response, it also supports antibacterial activity, fights inflammation, and works as a powerful antioxidant to prevent free radical damage. Furthermore, vitamin C promotes the formation of skin, epithelial, and endothelial barriers. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, berries, snap peas, and papaya.
Used for thousands of years to fight a common cold, you shouldn’t fear garlic’s pungent smell but add it to as many dishes as you can. One study, published in Advances in Therapy, found that people who supplemented their diet with garlic had significantly fewer colds than the placebo group and recovered faster when infected.
Known for its anti-nausea and immune-supporting properties, ginger can help the body ward off infections. Additionally, ginger possesses some great anti-inflammatory properties, which speeds up the healing process if you do get sick.
5. Cat’s claw
Cat’s claw may be less known to most of people, but when it comes to your health, it has shown some tremendous immune boosting effects. A tea made from the root and bark may trigger the immune system and boost the ability of white blood cells to fight off disease. Just like ginger, Cat’s claw is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb which promotes a fast recovery.
Another lesser known herb you should start to use to improve your health is astragalus. Used for centuries by Chinese medicine practitioners, astragalus has shown to increase the immune cells in the bone marrow and lymph tissues. The root can be added to soups or stew to soften its tough structure, or you can opt for a high-quality herbal supplement instead.