A couple of days ago, I woke with that sort of tell-tale throat tickle and overall sense of malaise that just makes you want to stay in bed all day. It was a Saturday so fortunately I was able to rest a lot, but given the numerous nasty colds–and the terrible flu–that are going around, I was also proactive that day about taking steps to try to avoid getting sicker. The next morning I felt better, and today I feel even better still, so in addition to the recipe for a terrific immune-boosting soup, I’d like to share with you what I do when I feel like I am starting to come down with any sort of winter “bug”.

Without fail, whenever I feel under the weather, I make something very similar to this Coconut Milk Soup with Wild Salmon and Kale. Homemade stock (made from bones) and coconut milk both contain anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties so I love to combine them for the broth. Adding fresh ginger, chile peppers, and nutrient-dense organic greens and pumpkin or winter squash “ups” the healing potential here even further; I also included wild salmon so this soup contains high quality protein as well as omega-3s. Keep in mind that the omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for proper functioning of the immune system and should be a regular part of your everyday diet…not just when you get sick.

Recipe for Coconut Milk Soup with Wild Salmon and Kale

Yield: 2-3 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

This soup is not just good for you, it is amazingly delicious and very easy: perfect for preparing in a jiffy whether you've got the energy to cook or not.

Ingredients:

*4 cups homemade (or store-bought) chicken, turkey, fish or vegetable stock (you can use water if you have no stock, but the soup won't be the same)
*1 1/2 cups organic whole coconut milk and cream (I like Native Harvest because the cans are BPA-free)
*1 wild salmon fillet, approximately 6-8 oz., or use free-range/organic chicken (you can cut the fish or chicken into cubes before cooking, or you can simmer the fish fillet or chicken breast whole, and then cut it into smaller pieces once it's cooked)
*1 (tightly packed) cup of chopped kale, tough stems removed (or use any other chopped leafy green such as bok choy)
*1 cup cubed winter squash or pumpkin, peeled if not organic
*3 hot chile peppers, minced (I used Serrano peppers; jalapenos will also work)
*About 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (reserve a few leaves for garnish, if you like)
*2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
*2 teaspoons organic brown sugar, coconut sugar, or palm sugar
*Freshly squeezed lime juice, for serving (I like to use ALOT)

Directions:

1. Place all ingredients except for the lime juice in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the fish (or chicken) is cooked through and the pumpkin or squash is tender (about 15 minutes).

2. Ladle the soup into bowls and squeeze the lime juice over the top before serving.

Adapted from the Coconut Milk Soup in Nourishing Traditions.

It’s really important not to ignore the first signs of illness, because if you do, it will be harder to get better in a timely fashion. So, in addition to eating soups like the one above, when you first start feeling under the weather you should do the following:

  • Rest as much as possible.
  • For a sore throat: drink warm ginger tea with lemon and raw honey (or try herbal honey or my garlic honey remedy taken by the spoonful throughout the day).
  • For body aches: take warm baths with Epsom salts.
  • For general cold and flu symptoms: try Yin Chiao, a Chinese herbal formula used for centuries. Keep on hand so you can take some at the first sign of a cold or flu, or when you feel you may have been or will be exposed to cold or flu (like on an airplane).
  • Consider other herbs: astragalus, echinachea, andrographis, cat’s claw, and elder berry all have strong immune-boosting and antiviral properties.
  • Vitamin C can be taken in supplement form and may shorten the duration of a cold; rosehips is an excellent natural source.
  • For nasal congestion: try a Neti Lota pot saline rinse.
  • Aromatherapy: a few drops of eucalytpus essential oil can be added to the bathtub while you take a hot shower to create a wonderful steam for the sinuses; one drop each of lavender and thyme essential oil can be added to 1 teaspoon of raw honey and sipped as a soothing beverage with antiviral/antibacterial action.
  • *Keep in mind that you can decrease your risk of getting sick (or make it more likely that when you do get sick you won’t stay sick for long) by eating a nourishing real food diet each and every day. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is particularly important…so is getting enough high quality protein. Know that cholesterol and saturated fat are actually required to keep your immune system strong, so make sure not to eschew these completely; you’ll also do well to include lacto-fermented/cultured foods in your diet on a regular basis (many of your immune system’s cells reside in your digestive tract, and eating cultured foods helps keep your digestion healthy). Vitamin D is also super important for optimal health: deficiencies are common (especially during the winter months if you live in a Northern location) so ask you doctor to test your level and take a supplement (I take cod lover oil), if necessary. Lastly, don’t forget about the power of getting enough sleep and managing stress…both are vital for staying well.

    FYI my friends over at Nourishing Meals wrote an excellent post on this subject and you can find their tips here.

    Do you have any tried and true natural remedies for the cold and/or the flu? I would love to hear about them!