Because proper nutrition is an integral part of a healthy immune system, the kitchen is the perfect place to find natural home remedies to bolster your disease-fighting abilities.
Home Remedies from the Cupboard
Almonds. Eat a handful of almonds for your daily dose of vitamin E. An immune-strengthening antioxidant, studies have found that vitamin E deficiency causes major problems in the integrity of the immune system.
Crab. A zinc deficiency can zap your immune system. Zinc acts as a catalyst in the immune system's killer response to foreign bodies, and it protects the body from damage from invading cells. It also is a necessary ingredient for white blood cell function. Nosh on 3 ounces fresh or canned crab and you've got one-third of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of this immune-enhancing nutrient.
Navy beans. Everybody needs a little folic acid (it's the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States). And not getting enough of this vital nutrient can actually shrink vital immune system fighters like your thymus and lymph nodes. To make sure you're getting your fill of folic acid, try popping open a can of navy beans with dinner. One cup gets you half of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of folic acid.
Home Remedies from the Fruit Basket
Guava. Go a little tropical with this tasty fruit and get more than twice your daily vitamin C needs. Vitamin C acts as an immune enhancer by helping white blood cells perform at their peak and quickening the response time of the immune system.
Home Remedies from the Refrigerator
Chicken. Selenium is a trace mineral that is vital to the development and movement of white blood cells in the body. A 3-ounce piece of chicken will give you almost half your daily needs.
Pork. Not getting enough vitamin B6 can keep your immune system from functioning at its best. Eating 3 ounces of lean roast pork will provide you with one-third of most adults' daily requirements for this immune-helping vitamin.
Wine. Have a glass of red wine and you may help your body take out a few potentially harmful foreign bodies. Certain components in wine seem to be helpful in killing infectious bacteria, such as salmonella. But be careful. Drinking too much alcohol can cause your immune system to become depressed, leaving you more open to infection. A glass a day should do the trick.
Yogurt. Yogurt seems to have a marked effect on the immune system. It strengthens white blood cells and helps the immune system produce antibodies. One study found that people who ate 6 ounces of yogurt a day avoided colds, hay fever, and diarrhea. Another study found that yogurt could be an ally in the body's war against cancer.
Home Remedies from the Supplement Shelf
Echinacea. Research has shown echinacea to boost the body's immune response. It is particularly effective at fighting viral infections, such as the cold and flu, helping your body heal faster. Take 1 or 2 capsules or tablets up to three times a day. You can also buy dried echinacea and brew it into a tea. Simmer 1 to 2 teaspoons in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes; drink up to 3 cups a day.
Home Remedies rom the Vegetable Bin
Carrots. Carotenes, like the beta-carotene found in carrots and other red, yellow, orange, and dark-green leafy vegetables, are the protectors of the immune system, specifically the thymus gland. Carotenes strengthen white blood cell production, and numerous studies have shown that eating foods rich in beta-carotene helps the body fight off infection more easily.
Garlic. Garlic is well-known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties. It's even been thought to help prevent cancer. Researchers think these benefits stem from garlic's amazing effect on the immune system. One study found that people who ate more garlic had more of the natural killer white blood cells than those who didn't eat garlic.
Kale. A cup of kale will give you your daily requirement of vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that helps your body fight cancer cells and is essential in the formation of white blood cells. Vitamin A also increases the ability of antibodies to respond to invaders.
Shiitake mushrooms. Throw a few shiitake mushrooms in your stir-fry and you may prevent your yearly cold. Scientists have discovered that specific components of shiitake mushrooms boost your immune system and act as antiviral agents.
More Do's and Don'ts
Skip the sugar. Sugar may keep your white blood cells from being their strongest. Keep the sweet stuff to a minimum if your immune system isn't working like it should.
Forgo fat. Polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils such as corn, safflower, and sunflower oil seem to be a deterrent to an efficiently running immune system.
Lose a few pounds. Being overweight has a major effect on your immune system. One study found that the white blood cells in overweight people weren't as able to fight off infection as those of their healthy-weight peers.
Try to relax. If stress causes you to lose your cool, you could be impairing your immune system. Chronic stress can even shrink your thymus gland, creating major problems in your body's ability to fight off infection. This is probably why you get a horrible cold after you finish a big project at work.
Add some activity. Exercise is a proven immune system booster. Don't overdo it, though. Too much can wear you down and create immune system problems.
With these home remedies, you've got all the tools you need to keep your immune system in peak health.