To keep your immune system humming, most experts say your best defense is to get vitamins and minerals through food. But that's not always possible. So turning to herbs, adaptogens and other supplements may be a good option.
Nutritionist Elissa Goodman is a fan of monolaurin.
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"It's derived from coconuts. It's lauric acid, which is a very strong antiviral," Goodman said.
The compound is naturally found in breast milk and helps babies fight infection. Experts suggest taking it at the first sign of feeling bad.
And while getting your vitamin C through foods is optimal, there are reasons to up this vitamin when feeling ill.
"It's known that the white blood cells need 1,000 times more dose of vitamin C to help support. So we're not dosing for deficiency. It's actually to promote an enzyme reaction in the body," said functional medicine specialist Dr. Alexis Daniels of Vitality Labs.
Chinese medicine has long used mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga and others to support the immune system.
"For immunity purposes I really like Chaga, the king of all functional mushrooms. One cup of Chaga equals about 30 pounds of carrots in antioxidants," said Tero Isokauppila, owner of Four Sigmatic.
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Since many are powders and pills, they offer coffees, smoothies and cocoa beverages that contain mushrooms, adaptogens and other ingredients known to reduce inflammation and boost the microbiome.
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Then there's staying hydrated!
"There's no amount of food you can eat or hand washing you can do if you're not staying hydrated. When you don't hydrate, micro-cracks can happen in your skin. Also your mucous membranes can get dried out. A lot of bacteria and viruses enter our body through our nose or mouth our eyes," said Gelson's dietitian Jessica Siegel.
And beyond supplements, there's one more thing you can do to stay healthy: sleep!
"Between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. is when your immune system is most active and your immune cells are scavenging for the bacteria and viruses, so sleep is definitely fundamental," said Daniels.
Here's the foods you should eat to give your immunity a boost
Eating the right foods can be your best defense when it comes to keeping your immune system in fighting shape.
"What we want to do is give our body the nutrients we need so that our main system functions optimally so we can stay healthy and fight off any bacteria or viruses that we come in contact with," said Jessica Siegel, a dietitian with Gelson's.
Siegel says start with a wide variety of produce -that's where you'll get the nutrients your body needs.
"So mushrooms can have vitamin D in them which is an added benefit,but there's these large carbohydrate molecules called beta glucans. They have been shown to help balance the immune system and if it give you some extra support," she said.
Then go beyond oranges for vitamin C foods: Brussels sprouts, kale, strawberries, cantaloupe and leafy greens.
Foods with bright orange color also help. Carrots, sweet potato, orange tomatoes oranges those foods have vitamin A and carotenoids that are really great for your immune system.
Look to olive oil and and seeds to get vitamin E. And while there's no clear cut answer why chicken soup is good for you, studies indicate it may thin mucous membranes, rehydrate and replenish nutrients.
And as you cook - Goodman says add in more herbs.
"Nature's medicine right here in a nutshell. They're antivirals. All of these things right here: basil, thyme, rosemary, you've got sage. When I make soup I'm consistently adding herbs," she said.
Goodman has a line of products that include healthy soups and salads.
"Soup is an easy way to absorb nutrients so your digestive system doesn't have to work overtime. Those nutrients can get right into the bloodstream and right into the cells," shes said.
Wellness instructor Pamela Salzman says: Be mindful about other things you might be doing that might have a negative effect on your immunity.
"One of the things that's important to keep in mind you can't chase your bad habits with good food and then think you're going to be covered," Salzman said.
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