With November around the corner, let’s talk immunity. Whether you’ve been hit with the flu, a cold, or something in between, it’s time to take stock of your immune health. From functional soups to citrusy elixirs, there’s no shortage of ways to nourished this fall. Basic ingredients, like lemons, ginger, and turmeric, are powerful healing agents. Food is medicine—and a well-stocked kitchen can easily double as a home apothecary! Without further ado, I’m sharing vitamins, minerals, and drinks that boost immunity.
Lifestyle factors that Impact Your immunity
When it comes to supporting a healthy immune system (along with balanced hormones, optimal cognitive function, and more) diet is only one piece of the puzzle. In other words, you can drink all the grass-fed bone broth in the world, but the quality of your life—movement, stress, etc.—is equally important. Below are a few key lifestyle factors that can impact your immunity:
Regular physical activity can help boost the immune system by improving circulation and reducing inflammation. Overtraining, on the other hand, can weaken the immune system, so it’s essential to find a healthy balance! For most, that looks like 20-45 minutes of movement (walking, yoga, strength training, pilates, etc.)—most days of the week.
Adequate and quality sleep is crucial for a robust immune system. During deep sleep, your body repairs and regenerates immune cells. Chronic sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to infections.
Debilitating stress can weaken the immune system by releasing stress hormones that suppress immune function. Try these techniques to keep your stress(ors) in check.
Maintaining social connections—and a strong support system—can positively affect your overall health and well-being, which, in turn, supports your immune system.
Exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants can weaken the immune system. Minimize exposure to harmful chemicals and pollutants.
Natural Remedies When You’re Sick
Beyond rest and hydration, what are other natural remedies for colds, coughs, and the flu? Below are natural remedies to support your immune health.
1. Increase Your Zinc
Zinc, an essential mineral, supports your immune system and helps your metabolism function. With a varied diet, most people get enough zinc. Food sources of zinc include chicken, red meat, chickpeas, nuts, and fortified cereals. This nutrient helps your body make germ-fighting white blood cells. It might help ease cold and flu symptoms. In essence, zinc helps your body fight the flu virus. Consult your doctor before adding zinc to your supplement routine.
2. Eat The Rainbow
Diet plays a major role in how quickly you can recover from the flu. Processed foods, sugar, conventional dairy, and caffeine aren’t exactly healing ingredients. Instead, stick with unprocessed, whole foods. These are packed with nutrients and are easy to digest. Focus on balancing blood sugar while incorporating whole, minimally processed foods. Think: Mediterranean diet. Additionally, kitchari is one of the best foods to eat when you’re sick. It’s healing and easy on the digestive system. Otherwise, consider bananas (they can help curb diarrhea) and vitamin C-rich foods for breaking up mucus.
3. Consider Bee Propolis
Show your immune system some love with a daily dose of bee propolis. This all-star ingredient contains antioxidants and other immune-boosting compounds. Bee propolis has 300+ beneficial compounds, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This throat spray has a permanent spot in our medicine cabinet.
4. Gargle Sea Salt
That’s right. Gargling can moisten a sore throat and bring temporary relief. Gargle with half a teaspoon of salt dissolved in eight ounces of warm water. Do this four times, daily. To reduce the tick in your throat, try an astringent gargle. Otherwise, steep one tablespoon of lemon juice in two cups of water and mix with one teaspoon of honey. Let the mixture cool to room temperature before gargling.
Supplements to boost immunity
Below are a few of my favorite supplements to support overall immune health. When paired with drinks that boost immunity, you’re giving your body various vitamins and minerals to ward off the common cold, flu, and cough. For the full post, see here.
This magical elixir is dubbed liquid gold for a reason. If you’re a mom, lactation consultant, neonatal nurse, or pediatrician (or work with newborns in any capacity!) you know the life-changing benefits of colostrum. It’s truly an unrivaled nutrient powerhouse. Best of all, it’s known to significantly support immune health.
Even before the start of the pandemic, there was evidence that vitamin D supports immune health. Furthermore, there is data that vitamin D may enhance immune functions in human cells and reduce the spread of some viruses, in the laboratory setting. As far as dosage is concerned, aim for at least 2,000 IU (for adults) of vitamin D, per day.
Vitamin C is critical. If you start to get symptoms of a cold, open up two capsules of vitamin C and pour them into a cup of warm water. Add 1/2-1 tablespoon of raw honey, and the juice of half an orange. Repeat this, ideally, every two hours. The glucose from the honey and orange juice allows your cells to rapidly use the vitamin C. Otherwise, take 4 capsules 2x per day (two with breakfast and two with dinner).
So many of us are deficient in vitamin B12. It’s necessary for thousands of mechanisms in the body (nutrient absorption, neurological health, overall immunity, and more). B12 is also super important in recovering from cold and flu-like symptoms, as well as daily maintenance. See here for my recommended vitamin B12 supplement.
Zinc is the most critical trace mineral for our immune system. Due to declining soil health, most people are very deficient in zinc. Capsule form works great, but meat, seafood, nuts, and legumes are all wonderful sources of zinc. In terms of dosage, 5 mg for an under 2-year-old, 10 mg for a 2-7-year-old, 20 mg for an over 7-year-old, and adults can take up to 20 mg 2x/day.
As a syrup or tea, daily. Elderberry strengthens and rebuilds the immune system on every level. In essence, it forms protective barrier around human cells to prevent viruses from attaching to a host. This is my favorite syrup from MegaFood. The quality, ingredients, and taste are unparalleled. If you prefer tea, this is my favorite elderberry tea.
Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa, is one of the most popular medicinal plants. It can also be used to treat anxiety and prevent heart disease. It’s anti-viral and can support stress response. As a rule of thumb, treat lemon balm as you would any other herb. It works especially well in place of mint, offering bright, fragrant notes. Add whole lemon balm leaves to green salads, or chiffonade the leaves and scatter them over a fruit salad for added zesty flavor.
Take one capsule per day with breakfast. Quercetin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that might help reduce swelling, kill cancer cells, control blood sugar, and help prevent heart disease. In terms of dosage, 25 mg per day for a toddler ages 12-24 months, 250 mg for a 2-5-year-old, and 500 mg for anyone over age 5.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Consult your primary care physician, doctor, or pediatrician before making any changes to your supplement routine. Furthermore, the following statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
4 Drinks That Boost Immune System
Without further ado, below are drinks that boost immunity. They’re rich in antioxidants, taste comforting, and are known to soothe an achy body.
Have you heard of fire cider? This folk remedy drink is full of antimicrobial vegetables, roots, spices, and herbs to provide immune support all winter long. It works like this:
1. Choose ingredients that call to you (see here for inspo) and cozy up in the kitchen, chopping and chilling for a little less than an hour to make the cider.
2. Put it aside! Ferment all of the potent immune-boosting ingredients in apple cider vinegar for 4-6 weeks.
3. Take up to one shot every day throughout the winter months.
Immunity-boosting tea—aka, immuni-tea. Using kitchen medicine (ingredients you can find right in your fridge or pantry!), this wonderful concoction fights colds, eases a sore throat, and can help calm a cough. It’s super simple to make and can be tweaked depending on what you happen to have on hand. Otherwise, check out this recipe—it’s gone viral for a reason.
Consider the adrenal cocktail an elevated glass of OJ. Unlike its name suggests, this isn’t actually a cocktail. Rather, the adrenal cocktail focuses on three nutrients: vitamin C, sodium, and potassium. These are key to maintaining adrenal health. This trio also helps maintain hormone stability, proper hydration, and electrolyte balance.
Bone broth serves as a great way to replenish the fluids you lose when you’re sick, while also providing your body with valuable electrolytes from the sodium in the broth. Bone broth’s amino acids reduce inflammation, and L-glutamine—specifically—reduces gut inflammation. This is another reason why bone broth is incredibly nourishing when you have a cold, cough, or flu. In essence, bone broth supports the immune system by giving it a hefty dose of immune-boosting minerals (without the burden of a stressful digestive process). Source a pasture-raised, pre-packaged bone broth or aim to find organic bones to make homemade stock.
How can tea and broth support a healthy immune system?
It’s no secret that both diet and lifestyle influence our immune response. Getting quality sleep, prioritizing movement, managing stress, and eating nutritious foods are some of the best ways to support your immune system. Of course, hydration is equally important—a dehydrated body has trouble eliminating toxins and waste. And without an efficient removal process, your body is more susceptible to infection. Last but not least, dehydration can diminish energy levels, leading to a weakened immune system. Sip your way to hydration via the aforementioned electrolytes, broths, and immune-boosting teas.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.