'Tis the season for hacking coughs and rumbly tummies. We had our first outbreak of fevers and colds last week, and it reminded me to stock up on the foods that help to boost the immune system and fend off illness naturally. Dr. Helen Lee from Chicago Healers helped me narrow down this list of natural flu-fighters:

Ginger: The volatile oils in ginger warm the body, helping the body to sweat, break a fever and eliminate toxins. Ginger also stimulates mucous release. Ginger helps with nausea, is a great digestive aid, lung and chest decongestant, and a body-cleansing herb. Add fresh ginger to your food or in tea, or eat it alone. Ginger tea (especially combined with honey) helps soothe the throat.

Garlic: Garlic has allicin as an active ingredient, giving it antiviral and antibacterial properties. Garlic cleans your liver (which cleans your blood) since your blood cycles through your liver every three minutes, thereby stimulating the white blood cells and in turn boosting the immune system. An onion-garlic syrup can help with mucous release.

Honey: Honey acts as a natural antibiotic with antiseptic properties. There are vitamins such as B-complexes, C, D, E, minerals enzymes and propolis. The propolis in honey boosts the immune system, disables viruses and fights infections. Furthermore, pediatric studies have shown that honey is more effective than cough syrup because it coats the throat better. Locally grown honey is best for seasonal allergies, asthma and respiratory conditions because you are treating with the irritants that are common to your area. Take a tablespoon four times per day, straight or in tea.

Cayenne: Cayenne pepper has a high vitamin C content — making it a natural choice for anyone with a cold — as well as vitamin A, B, calcium and potassium. Cayenne also increases the circulation in the body. You can take it in capsule form, using 2–40,000 heat units (950mg), or try four drops of the 200,000 heat units in liquid form. Place a few drops in water and gargle with it every 15-30 minutes to make a sore throat disappear.

“Good” bacteria: Increase “good” bacteria such as acidophilus and bifidus which can be found in yogurt or kefir.

Go green: Eat dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard or spinach to get vitamins B12, folic acid, potassium, vitamins A, C & K which support a healthy immune system.

Acid and alkaline: Keep your internal acid/alkaline chemistry balanced by squeezing a half lemon into a cup of hot water to break up congestion, stimulate digestion and create an alkaline or healing pH chemistry in the body.