Marie Roth, registered dietitian for Blythedale Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s Eat Well, Be Well Nutrition Outreach Program, shares five natural ways to boost the immune system to stave off colds and the flu:

1) Get more probiotics or fermented foods
Studies show beneficial strains of bacteria found in probiotics and fermented foods can help prevent cold and flu viruses or significantly lessen their severity and duration. In fact, research links the consumption of probiotics and fermented foods with: an increased number of immune cells, a reduction in episodes of fever, cough and runny nose, a decrease in the need for antibiotic prescriptions and fewer sick days.  (NOTE: Fermented and cultured foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha and others)

2) Get more antioxidant-rich foods
A diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, herbs and spices, and green tea fuels the body’s natural defenses.  Antioxidants help boost the production of white blood cells, antibodies, natural killer cells- as well as occupy receptor sites thereby blocking the entry of germs.   Try this antioxidant-rich salad. 

3) Get more exercise
Evidence shows exercise not only helps your immune system fight off simple bacterial and viral infections, it also decreases your chances of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. This protection is possibly due to increased flushing out of germs via sweat and urine, increased circulation of antibodies and white blood cells, increased body temperature, and/or a decreased release of stress-related hormones.  (NOTE: Extended bouts of intense exercise on a regular basis can have the opposite effect on the immune system.)

4) Get more sleep
Studies have linked inadequate amounts of sleep or abnormal sleep-wake cycles to an increased susceptibility to colds and flus. Not only does more sleep equate to greater levels of disease-fighting white blood cells and lower levels of stress hormones, it also seems the immune system becomes enhanced when the other organ systems and body are at rest. School-aged children need about 10 hours nightly, while adults need a minimum of 7 hours.

5) Get more mindful
Studies show reduced stress and mindfulness strategies, such as meditation, can reduce susceptibility to colds and flus likely by improving immune function. Mind-body techniques can dampen inflammation which increases our propensity for numerous diseases and leaves us vulnerable to common infections.

If you fall ill despite all the above preventive measures, make a batch of “Grandma’s Penicillin” aka homemade chicken soup. Hot chicken soup has long been touted as a remedy for symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Studies suggests that chicken soup may contain substances with medical activity—such as mild anti-inflammatory effects and stimulation of the mucociliary transport system, which helps clear airways and rid the body of particles and infection.


These materials are provided to you by
Blythedale Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s Eat Well, Be Well Nutrition Outreach Program.
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Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well Program

Blythedale Children's Hospital, through the generosity of Kohl’s Department Stores, is proud to offer Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well, an innovative outreach program designed to bring health and nutrition education to schools throughout Westchester and Putnam counties. Through this program, Blythedale staff members teach healthy eating habits to children by providing curricula, training and educational tools to school districts throughout the area. The program provides general nutrition guidelines to students, parents and school faculty. Blythedale Children's Hospital offers experts in nutrition and health-education to speak with local parenting groups, PTAs and school personnel.

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