Q: How can I bolster my immune system and stay healthy throughout cold and flu season?
A: When it comes to immunity, the expression “listen to your gut” has never been more true. The good flora (helpful bacteria) living in your gut are responsible for a multitude of important jobs, like digestion, fabricating vitamins, and triggering your immune system. New research has found that helpful gut flora do a special sort of “cross talk” between other tissues in the body to keep you healthy, especially on the mucosal level. When this friendly banter breaks down due to stress, poor eating habits, and not enough of the good flora, inflammation flares up in the body, leaving you susceptible to illness.
Our hectic modern lifestyles -- sleepless nights, overuse of antibiotics, stress, eating too many processed foods -- can naturally disrupt these good microbes and tip the balance toward bad bacteria. One way to tip the balance in the right direction is to keep your stress in check and nosh on probiotic foods that naturally contain good bacteria, like olives in brine; cultured dairy like kefir, yogurt, and buttermilk; and dairy-free cultured products like coconut yogurt.
Speaking of tummy trouble, ginger is the No. 1 digestion-booster in Ayurveda. Ginger root is a must in the yogi’s medicine cabinet, and it’s present in their winter drink of choice, chai! Make an easy ginger tea by boiling 1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger with one cup of water. To make a delicious chai tea, simply add a black tea bag to your hot ginger water and add the milk and sweetener of your choice.
Jennifer Iserloh, aka the “Skinny Chef,” is a leader in promoting healthy, vibrant lifestyles though a diet of delicious and nutritious easy-to-prepare meals. A classically trained chef, certified yoga teacher, and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Iserloh is the best-selling author of 50 Shades of Kale and Healthy Cheats, among other books.