During flu season and times of worrisome pandemics, it is very normal to wonder how to boost your immune system naturally. Recently it has been a huge topic in all my circles, so I wanted to share exactly what we do in our home.
Many of these natural immunity boosters are things we include in our diet on a regular basis already. But during times of stress or when our worry about catching a communicable disease is higher, we pay special attention to these natural immunity boosters.
Here are my favorite ways to boost our immune system!
1. Homemade Broth
Chicken soup is good for the soul, and it is amazing for health. The key is to make soup from homemade broth, utilizing the parts of animals we usually waste such as the carcass, feet, tails, necks, etc. Gelatin-rich broth is full of nutrients–amino acids that help build cells and support sleep, and numerous vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune system.
Here are a few reasons you’d want to get more gelatin in your diet:
- it is extremely bio-compatible
- it supports proper immune function
- it is beneficial for injury prevention and supports tissue repair
- it helps close gut permeability which can help ward off inflammation and disease
- it heals and protects the mucosal layer which helps ward off disease entering the bloodstream from your gut
You can find tried and true, delicious, nourishing soup recipes that utilize broth by clicking here.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C has a whole host of benefits, including enhancing the benefits of gelatin, the absorption of iron and the function of the immune system. It is effective at helping prevent disease and also accelerating recovery.
The forms of vitamin C supplementation that I find most helpful are:
- Ascorbic acid (“true vitamin C”)
- Sodium ascorbate (“buffered vitamin C” for those with more sensitive stomachs)
- Ascorbic acid with added bioflavanoids (bioflavanoids enhance activity of vitamin C, which is why it’s natural form in fruits, vegetables and fermented foods such as sauerkraut is (in my humble opinion) an essential addition to your diet)
- Natural berries/cherries that are super high in vitamin C content such as amla, camu camu, and acerola (see acerola cherry powder, next on my list!)
3/18/2020 – It is getting very difficult to find vitamin C. As of right now, there is still some Sodium Ascorbate 8oz available on iHerb. Using my referral coupon code VIP075 will also save you 5% and I’ll get 5% off of a future order. Click here to buy before they run out!
3. Acerola Cherry Powder
Some might wonder why I have acerola cherry powder listed separately from Vitamin C. Isn’t it just Vitamin C as well? The answer is yes… and no… Acerola cherries are very high in vitamin C, but they also have an abundance of other nutrients.
Acerola cherries are a good source of iron, phosphorous, and vitamin A, which all have a role to play in our immune response.
Acerola cherries are also high in B vitamins and antioxidants. Antioxidants are known to bolster our immune systems and help fight cancer! Acerola cherries contain more vitamin C than most fruits. Only amla berries, camu camu and rosehips come close.
I grew up eating acerola cherries from my grandparents’ yard in Jamaica. I have fond memories picking cherries from their tree, and always loved the taste. It is not as sweet as Bing cherries (which I also love), likely due to the much higher vitamin C content which gives it a slight citrus/pineapple-like taste.
We have a tree now that grows pretty well and produces fruit in Florida. Unfortunately it does not produce a large amount, so I buy this powder to supplement.
4. Fermented Food
Fermented food isn’t as appreciated as it should be. When you ferment your food, you reduce the risk of consuming pathogens on raw produce while increasing the nutrients they contain. I think I’d say fermented foods are my favorite of all the natural ways to boost immune system that I’ve listed.
Sauerkraut and onions in particular are known for their high vitamin C content once fermented. And fermenting these foods allows you to have these foods on hand for many months, easily accessible and ready to consume as-is.
Fermented foods will provide you with lots of vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals that are easy for your body to absorb.
They will also increase your stomach acid, which is just what you need to fight off infections. The viruses or bacteria that try to overtake your gut will be sorry they chose to mess with you!
Here’s a short list of my favorite ferments. I am forcing myself to stick to five that are easy to make, and easy to take (and clicking on any of these links will take you to more information as well as instructions on that particular ferment!): sauerkraut, milk kefir, water kefir, onions, and garlic scapes. We drink the brine of the garlic scapes, eat the buds, and chop up the scapes themselves to enjoy in eggs, sauces, guacamole.
5. Wash hands frequently (& properly!)
Although you might not think washing hands is fitting in a post about how to boost your immune system naturally, take a second and hear me out!
Germs mostly spread by our hands! Forgetting to wash them or washing your hands improperly is the quickest way to spread bacteria and viruses.
You touch doorknobs, your face, your food, your children. You pick your nose or touch something in your mouth that feels a little funny without giving it a second thought.
Kids are notorious for touching every little thing then sticking their dirty fingers in their mouths. Sometimes this is good as it’s a way to keep reintroducing transient soil bacteria. At other times, such as when there are worrisome outbreaks or if your child has a weak immune system, it can be stressful as they are more susceptible to infections.
Quick note: The BEST form of prevention is protecting your mucosal membranes from coming in contact with viruses and bacteria. To do this, wash hands properly and frequently. Avoid touching your face or sharing beverages/utensils.
Washing hands frequently and properly will reduce bacteria/viruses on your hands and help you avoid infecting yourself and others. If you do not know how to wash hands to prevent infections, click here for more information.
6. Avoid Touching Food/Face
Avoid touching food, your face, or anything that has the potential to come in contact with your mucous membranes (especially mouth/nose) unless you literally just washed your hands. And afterwards, wash your hands to prevent spreading disease to others!
If you just shook someone’s hand, keep your hands away from your face until you are able to wash your hands.
If you just opened a door, touched an elevator button, went grocery shopping, wash your hands. See #5 for more information on washing hands properly to prevent infection and spreading disease.
The importance of sleep is often overlooked. But it’s SO important for a healthy immune response! Your body needs to be able to rest and repair itself on a regular basis.
If you’re struggling with sleep because of adrenal fatigue, you can read more about how I treat my adrenal fatigue fast here.
Otherwise, you really need to try and allot sufficient time for sleep! Aside from making you more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, this study found that prolonged lack of sleep causes low-grade inflammation that also increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease!
8. Avoid smoke, alcohol, fast food & stress
Studies show that smoke negatively affects the immune system, and can contribute to exacerbating asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.
It is also recommended to avoid or reduce alcohol to promote proper immune function. Alcohol can impair liver and kidney function. It slows down immune response and injury recovery. Alcohol consumption can have a direct negative impact on your airways and gut barrier, prolonging and exacerbating infection (source, PDF file).
Opt to prepare your own meals, and cook your meats thoroughly! Cooking at home ensures that your prepared food is coming into contact with less people that could potentially spread disease to you and your family. You also have much more control over ingredients and can choose the most nutrient-dense foods to feed your family.
It can be difficult to ward off stress, but studies such as this one show that elevated stress over prolonged periods can negatively impact your immune system. Eating a balanced diet, sleeping well, making sure to take time for self-care, and exercise can all help to reduce stress.
Exercise has a positive effect on the immune system. Most doctors stress that rest is important when sick, but physical activity is also important for stimulating the immune system.
There are epidemiological studies that show regular exercise decreases your chances of contracting communicable diseases caused by virus and bacteria. Exercise also reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases and cancer.
This study sums up some great information regarding exercise and the immune system.
My favorite exercises include:
- HIIT Cardio
Exercise is also helpful for reducing stress and promoting sleep. Aim for at least 15-20 minutes per day 3-4x/week.
10. Eat A Balanced Diet
Your diet should include a wide variety of foods. Focus on eating nutrient-dense foods such as animal fats, fresh and fermented vegetables, and staples such as potatoes, green bananas and winter squash.
A wide variety of foods ensures that you are getting a full array nutrients.
Be sure to include the following in your diet:
- Oily fish, cod liver oil several times per week
- Organ meats (liver, heart, kidney) once or twice a week
- Ripe bell peppers (yellow, orange, red)
- Ginger/Turmeric (Turmeric with black pepper or cayenne pepper work synergistically)
- Garlic & onions
- Fermented foods
- Raw vegetables
11. Drink… ALOT!
Drink plenty of fluids as it helps keep your body hydrated and functioning properly.
Here are some ideas of what you should be drinking:
- Coconut water
- Homemade broth
- Water with lemon juice
- Citrus juices (orange, tangerine)
- Pineapple juice
- Health cocktails (beverage of choice with immune-boosting supplements)
12. Oil of Oregano
For those times when you feel that your body just isn’t doing as much as it should, and you feel the need for a natural antibiotic, oil of oregano will be your best friend.
Oil of oregano is useful for treating a myriad of maladies including upset stomach, gum/tooth infections, ear infections and more. I prefer to use externally whenever possible, mixing a few drops in olive oil and applying over the affected area.
To check out my Oil of Oregano brand of choice, click here. I love it because it has a high carvacrol content, has been extensively researched and proven as an effective anti-fungal against Candida albicans, only has olive oil added, and lasts us a long time.
13. Vitamin D3
Did you know that most people are deficient in vitamin D?
It’s really sad and concerning, because vitamin D deficiency is associated with autoimmune disorders and increased susceptibility to infections including upper respiratory tract infections (URIs). Studies such as this one have found vitamin D can help protect against URIs even after considering other factors such as age, gender and race.
Although we live in the sunshine state, we still don’t get enough vitamin D naturally. I use this vitamin D since it is in coconut/palm oil and readily accepted by my son. With 4000 IU in one drop, it lasts us a long time. Click here to check it out!
Micro-nutrients include minerals such as zinc, selenium, and iron, all essential for the proper function of your immune system. Many people, especially those with compromised immune systems such as the elderly and/or those with a chronic disease, have a micronutrient deficiency. This could be due to a diet that doesn’t provide sufficient trace nutrients, picky eating, or inefficient absorption.
Taking steps to heal one’s gut, such as drinking regular broth and other forms of liquid nutrition like nettle infusions, and incorporating fatty fish, Brazil nuts (one Brazil nut daily supplies ample selenium!), using cast iron and eating organ meats here and there will really help with bioavailable micronutrients.
Fermented vegetables have a wide host that are easy for your body to absorb as well. (There are soooo many reasons why I’m obsessed with ferments!)
One supplement that I have used while recovering from mineral deficiency is Thorne’s Pic-Mins. It is iron-free and very allergen-friendly. I prefer to get iron from a mixture of meat and bacterial lactoferrin synthesis (I love this probiotic).
I hope this list is helpful for you. This list of natural ways to boost the immune system is my family’s go-to. We are not against conventional medicine when warranted, but we always take a holistic approach to health and aim to use natural remedies as much as possible.
Do you have other natural immune boosters in your arsenal? I’d love to hear what’s at the top of your family’s list! Leave a comment letting me know, and don’t forget to pin this post!