While cold and flu season is in full swing, please heed a wee warning from your resident nutrition consultant. Oregano oil is all the rage for fighting seasonal viruses, and it really works! However, I cringe when I hear these types of statements “I take oregano oil every day during winter to prevent getting a bug.” This is actually a recipe for a digestive disaster since oregano oil quite brilliantly nukes your beneficial bacteria while it is giving your immune system a boost. Since it’s your gut bacteria which regulate your immune system in the first place, this is certainly not a good strategy. My rule of thumb is to take oregano oil for no more than 2 days in a row, and only when I feel those first telltale signs of a viral infection. I also chow down on probiotic capsules first thing in the morning and last thing at night when I am taking oregano oil (keep the probiotic dose about 2 hours apart from the oregano oil so the oil does not also kill your probiotics), to support my host flora.
A nice alternative to oregano oil is to take garlic oil. Garlic has strong anti-viral properties but it is more kind to your host gut bacteria. To make your own garlic oil, finely chop 3 cloves of (ideally organic) garlic. Let the garlic sit for 15-20 minutes so the plant chemicals become activated! Add this garlic to a saucepan which contains 1 cup of good quality oil (extra virgin olive oil is a good choice as it also contains additional beneficial plant chemicals). Gently heat the garlic oil on a very very low heat for about 5 minutes. The heat should be so low that the garlic does not brown or sizzle. Strain out the garlic and keep this oil in a sterilized jar in a cool place for 2-3 weeks. Drizzle on anything, use in salad dressing, or even use topically as an antiseptic on closed wounds. Fresh rosemary can be added in addition to the garlic, as it is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich, and flavoursome. This garlic oil is FODMAP diet friendly, as it does not contain the fibre that can induce bloating and wind in IBS sufferers.
One more basic for immune health is hydration! Start your day with a simple drink that is much more hydrating than plain water. Mix 1 cup cool and 1 cup boiled water (or herbal tea). Add a squeeze of fresh lemon, a tiny pinch of sea salt, a pinch of cinnamon, and finally, 1 Tbsp of chia seeds. Stir this mixture vigorously to break up the chia seeds as they form a gel. This ‘gel-water’ is a type of structured water that is far more hydrating to your cells. The omega 3 fats in the chia nourish your cell lining to further encourage whole-body hydration. It is warming, tangy, and invigorating.
A few more immune superstars to me are vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, medicinal mushrooms, Ashwaganda, echinacea, astragalus, and saccharomyces boulardii. Come in to Wellness on Whyte and have a chat with Anna about how we can support your best health.
Anna Cott, ROHP. is a nutrition consultant whose lifelong passion for health and wellness evolved into a BSc. (hons.) Nutritional Science and a Naturopathic Nutrition Dip. Anna loves to find creative ways to feed her family healthily, despite the business of life.