Fall is upon us, which means the air is crisper, sweaters are cozier, and everything is pumpkin-spiced. But with the joys of autumn come loading up on tissues and visits to the doctor’s office.
It may seem like getting sick during this time of year is inevitable. But lucky for us, eating the right foods can improve the body’s chance of fighting back against the sniffles and sneezes.
The immune system is the body’s way to defend itself from bacteria and viruses. A poor diet, stress, and illness can all stop the body from working its best. I have a weakened immune system, so I turn to diet and lifestyle to help me out as much as possible. Keeping my body working for me—and not against me—is key. I have Crohn’s disease, so this can be a difficult task at times.
Crohn’s is an incurable autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease that can affect the entire digestive tract. I was diagnosed in 2011. For a few years, my disease was managed by medication. Pills, shots, and IVs were my new normal, and I was good—until I wasn’t.
When my medications stopped working, I got sicker and sicker by the day. Something had to change, so I turned to my kitchen. I was never much of a cook, in fact in college I lived off cheese quesadillas, rice, and beans. They were “fancy” if I added salsa. I also didn’t know the first thing about how to eat better. But something in my gut (yes, the same gut that was making me sick) told me to try. I turned to Google. I read. I made a mess in my kitchen. Then I read made another mess in my kitchen. Eventually, this turned into cooking delicious nutrient-dense healing food.
Today my illness is managed by diet, lifestyle, and medication. I’m proud to say I eat a lot of vegetables, something a year ago my body couldn’t handle.
But I still work hard to keep my immune system as strong as possible, especially this time of year. When I do get sick, it can take me longer to bounce back compared to my peers.
I love starting my days with a green smoothie. I make sure it includes protein, fiber, and healthy fats to keep my body nourished. It’s crazy to think how a simple smoothie has transformed my life. I’ve never felt better. I mix up my smoothie ingredients depending on how I’m feeling each day. When I’m looking for an extra boost of cold-fighting ingredients, I turn to ginger, kiwi, and basil.
Ginger is one of the healthiest spices around. While it’s peppery bite can take some warming up to, it’s great for digestion and can help fight the flu and common cold because of its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Did you know kiwi has more Vitamin C than an orange? The exotic fruit has almost twice as much Vitamin C of an orange. Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant that helps boosts the immunity against disease-causing microorganisms.
Finally, adding herbs to a smoothie not only adds a great flavor boost, but basil contains antibacterial properties and contains antimicrobial properties that fight viruses and infections. So when I feel a cold coming on, I make sure to add basil leaves to my morning smoothie. I sometimes even include pesto later in the day for double the protection.
This smoothie is creamy and smooth with a kick of spicy ginger that hits the back of the throat. It’s not overly sweet so that the ginger, kiwi, basil, and lemon can shine. If you prefer a sweeter smoothie, substitute frozen berries for the ice.
— Katie Schimmelpfennig