With COVID-19 a continuing threat, we wanted to learn about ways to naturally boost our immune system. They can range from food to wellness treatments.

Rhizomes were our first discovery, thanks to the virtual cooking class “Immuno-Boosting: Rhizomes with Cortney,” taught by Cortney Smith, who co-owns Gather Food Studio. Rhizomes are stems that grow underground and include ginger and turmeric, which naturally help boost our immune systems.

“Rhizomes grow underground,” she said. “Ginger has powerful natural antibacterial effects, which are good for colds. One of turmeric’s main components is curcumin, which also has antibacterial effects. So, when combined you get more help during cold and flu season.”

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Food is medicine, agrees Nissa Wecks, owner of Ola Juice Bar and Two Suns Superfoods Smoothies. “What we eat and don’t eat makes all the difference in the world.”

Wecks was raised by a mom who pushed healthy eating. She uses turmeric “in everything” and it’s in a lot of items at her two businesses. But she had other suggestions for go-to immunity foods.

“Ginger reduces inflammation and aids digestion,” she said. “Lemon is an excellent source of vitamin C, has alkalizing effects and brightens almost every flavor combination.”

She adds cayenne pepper to vitamin C to aid digestion.

In addition, she said, “Elderberry is loaded with antioxidants and vitamins particularly helpful for the immune system. It’s also an anti-inflammatory. Beans and nuts are great sources of zinc, which I have found to be incredibly beneficial.”

At Ola Juice Bar, she serves shots of Obliterator and Cold Elixir, made of turmeric, ginger, garlic, apple cider vinegar, lemon and cayenne pepper. It’s a favorite.

“Sales of these shots increase 400% during cold and flu season,” she said. “Many of our customers have found these to be effective if they take one daily as soon as they start to feel a cold coming on. Some people power them down when they get sick and feel like they help reduce the life of their cold.”

At Two Suns, the Passion Bowl is gaining attention.

“It has turmeric, cayenne, orange juice, mango and strawberries, which are all great for immunity,” Wecks said. “We offer several immune-boosting hot beverages, including fresh ginger juice, lemon and honey tea. Our beet-elderberry latte and Golden Milk, which features turmeric and ginger, are soothing for cold symptoms.”

Broths are moving onto her menus.

“I have introduced functional broths, including immunity broths and healing broths,” she said. “These are classic vegetable broths with many of the above ingredients, such as turmeric, ginger and cayenne. These are in addition to our regular soups, which can be incredible cold-fighters too. In fact, this week we have a carrot, orange and ginger soup with a touch of cayenne and a simple red lentil soup with lemon and spinach. Both would be excellent for overall health, especially digestion and immunity.”

Food isn’t the only way to boost immunity. Strata Integrated Wellness Spa at Garden of the Gods Resort and Club offers the Boost Strength and Defend Against Disease membership, according to Grant Jones, vice president of wellness. It includes immune-boosting treatments that incorporate IV therapies, acupuncture, massage and supplementation to fortify your immune system against seasonal viral and bacterial outbreaks.

Of course, there’s a big focus on nutrition, and Allison Curtis is the dietitian who oversees the program’s nutritional piece.

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“Seventy percent of our immunity happens in the intestinal track,” said Curtis. “We counsel and make diet recommendations to enhance the microflora of the intestinal track. In our nutritional consultations, we cover meal preparation with cooking classes and grocery shopping.”

Some of the superfoods she recommends to boost immunity are combinations of fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices and healthy fats.

“For instance, salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and is a healthy fat to include in an immunity-focused diet,” she said.

“When grocery shopping, focus on foods along the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where you’ll find the fresh produce and less processed foods. Stay away from the inner aisles where there is mostly highly processed foods.”

She is a proponent of eating organic whole foods and paying attention to sources of foods.

“And stay hydrated,” she said. “It’s paying attention to a whole nutritious diet. It’s not just one nutrient, but looking at the whole picture.”

“We like to think in terms of ‘new year, new you,’” Jones said. “Get adequate exercise, sleep, deep breathing. Simply oxidating the body is a stress reliever.”

Contact the writer: 636-0271.

contact the writer: 636-0271.

Food editor

Food writer for features life section and columnist for Go! Entertainment - Table Talk column

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