As a nutrition and holistic health counselor, I'm asked constantly for my best kept secrets when it comes to natural supplements and tips to staying healthy. The larger secret is, unfortunately, that there is no silver bullet when it comes to creating instant health — it takes routine and repetition to create lasting and visible results and a strong immune system to fight back.
However, there are a few spotlight ingredients and go-to remedies that I rely on again and again, especially as we transition into Fall and Winter. These especially tumultuous seasons are hard on the body as our immune systems seem to be constantly bombarded by friends and employees playing telephone with the latest cold or flu going around. But the change of seasons doesn't have to mean waiting for the inevitable cold to hit.
While some of these need to be repeated regularly to really see their lasting benefit, there are a few gems that I swear by and always keep on hand. As basic as they many seem, keep in mind immunity starts in the gut, and proper nutrition is the first line of defense.
Here are my top five kitchen pantry wellness staples to bolster immunity and staying well throughout the colder months to come.
1. Bone Broth
Yup, the same stuff your mom or grandmother used to make. I'm not talking about the canned or boxed stuff though. Head to your local farmers market or trusted butcher and source the best quality, organic, antibiotic-free, free-ranged, pastured chicken, beef, or even bison bones, gristle, and cartilage you can to make your own at home. The quality of their diet and lifestyle ultimately is what you will be benefiting from, so it does make a big difference. These bones supply the building blocks not just for your own bones, muscles, and connective tissues, but basic essential vitamins and minerals, like calcium and magnesium, that most of us are extremely low in today. We also have an easier time utilizing these nutrients from naturally occurring ingredients vs. vitamin supplements, so drink up. Think of it like a perfect seasonal and more bioavailable multivitamin — your skin will also thank you!
2. Greens, Greens, and More Greens
Whether you get the majority or your greens from green juices and smoothies, soups, green powders, algae and superfoods, or good old-fashioned, home-cooked vegetables, they are an absolute necessity to cultivating health and immunity. Just as bone broth supplies the foundation nutrients for your body, these greens supply the life force in the form of chlorophyll, vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, and a host of others as well. Fiber helps to keep your digestion regular while these nutrients help to build and cleanse the blood, maintain an alkaline environment, and keep your immunity high.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
There are nearly endless uses for apple cider vinegar. From external skin care to natural cleansing solutions to internal health care, ACV provides numerous benefits. Containing both pre- and probiotics, ACV may help ease a sore throat, nasal congestion, and stomach aches and acidity, and improve overall immunity. This may be in part due to the highly alkalizing properties ACV contains as well as the acetic acid that helps to keep pathogenic bacteria at bay. A good practice is to start your day off by consuming a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in water. If the flavor is too strong, add it to your favorite green juice or try morning drink — it actually enhances the flavor. Try gargling with it if you have a sore throat.
The health and happiness of our guts is a direct reflection of our overall wellness and even mood. We are beginning to understand more and more about the direct correlation between our gut ecology and our immunity. While it is true that many of us don't consume the balanced diets we should, we also consume less naturally occurring beneficial bacteria from the soil ingested through our produce, as well as other sources of these probiotics such as traditional raw fermented products. Along with a dependency on antibiotics, our gut health suffers, the result being a high sensitivity to the foods we consume and weakened resistance to pathogens. The fix? Load up on high-quality probiotics in the form of either a supplement, or high-quality, raw, fermented foods and beverages like kimchi, kombucha, and coconut kefir.
5. Oregano Oil
And when all else fails, my failsafe is oregano oil. It is a powerhouse restorer of health and my absolute go-to when I'm feeling anything less than 100 percent. It's a potent antibacterial and antimicrobial that also fights free radical damage, can help reduce and relieve allergies, stimulate digestion, and help to clear yeasts from the body, both externally and internally. A little goes a long way and brand to brand the quality also greatly varies. My favorite without comparison is Wild Oil of Oregano. Like with any supplements, natural or otherwise, be sure to check with your doctor or health professional about any potential interactions or complications.