It’s hard to fathom that December’s already here, which can mean a lot of things, like holiday cheer and holiday stress. But for our health, it usually means cold and flu season is now underway, so it only makes sense to do what we can to make sure our immune systems are strong and well-supported. It’s common to hear people remind others to take their vitamin C, and in more recent years, their vitamin D3, but beyond that, there are a number of nutritional weapons we can use to fight off any cold- or flu-bearing pathogens that might come our way. Here are five lesser known but powerful natural substances proven to nourish and aid our immune systems.
- Olive Leaf: Olive leaf, the leaf of the olive tree responsible for olive oil, is an anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral compound that stops cold and flu viruses in their tracks. While nutrients like vitamin C support the body’s defense systems themselves to ward off pathogens, olive leaf actually attacks viral compounds themselves, by damaging the proteins in virus particles themselves, thus preventing them from duplicating. A common dosage is one teaspoon of olive leaf extract with each meal.
- Beta-Glucans: Beta-glucans are polysaccharides found in baker’s yeast, mushrooms, and certain grains, that have a significant ability not only to ward off colds and flus, but reduce their severity as well. A German study of 162 patients found that beta-glucan supplementation reduced the rate of colds by 25% compared to the placebo group, and notably reduced the severity of cold symptoms among those who did contract them. A typical daily dose is 200mg to 400mg.
- Astragalus: Astragalus is a root that’s been in use for centuries as a part of traditional Chinese medicine, for, among other properties, its ability to fight colds and flus by strengthening the immune system. A marker of a strong immune system is the prevalence of white blood cells, which are responsible for defending against pathogens that enter the body. In a Western study, 115 chemotherapy patients participated in a study on astragalus that found that 83% of the patients who astragalus had higher white blood cell counts than those who took a placebo. A good, reliable dose is two to three grams of astragalus root a day.
- Colostrum: Colostrum refers to the first milking period of an animal, usually within 24 hours, and usually of a cow, after giving birth. It’s essential for the newborn as it provides a host of immune-supporting nutrients necessary for it to flourish, so much so that colostrum is often described as the mother’s way to transfer the strength of her immune system to her newborn. Bovine colostrum is available for our consumption as well, and its benefits are well-documented for their abilities to enhance our immunity. A study from the University of South Australia found that daily colostrum supplementation reduced the rate of cold and flu contractions by 30%. While there’s no upper limit on colostrum intake, as it is a form of milk, a good daily serving to get a noticeable boost is 5-7 grams of powdered colostrum.
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus Lysate: What’s this? It’s a specific probiotic strain first discovered and isolated in Russia, where a research team found they could cure mice of injected sarcoma, a form of cancer, within mere days if they then fed the mice this probiotic. It contains a unique set of peptides that, if consumed, quickens the ability of the body to respond to foreign pathogens, from 10 to as much as 40 times the average rate. These peptides activate and greatly enhance the speed with which cytokines can alert the immune system to the presence of invaders like bacteria and pathogens, making lactobacillus rhamnosus lysate a great tool to have on hand at the first sign of a cold. A suggested serving size is 75mg to 150mg per day, though more at the first signs of sickness.