Flu season is upon us, and if you’re looking for ways to boost your immunity, you’ve come to the right place.
Every day, our immune system works hard for us, like an army, fighting off harmful organisms, bacteria, and viruses, to keep us well. While we can’t control everything in our environment, there are some simple strategies we can do to help those fighters do their job even better.
This list of 15 natural immunity boosters—many of which you’ll find right in your pantry—can provide a strong defense against illnesses.
1. Drink lemon water
Start your morning with a glass of lemon water to boost immune function and keep you hydrated. Fresh lemons are loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. Simply squeeze the juice of one lemon in a glass of filtered water and drink it down each morning.
2. Limit refined sugar intake
Refined sugar creates inflammation in the body, and drastically lowers your natural immune response, prolonging illness. Avoid all sugary foods when sick to enhance healing.
3. Get plenty of sleep
You’ve heard this one before, but don’t underestimate a good night’s sleep— it goes a long way in strengthening your immune system. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. If you have trouble sleeping, try these ideas.
4. Go for the green
Green tea has antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties which work to strengthen your natural immune defenses. Aim for two 8-ounce cups per day.
5. Consume fresh ginger
Ginger is a powerful antioxidant that boosts immune function, rids the body of toxins, cleanses the colon, and fights inflammation and infection. Add a little fresh grated ginger root to that hot cup of green tea (above) for a double immune-boosting whammy!
6. Add garlic!
Garlic fights infection, boosts immune response, and wards off the common cold and flu. Add fresh garlic (not powder) to your dishes or take garlic supplements for its health-enhancing benefits.
7. Sip some bone broth
Bone broth is an excellent source of minerals and amino acids that work to bolster immune response, fight infection, and inflammation, and assist in healing. You can make your own following our recipe. Dr. Kellyann Petruci, the author of Bone Broth Diet and Bone Broth Cookbook, recommends consuming bone broth daily for its vast benefits. Bring some to work in a thermos and sip throughout the day.
8. Try Elderberry
Elderberry is known to enhance immune function and has been used in folk medicine for generations to relieve colds, coughs, and congestion. The flowers and tiny dark berries of this native shrub are used to make healing herbal teas, syrups, or steeped in vinegar for medicinal use. Elderberry tinctures and syrups are available at your favorite health food store. Follow instructions on the label.
9. Consume raw honey
especially local varieties, are known to build immunities to allergies. Honey is an antioxidant superfood that offers many health benefits when consumed regularly. Take a spoonful daily for its antibacterial and healing properties, to bolster the immune system, protect against cancer, and more. To reap its health-promoting benefits, purchase raw honey from a beekeeper that does not use chemicals in the colonies. Honey has a high sugar content, so try limiting its use to a spoonful a day. Note: Children under one year old should not consume honey.
10. Add some D!
Vitamin D3 is an antioxidant that enhances immunity and fights bacteria, viruses, Candida, infections, and numerous diseases. Taking a vitamin D3 supplement daily ensures optimal levels of this essential vitamin during the months when sunshine is limited, especially for those living in the northeast.
11. Exercise regularly
to reduce stress, improve your ability to fight disease, and lower inflammation in your body. What’s “regular”? Aim for 30 minutes a day, even if you have to break it up throughout the day. Regular exercise, even a brisk walk, has been shown to help us sleep better, helps us maintain a healthy weight while strengthening the immune system.
12. Ditch the processed foods
A poor diet of unhealthy, processed foods filled with additives compromises your immune function and health. Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich whole foods such as broccoli, blueberries, cherries, citrus fruits, peppers, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. Use avocado oil, coconut oil, and olive oil instead of highly refined vegetable oils.
13. Turn to turmeric
Turmeric contains beneficial curcumin, which reduces inflammation, heals the gut, boosts brain function, and bolsters the immune system. Try the lightly-spiced beverage, Golden Milk, a delicious way to receive its immune support, and healing benefits.
14. Go Pro!
Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria present in the colon which assist in the production of disease-fighting white blood cells. Probiotics improve gut health and increase immune function. Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi, and beverages kefir and kombucha are rich in probiotics. Enjoy some daily with your lunch. Or try probiotic supplements, another option to ensure regular, daily intake.
15. Zap illness with zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral that promotes healthy immune function and healing. Zinc lozenges are effective in relieving common cold symptoms and reducing their duration. Take a dose once or twice daily at the first sign of a cold, for up to two weeks, or per the advice of your holistic physician. Zinc’s antioxidant properties are similar to that of vitamin C. You can also consume natural food sources of zinc such as egg yolks, seafood, sardines, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Herb sources of zinc include alfalfa, chickweed, dandelion, chamomile, cayenne, parsley, and rose hips.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.