Natural Immunity: Your Ultimate Guide To Cold & Flu Season

Updated: Sep 25


It's that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the air is getting colder, and people are starting to get sick. It seems like everyone you know has a cold or the flu. This can be a really frustrating time of year. Not only are you trying to avoid getting sick yourself, but you also don't want to spread germs to your loved ones. In this blog post, we will discuss how to boost your immune system naturally so that you can stay healthy all winter long!


Before getting into how to support our immune system, let's have a look first at what to avoid. Did you know that a single teaspoon of sugar can suppress the immune system for up to 4 hours? Yikes! There are a few key things that can weaken our immune system and make us more susceptible to getting sick. These include:

Stress: Stress has a profound impact on the immune system. When we are stressed, our bodies release stress hormones like cortisol. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, making us more susceptible to infection and illness. Chronic stress can lead to a host of problems, including chronic inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and even cancer.


Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation activates stress hormones that suppress the immune system. This makes it harder for the body to fight off infection and increases the risk for illness. Research has shown that people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to catch a cold or the flu. They also tend to have more severe symptoms and take longer to recover.


Poor diet: A diet lacking in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to illness. Furthermore, a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can promote inflammation throughout the body, which can also lead to a greater risk of infection.


Lack of exercise: Regular exercise promotes circulation, helping to move white blood cells around the body. White blood cells are responsible for fighting off infection. In fact, research has shown that regular exercise can actually help to boost the number of white blood cells in the body. Additionally, exercise helps to reduce stress levels, and chronic stress as mentioned above, has been linked with a weakened immune system.


Alcohol consumption: Alcohol consumption has been shown to impact the immune system in a number of ways. First, alcohol can reduce the number of white blood cells in the body. Second, alcohol can damage the liver, which is responsible for filtering toxins out of the body. Third, alcohol can increase inflammation throughout the body, making it more difficult for the immune system to fight off infection. Finally, alcohol can make it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, which are essential for a healthy immune system. For these reasons, it is important to moderate alcohol consumption in order to maintain a healthy immune system.

As you can see, most of these are lifestyle factors that we can control. But what are the most essential nutrients for a strong immune system?




Vitamin C: Vitamin C is commonly known as a cold-preventing vitamin, and for good reason. As an immune system booster, vitamin C plays a vital role in keeping the body healthy and free from infection. Vitamin C helps to increase the production of white blood cells, as well as to improve their ability to fight against infection. In addition, vitamin C helps to reduce inflammation, which can further protect the body from illness. Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries.

Zinc: Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays a vital role in immune system function. It is involved in cell growth and differentiation, making it essential for the development and maintenance of immune cells. Additionally, zinc helps to regulate immune responses and prevent excessive inflammation. Studies have shown that zinc supplementation can improve immune system function in both healthy individuals and those with immune deficiencies. Furthermore, zinc has been shown to be effective against a variety of viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Good sources of zinc include oysters, beef, chicken, pumpkin seeds, and lentils.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps to modulate immune responses, so that the body can respond appropriately to invading pathogens. Without adequate levels of vitamin D, the immune system may be unable to fight off infection effectively. One study found that vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk of respiratory infections, such as colds and flu. Additionally, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of autoimmune disease. Another study found that vitamin D supplementation reduced the severity of symptoms in people with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D can be obtained naturally from safe sun exposure, and also can be found in fatty fish, mushrooms, and eggs.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is an essential vitamin that plays a critical role in immune system function. Vitamin A is involved in the production of immune cells, and it also helps to regulate immune system activity. Without enough vitamin A, the immune system can become overactive or underactive, increasing the risk of infection or autoimmune disease. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious problem in many parts of the world, and it can lead to a host of health problems. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you are getting enough vitamin A in your diet. Good sources of vitamin A include liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cantaloupe.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that is essential for human health. They are found in fish oil and certain plant oils, and they are necessary for the proper development and function of the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation and improve the function of white blood cells. They also play a role in brain development and mental health. Good sources of omega three fatty acids include salmon, tuna, mackerel, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.

Probiotics: A key part of the immune system is the microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut. The microbiome is essential for gut health, and recent research has shown that it also plays a vital role in immune function. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the beneficial bacteria in our gut. When we eat foods that contain probiotics, or take probiotic supplements, we can help to support the health of our microbiome. In turn, this can help to boost immune function and reduce the risk of infection. Probiotics are an important part of a healthy diet, and they can be especially beneficial for people with weakened immune systems. Good sources of probiotics include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, naturally fermented vegetables (not vinegar pickled!) and miso soup.

Water: Last but not least, it is important to stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water helps to flush out toxins and keep the body functioning properly.

Now that we know what nutrients are essential for a strong immune system, let's take a look at some of the top healing herbs and medicinal mushrooms.



Herbs


Oregano is a popular herb that is often used in Italian cooking. It is also a rich source of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Carvacrol, a compound found in oregano essential oil, contains antiviral properties which helps to improve resistance to infections.


Thyme is an herb that has a long history of use in immune health. Modern science has shown that thyme contains a variety of compounds that can help to support the immune system. For example, thyme essential oil is rich in carvacrol and thymol, two compounds that have been shown to possess potent antimicrobial activity. Additionally, thyme is a good source of Vitamin C, a nutrient that is essential for immune function. In one study, researchers found that taking a daily supplement of thyme extract increased levels of immune cells in the bloodstream. These findings suggest that thyme may help to promote immune health.

Garlic is well-known for its ability to fight off colds and other infections. Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Several studies have shown that garlic can help to boost immune function.


Echinacea: Echinacea is an herb that has been traditionally used to boost the immune system. This herb has been shown to have immuno-stimulation properties especially in the treatment of acute upper respiratory infection. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12622467/)

Astragalus: Astragalus is an herb that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to help improve overall health and well-being. This herb is also has been found to protect against inflammation in the intestinal tract and some cancers(https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26916911/).

Ginger: Ginger is a versatile herb that can be used in many different ways. It is commonly used to help with nausea, but it can also help to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. It's thought that ginger's warming properties enable it to break down toxins, and cleanse the lymphatic system.

Ginseng: Ginseng is an herb that has long been used in Chinese medicine to help improve overall health. It is known as an "adaptogen" which means that it helps the body to adapt to stress. Ginseng works by regulating immune cells such as macrophages, natural killer cells, and others. This mighty herb also possesses antimicrobial properties that combat viruses and bacterial infections (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3659612/).

Now let's look at medicinal mushrooms.

Reishi mushroom

Reishi Mushroom: The reishi mushroom is a medicinal mushroom that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. It is known as an "immortal mushroom" because it is thought to have anti-aging properties. Reishi mushrooms are also immunomodulatory, meaning that they help to regulate the immune system. This is beneficial for people who suffer from autoimmune diseases as well as infections.

Shiitake Mushroom: The shiitake mushroom is another medicinal mushroom that has a long history of use in Chinese medicine. These mushrooms are known for their immune-boosting and cancer-fighting properties.

Maitake Mushroom: The maitake mushroom is yet another medicinal mushroom with a long history of use in Chinese medicine. These mushrooms are known for their ability to boost the immune system, and fight cancer.


Chaga: Chaga is a medicinal mushroom that grows on birch trees. It is known for its immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting properties. Chaga happens to be my favorite mushroom because of its mellow flavor! Chaga tea makes a great base for hot cocoa or the occasional cup of coffee. You can also try enjoying it on its own, or try adding a few other spices like cinnamon or star anise to your brew.



Essential Oils


There are many essential oils that have been shown to boost immune system function and help fight colds and infections. Some of the most effective immune-boosting essential oils include oregano oil, lavender oil, lemon oil, eucalyptus oil, and peppermint oil. These oils all contain powerful immune-stimulating compounds like carvacrol, linalool, and limonene. Studies have shown that these compounds can help increase immune system activity, improve antioxidant status, and reduce inflammation. One study found that oregano oil was able to kill off 90% of harmful bacteria within two hours. In addition, these essential oils can also help to improve digestion and enhance nutrient absorption. As a result, they can play a key role in supporting immune system function. You can find links to some scientific articles supporting these statements below.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11607424

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16129717

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12137150

https://www.dr axe.com/nutrients/essential-oils-for-colds/


Essential oils can be used in a number of ways to fight off colds and infections. They can be added to baths or diffusers, or they can be applied topically to the skin. Examples of essential oils that can be used topically include lavender oil and peppermint oil. When using essential oils topically, it is important to dilute them with carrier oils such as jojoba oil or coconut oil. This will help to prevent skin irritation. Essential oils can also be taken internally to support the immune system. Try adding a drop or two of an food safe oil to a cup of tea, glass of water, or a teaspoon of honey. Never take essential oils internally unless they are from a reputable source. Some essential oils can be toxic if taken internally. For this reason, it is always wise to consult with a trained practitioner.


Remedies


Now that we've looked at some of the most essential nutrients for a strong immune system, as well as some of the top healing herbs and medicinal mushrooms, let's move on to discuss some natural remedies that can help you if you do get sick.

Sock hydrotherapy

An excellent all around remedy for sinus congestion, coughs, colds, sore throats, and headaches. This therapy works by increasing circulation in the feet in order to decrease congestion in the head and chest. The increased circulation also helps to move lymph and transport immune cells. Headaches are reduced as blood moves away from the head to warm the feet, decreasing pressure in the head. Here's how to do it:

  1. Take a pair of cotton socks and get them wet with cold water. Wring them out and put them on.

  2. Take a pair of dry wool socks and put them on overtop of the wet cotton socks.

  3. Get under the covers and rest. Keep the socks on the entire night. They will be completely dry when you wake up.

Chest Congestion


Eucalyptus essential oil works as an expectorant with antiseptic properties. This helps your body to loosen mucus so that you can get rid of it more easily. Peppermint oil is also excellent at clearing your airways. You can try adding a few drops right on your chest or back. Or try this natural DIY chest rub recipe.


1/2 cup coconut oil

20 drops eucalyptus essential oil

20 drops cedarwood essential oil

20 drops peppermint essential oil

10 drops rosemary essential oil

Blend all ingredients together and store in a mason jar.


Sinus Congestion


Things you can try:

  • Use a nasal saline spray

  • Try a netti pot

  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer

  • Diffuse eucalyptus essential oil in a diffuser. DoTerra has a great blend called "Breathe"


Sore throat


Gargling with salt water is a simple and effective way to soothe a sore throat. You can also try raw honey which has a moisturizing and soothing sensation on the throat. Honey also contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties to help fight throat infections.


Cankers

Suffer from cankers? Cloves are your best friend! Not only do their antioxidant properties help to heal cankers, the eugenol from cloves is a natural painkiller that can seriously numb their pain. In fact, clove oil has long been used by dentists!


Try this DIY mouthwash recipe for canker sore relief: Mix 2 cups warm water with 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 4 drops clove essential oil. Use as a mouth rinse several times per day making sure it comes into direct contact with the canker. Additionally, you can place a drop of the clove oil directly on the canker to numb the pain and fight the infection (be warned, it's strong!).


Fever


Peppermint oil contains menthol which has a cooling effect on the skin that feels welcoming when experiencing a fever. Try patting a few drops to the back of your neck and forehead (avoid getting in eyes). Wet sock hydrotherapy as described above can also help to bring relief.

Headaches


Peppermint essential oil around the hair line can help reduce a tension headache.

For migraines, try frankincense essential oil. When placed on the roof of the mouth, frankincense can cross the blood/brain barrier and help reduce inflammation in an early migraine. Be sure to only use a trusted high quality oil for an application such as this.

Lastly, let's not forget to discuss the amazing benefits of bone broth! Some of the most important nutrients for the immune system are found in bone broth. These include: vitamins A, C, and E, as well as minerals like zinc and selenium. Bone broth also contains amino acids that are essential for a healthy immune system, including glycine and proline. Check out my recipe for immune boosting bone broth here.

If you do happen to get sick this cold and flu season, I hope that these natural remedies help you to feel better quickly! Please remember to consult your healthcare provider before trying any new remedy, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

We hope you found this post helpful. Now that you know some of the top nutrients to build a strong immune system, and some of the best natural remedies for when you do get sick, we want to hear from you! What are your favorite immune boosting herbs or medicinal mushrooms? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family.

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