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Chicken soup for your soul and stamina!

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2012-10-02

Ahhh the weekend.

It’s the perfect time to make a big pot of stock, soup or stew to sustain you not only through the week, but through the seasonal change, aptly known as “cold & flu season.”

This week I’ve had everyone from my own mother to moms of little ones in my communities at school and online contacting me to ask: what do I do for the flu?

Well hang on.

I’ve got some great answers for you.

It so happens that I was just interviewed by the health department at the online resource center ivillage on this very subject. And honestly, I thought you deserved to have the answers first!

Speaking of first, for all you parents out there, a quick shout out that the Your Vibrant Child program started this week with the release of the first class! We’re off to a roaring start. That first class is all about one of the major cold & flu aggravators that creeps into your child’s diet at every turn. (The best cold & flu prevention may be right there!)

And the best news is: it’s not too late to join!

(be sure to click here to learn more)

Now back to colds, flus and the what to do’s. . .

Question: What are the best cold and flu remedies?

Answer: When thinking about cold and flu remedies its important to remember that supporting your immune system is something you can do every single day, with the choices you make to ensure that your body is not overwhelmed.

Your immune system is like your guardian angel or your protective barrier. It guards you against all the threats that your body may encounter. These threats can include stress, toxins, trauma of any sort and certainly inadequate nutrition.

When the cold or flu has caught us, it’s usually an indicator that we’ve reached a tipping point ~ and that the immune system was just too exhausted to activate the response needed to address the menacing virus or bacteria.

In my teachings I like to ensure that the best cold and flu remedy is making sure that your diet is rich in a rainbow of colorful plant foods that will provide you and your immune system with the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that bolster its activity. That includes lots of vegetables. Coupled with the fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A & D, and some good gut bacteria, you’ve got the best cold and flu remedy around.

Want to know how to get many of those elements into one ancient remedy?
How about a big bowl of chicken soup with lots of carrots, onions and leafy greens?!
Q: Why are hot drinks beneficial and what type should you make? A popular one is lemon, ginger and honey ~ why are those ingredients beneficial?

A: There are a number of reasons to increase your intake of hot beverages when the cold or flu takes hold. One is to reverse the effects of dehydration. Dehydration is a common side-effect of coughs, sore throats and fever, which further causes the body to lose fluids through sweat.

Furthermore, the hot liquids help to loosen secretions in the chest and sinuses, making them easier to expel.

Goodbye congestion!

I’m a fan of the lemon, ginger and raw honey remedy. The lemon is loaded with vitamin C and full of those immune boosting phytochemicals. Ginger and honey are also each immune power-boosters, and the ginger helps to bring down the internal inflammation within the nasal passages.

Sometimes I’ll add a pinch of cayenne to the lemon, ginger and honey mixture to help relieve a fever. The cayenne will lower your body temperature by stimulating sweat glands and activating the brain to put the body’s internal fan on.
Q: Is drinking other fluids helpful? What types would you recommend?

A: Now we’ve established that the liquids are crucial for flushing the system, preventing dehydration and helping to alleviate congestion. So drink up! But if chicken soup and lemon-ginger don’t do the trick, what else is there?

Stay away from the store-bought juices if you can. These are high in sugars, albeit natural sugar, but the sugars promote inflammation and don’t ultimately support the immune system. If you are squeezing your own orange juice and drinking it fresh, that’s a different story.

If we’re to keep with the warm liquids, definitely include more tea ~ tea with raw honey and broths of any sort. One of my favorite remedies is miso soup. You can make this in a mug and sip it through the day just as you would tea, and you’ll also be fortifying your body with a bit of protein and some of the good bacteria from the fermented soybean paste.

Good bacteria helps your body to overcome the bad bacteria!

To learn more about miso, click here.
Q: What about chicken soup–is there any benefit of that?

A: Indeed there are great benefits to getting that chicken soup simmering when the cold or flu season hits. There have actually been some studies to support the chicken soup for the immune-soul theories. There was some research that came from a team of researchers at the University of Nebraska. They exposed neutrophils, the white blood cells that fight infections but can also increase inflammation, to a chicken broth. The liquid proved to slow the the cell activity.

The proposition is that the chicken soup can do the same thing within the body, helping to relieve symptoms associated with a cold and flu that are activated by that white blood cell activity.

It’s important to note, though, that you’re not bound to chicken soup. If you prefer a fish or vegetable broth, the results are much the same. Chicken soup is just the all-time favorite.
Q: Is oil of oregano beneficial? If yes, how does it work? And where can you buy it–is it hard to find?

A: Oil of oregano is a potent anti-bacterial agent. It’s one of nature’s best antibiotics! It contains myriad natural chemicals that lend to its power. These include phenols and esters which contain antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-fungal properties.

Oregano oil can be found in the supplement section of your health food store. It’s not the easiest thing to take because of its strong flavor. If you’re brave and ready to kick that cold or flu out of your system, you can take one to three drops of the oil on your tongue two to three times a day. (Get your chaser ready!)

If you’re timid or working with a child, I recommend placing a few drops on the soles of the feet at bedtime. (Oregano oil for the sole!)

Oregano oil should be used as a short-term remedy, unless advised otherwise by your holistic health care practitioner.
Q: Are mushrooms beneficial for cold and flu prevention? Can they be used as a remedy as well? Any other foods that are particularly helpful?

A: I love medicinal mushrooms for elevating the flu-fighting agents in the immune system. The best ones to get your hands on are shiitake and maitake.

If you can find the actual mushrooms, go ahead and slice them up and get them right into your soup!

Reishi is another great immune booster, but hard to find in its whole fungal form. You can certainly secure supplements that contain a good amount of the powdered form of these mushrooms along with some of the other powerhouses in the mushroom kingdom.

When thinking about other foods to include in your arsenal, consider:

  • berries for their antioxidant potential

  • onions and garlic for their abilities to help detoxify your system of foreign bacteria

  • broccoli and leafy greens for their phytochemical and vitamin C content

  • raw honey (best if its local to you!) for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties

Q: What do you think about Neti Pots for nasal irrigation?

A: Neti Pots are a brilliant addition to your flu fighting regime. Regular use keeps the upper respiratory tract clean and clear. All the congested mucous that collects in the nasal passages can be flushed right away. That mucous naturally builds up over time in the sinuses but accumulates even more so when we’re fighting a cold or flu.
Q: Is zinc a good thing to take? What’s the best way to ingest it? Any rules to remember when taking zinc?

A: The body’s demand for zinc increases when the immune system is compromised. The zinc is one factor that helps the immune cells found in the bone marrow and thymus gland to produce new cells.

When managing a cold or flu, you can take in about 60mg of zinc. It’s ideal to take it in the morning on an empty stomach, though that can cause some people digestive discomfort if not taken in a form that the body can easily assimilate. This is one good reason to return to our food sources whenever possible and when not working with someone to give you the proper supplement recommendations.

My favorite way of increasing my zinc intake is through the consumption of seeds like sesame and pumpkin seeds.
Q: What are the best vitamins to take when you’re sick and how do they work? What’s the best way to get them ~ pop a pill or eat them or something else?

A: I’m a fan of ‘food as medicine’.

My best prescription for fighting a cold or flu is with the yummy options I’ve been talking about ~ chicken and/or miso soup loaded with vegetables and medicinal mushrooms; fresh fruit smoothies ripe with berries and snacks of zinc-rich seeds.

Lifestyle practices like using a neti pot, doing a facial steam with an astringent oil like eucalyptus, taking warm baths with up to two cups of Epsom’s Salts and slowing down and getting rest should all do the trick.
Ditch the sugar and refined carbs and dive into a bowl of soup and you may not even need to have a plethora of pills to pop!

That said, my #1 immune boosting recommendation is to support the health of your gut.

The gut, or small intestine, houses 70% of your immune system. The potential for it to come to your aid is highly helped or hindered by its integrity and the food you eat on a daily basis. Taking a good daily probiotic is one of the very best ways to ensure that you are continually supporting your immune health.

So enjoy the weekend. I’ll be heading out to the farmer’s market later today to stock up on more veggies for my weekend stock stocking. Sunday is a great day to throw it all in a pot and let it simmer.

Boost your immune resilience now!



P.S. Speaking of resilience, there are many parts of our bodies that need to be resilient, including our hormones! Keep your eyes peeled for news about my upcoming free class on hormone resilience. Woohoo. Can’t wait!

Andrea Nakayama

By: Andrea Nakayama, FxNA Founder & Functional Medicine Nutritionist

Functional Nutrition Alliance provides the comprehensive online Functional Nutrition training in the Science & Art of the Functional Nutrition practice. Learn to address the roots of your clients’ suffering with client education, diet & lifestyle modifications.


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