DETROIT (CBS Detroit) — If you don’t have the flu or a nasty sneezing, sore throat, coughing virus, chances are you know someone who does.
Short of hibernation, what can you do to keep yourself healthy during the long winter?
“There are a few key things people can do to boost their immunity systems naturally this season,” says Jen Green, N.D., a licensed naturopathic physician with Beaumont Integrative Medicine in Michigan.
You can also help your body ward off viruses by staying hydrated, staying rested, washing your hands diligently and by exercising 30-60 minutes a day. One of the best ways to keep the immune system strong is to eat a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains — all of which contain phytonutrients that boost immunity and help fight off flu and other viruses, she said.
Green and white tea, shiitake mushrooms, unsweetened yogurt and fermented foods containing probiotics are also great foods to boost immunity, as are garlic and ginger.
Green also recommends asking your doctor to check your vitamin D levels. This nutrient is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system and is commonly deficient — optimal values are between 50-80 ng/mL. Treatment for vitamin D deficiency varies based on the seriousness of the condition, but can range from increasing your sun exposure, to eating foods rich in vitamin D to taking oral supplements.
If you feel yourself getting run down, follow the advice of Hippocrates and let food be your medicine. Stock your kitchen with foods that can help ease the symptoms and speed recovery.
Especially when eaten raw, garlic has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, and simmering garlic in broth provides healing vapors. Onions and garlic can both relax spasms of the bronchial muscles, thus are soothing for coughs.
Onions are high in quercetin, a bioflavinoid that works like an antihistamine to decrease nasal congestion.
Shiitakes are a variety of mushrooms known to act as immune modulators, stimulating the body’s own line of defense.
This bright yellow spice has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Stirring the powder into broth also adds flavor.
Concentrated doses of ginger act as a diaphoretic, bringing on a sweat to help eliminate toxins. Ginger also fights nausea and acts as an expectorant to make a cough productive, activate the immune system and fend off the chills. Ginger can be juiced or taken as a tea with lemon and honey.
Thyme is excellent for bronchitis, sinus infections and long-lasting coughs. It is antiviral, antibacterial, breaks up congestion and also helps gas and bloating. Make into a tea or gargle for sore throats.