I love running during the autumn and winter months, but a downside during this time of year is we are more prone to the flu and colds. There’s no doubt a runner’s immune system could use a health-boost during the cold and flu season and a good, healthy diet really delivers immune-strengthening nourishment. So how NOT to get the flu, so that you don’t miss opportunities to run during the most prettiest times of the year?
I dove into the scientific research and found a ton of herbal flu remedies and health foods that prevent colds.
Natural Ways to Avoid The Flu So You Can Run All Winter Long
Turmeric is a real leader in improving overall health. According to Asian researchers, drinking 2 cups of turmeric tea daily could shorten the duration of your illness. And, its been acknowledged repeatedly by experts that turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, prompts immune cells to divide at a faster rate, so you have more defenders on your side!
Candied ginger gives your immune system a firm grip to stamp out the cold and flu by employing stronger white blood cells. According to the University of Illinois, eating 3 slices of candied ginger a day, when you are sick, accelerates recovery time. This is because ginger contains 12 essential proven immune boosters which quickly energizes white blood cells, giving your immune system a stronger platform to build on.
You can also weaponize your immune system with coconut oil! Coconut oil provides steady nourishment to the stomach. According to research in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, found that coconut oil interfered with the spreading of the flu in the gut by reducing inflammation and speeds healing. The researchers found that adding 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day is a good proxy to reduce flu symptoms.
Oregano oil is at the front-line for helping you feel better. According to the University of Pittsburgh, taking 250-mg of oregano oil 3 times a day with meals is more than sufficient at keeping you healthy. Oregano oil works by providing antibacterial power that was found to push back on the cold and flu 35% faster and more effectively than prescribed antibiotics.
According to research from UCLA, red grapefruit has twice as many immune-revving nutrients that speeds recovery and also reduces your risk of getting a sinus infection by 25%.
Canadian research recently found that eating 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes per day when you are sick, speeds recovery by 33%. And, according to Ann Kulze, author of Eat Right for Life, sweet potatoes are incredibly high in nutrients called beta-carotene which increases the production of virus fighting T-cells, stifling the spread of cold and flu virus.
This one is interesting! If you have a minor upset stomach, take a whiff of rubbing alcohol. A study published in the journal of Annals of Emergency of Medicine, reveals that smelling rubbing alcohol was a handy trick that suppressed the feeling of queasiness or nausea by 75%. The scent of rubbing alcohol calms the nausea center in the brain. According to the research, all you need to do is hold an alcohol wipe 2 inches from your nose, breathe deeply for up to a minute and then rest for a minute and repeat, if necessary.
Grapes contain phytochemicals which stimulate your immune system. According to USDA research, eating a handful of grapes everyday is a powerful way to lower risk of infections.
Depending on where you live in the world, the sun shines less during the winter, causing vitamin D to become a little scarce. It turns out, your immune system vitally relies on vitamin D, specifically vitamin D3. Concrete evidence out of Harvard University shows that taking 1000 IU of vitamin D3 improves your immune systems enzymes, making it easier to destroy germs, keeping you very much in business for running. More work on the effectiveness of vitamin D3 has come out of Boston University, and the researchers found that taking 2000 IU of vitamin D3 strengthens the immune system, so that it is more aggressive at destroying abnormal cells long before they spread.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Adding 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drinking it will benefit anybody as this healthy cocktail helps dislodge cold and flu-causing toxins from healthy cells and was even found to slow the growth of cancer cells. How it works? Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acids which helps chew through toxins, giving you more protection during the cold and flu season.
According to research out of Case Western Reserve University, taking a CoQ10 supplement per day doubles your immune systems ability to destroy viruses and bacteria. This enzyme works by signally the body to repair and strengthen antibodies, so the immune cells are better at seeking and destroying notoriously bad germs.
A great way to warm up and stay flu-free is with astragalus tea. According to work in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, astragalus tea, which is from a root of a plant belonging to the pea family, this tea makes your immune system more resilient by turning on the enzymes that put your immune system into attack mode, so that your immune system is more aggressive on viral invaders.
Fill immune gaps with garlic! Garlic contributes to a stronger immune system thanks to its powerful antibiotic properties, giving it the same effectiveness as penicillin and there’s a lot of evidence in support of this. According to British research, eating one garlic clove a day slashes your risk of getting sick by 60% by powering your immune system. Garlic supplements are on the same level playing field, so they are an acceptable substitute to eating a garlic clove.
Add a dash of rosemary to your meals as its another powerful immune-boosting measure. Rosemary is a herb that contains rosmarinic acid which is an anti-inflammatory and an antimicrobial compound. Rosemary is also high in vitamin A and iron which are a great combo for hammering out a cold. According to reports in the Journal of Food Science, rosemary kills germs, which doubly helps knock-out the specific viruses linked to the stomach flu and was even found to neutralize cancer-causing compounds formed when meat is grilled at high temperatures.
Lavender Essential Oil
For a more topical approach to bolster your immune system, add a few drops of lavender essential oil directly on your skin. Lavender oil is an incredible anti-fungal, antiseptic and antimicrobial immune-booster that expands the production of the antioxidants powerhouses: glutathione, catalase and superoxide dimutase) which limits toxic-inducing cellular damage AND reverses cellular aging.
Eating more elderberries attacks flu bugs endlessly, thanks to being high in natural compounds called anthocyanins which stops the flu from replicating. Anthocyanin acts like a shield on your cells, sticking to them like glue, helping keep virus bugs away and preventing influenza strains from gaining momentum.
Another sure way to stop sickness in its tracks is by purifying your home with sage. According to reports in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the essential oil sage reduce airborne germs by almost 95% and its purifying effects is really lasting, up to 24 hours! Use it by boiling the herb and allow the steam to fill the room.
Mix Honey with Coffee
A study published in the Primary Care Respiratory Journal found that adding a tablespoon of honey to your coffee acts as an effective cough suppressant because the caffeine in coffee works as a pain-killer, helping soothe a sore throat AND coffee also stimulates greater opening of the airways, helping you breath clearly. Meanwhile, honey is natural anti-inflammatory that reduces swelling of throat tissues.
Another way to tame a nagging cough is with theobromine, which is found in dark chocolate. Theobromine reduces coughing simply by calming the nerves that trigger the urge to cough.
According research out of the University of Hawaii, bamboo leaves boost immunity at a fast rate because it is high in flavonoids and polyphenols which destroy germs and fight inflammation as well as repair cellular damage.
Thyme is great for fixing a sore throat or a runny nose. The reason its well-known to improve flu-like symptoms is that thyme contains thymol, which is a natural antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial compound that works just as effective as over-the-counter cold remedies. Not only that, tyme has been found to relax the airway muscles, thereby reducing cough and congestion. How to use it to your advantage? Add a handful of fresh thyme leaves to a pot of boiling water. Remove from heat, place a towel over your head and bend over the pot, keeping your face roughly 10 inches away. Carefully breathe in the steam for about 10 minutes, this will help loosen the mucus and reduce congestion.
Eat More Mushrooms
According to Asian researchers, eating any type of mushrooms on a weekly basis improves your defenses against germs, destroys abnormal cells, and cuts your risk of getting the nasty flu by 25%. According to this research, mushrooms contain lentinan and beta-glucan which kick-start your immune system and makes you feel good by producing protective white blood cells and renewing antibodies. The journal Food and Nutrition Sciences found similar results in that mushroom’s beta-glucans stimulated the production of germ-killing antibodies, giving your immune system greater TLC.
If your running is stalled because you are sick, you can push-forward by adding the above to your diet.These natural cures for the flu strengthens your immune system, making it richer in anti-bodies, so you remain flu-free.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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