Written by Shannon, Contributing Writer

When I was a teenager I used to get several colds every winter. Along with that came the inevitable bouts of bronchitis and/or pneumonia. Every year without fail. Looking back I can’t help but laugh because now I know why I was always sick.

My immune system was shot because I ate junk, never gave my body proper rest, and had destroyed my gut through many rounds of antibiotics.

The good news is we can recover and build our immune systems by simply feeding our body real foods. I very rarely catch colds anymore, even when everyone around me does. I attribute this to God’s grace and a few major changes I have made over the past ten years.

Fix Your Gut, Fix Your Immune System

Upwards of 75% of your immune system is in your digestive tract. That means if your gut is healthy, you are healthy. If you’ve ever eaten processed foods loaded with sugar and starch, if you’ve ever taken a round of antibiotics, if you’ve ever had a diet void of fermented foods; you probably have candida or an unhealthy gut.

The good news is you can heal your gut. Stephanie has talked before about the GAPS diet, which I believe to be the best method of healing for the gut. I also wrote a series on the importance of gut health last spring, including:

Above all else, I attribute a healthier immune system to a healthier gut.

Image by jessicafm

Real Food Provides Real Prevention

The best way to avoid a cold is to simply feed your body nourishing foods everyday. That means high quality proteins and real fats, plenty of seasonal vegetables, and fermented foods every day.

That may seem too simple in the context of the nutritionism language we now speak. So if you’re hearing about specific vitamins, minerals, and superfoods then lets take a look at how your breakfast or lunch could give you everything you need.

  • Vitamin D. This is one of the latest buzz vitamins, and for good reason. Traditional cultures have known for centuries that the foods that provide this vitamin keep them healthy. Good sources include fermented cod liver oil, wild seafood, pastured lard and pastured eggs.
  • Vitamin C. Though most people reach for orange juice when sick, this may not be the best choice for vitamin C as it contains loads of sugar, known to break down the immune system for hours. Good sources include citrus fruits, berries, greens, and bell peppers. Acerola powder is a great supplement for vitamin C.
  • Probiotics. As mentioned above, these friendly bacteria can keep your gut defenses strong. Real food sources can include yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables, kombucha, and water kefir. If you want a probiotic supplement I recommend finding a high quality brand like BioKult.
  • Fresh garlic. The allicin found in crushed, raw garlic is great for fighting infections and keeping up your immune system. When my husband feels something coming on he downs cloves of chopped garlic in his food and off a spoon with raw honey.

It really is as simple as what you put on your plate.

Image by modomatic

Real Food Supplements

Real food prevention is not limited to your meals. Taking a tea or tincture derived from healing plants can provide prevention. And if you do fall ill there are ways to treat both the symptoms and the underlying problem.

  • Echinacea. This is a power herb that can help fight infection. Both the roots and leaves may be used to create a tincture or tea. We try to keep a steady supply on hand for when someone is feeling a bug coming on.
  • Elderberry. This is my favorite for adults and children and for prevention. I keep a glycerin tincture on hand for the little ones and an alcohol derived tincture for adults. Taken several times throughout the day, I have seen the healing powers of this berry many times.
  • The Neti Pot. It is strange and hilarious and really effective. Whenever I have sinus congestion I use this and it works wonders for your symptoms. Katie at simple organic wrote a great article on how to use one.
  • Herbs for Chest Congestion. My husband has struggled with chest congestion on and off for a while. Everyone’s favorite soup herb, thyme, is great for this. I prepare several cups of tea throughout the day for him and keep a tincture on hand as well.
  • Horehound for cough. When someone comes down with a hacking cough I like to give them an expectorant herb like horehound to help bring up whatever it is they need to cough out. Horehound in syrup or tincture form works well.

There you have it: real prevention and treatments with real foods.

How are you boosting your immune system and treating with real foods?

This is the first post of Natural Home Remedies and Illness Prevention Month here at Keeper of the Home!

Top image by thepinkpeppercorn