With the fall season in full force and the transition to cooler days and nights, it is an important time of year to keep your immune system strong. As you likely have experienced, seasonal transitions, especially summer turning to fall, can put a little extra strain on your immune system.
There are many ways to help keep your body strong and vital. Many of the practices and remedies listed below will remind you that taking care of your health (and immune system) can be simple and effective.
1. Immune-Boosting Vitamins and Minerals
While it is important to include a wide array of vitamins and minerals in your diet to ensure you get ample phytonutrients and antioxidants, there are a couple of superstars in the immunity world.
You may have heard of Linus Pauling, the scientist who in the 1970s claimed that taking high doses of vitamins could prevent colds. While many in the medical community rejected his claim (which he based on a single placebo-controlled study of schoolchildren), in the past few decades, a growing body of research has shown that vitamin C is, in fact, important to the health of your immune function.
You can boost your intake of vitamin C by eating more vegetables and fruits high in vitamin C—such as peppers, spinach, kiwi, broccoli, grapefruit, strawberries, and oranges. You may also want to take a vitamin C supplement to boost your intake of this vitamin.
Zinc is a mineral that has been shown to be essential for immune function. In fact, some studies have found that patients with zinc deficiency (a prevalent condition in the developing world) developed severe immune dysfunctions over time. Adding more zinc to your immune-boosting repertoire is important in keeping your immune system at its best.
There are many ways to increase your zinc intake. Eating foods high in zinc is always a good option. Try including more zinc-rich foods such as chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, cashews, oysters, oats, and yogurt. Want an extra boost of zinc? Talk to your healthcare practitioner about a dietary zinc supplement.
Garlic has a variety of strong immune-boosting properties. It is antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial. One study found that a group of participants who took a garlic supplement had significantly fewer colds than the control group who didn’t take the supplement. Those taking the garlic supplement were also able to recover more quickly than the control group when they did catch a cold. Garlic is also known for its potent antioxidant levels.
One way to get the benefits of garlic is to take a garlic supplement that contains allicin, a primary bioactive component of this pungent member of the onion family. You can also enjoy garlic in a variety of recipes.
Garlic soup is a delicious way to boost your immune system. The recipe below calls for five to six whole heads of garlic—and that may sound like a lot—but the medley of ingredients in this soup creates a balanced blend of flavors. You may find yourself quickly developing a love for this potent immune enhancer.
- 5–6 whole heads of garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 2 onions sliced
- 32 ounces of broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 2 cups milk of choice
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Sea salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Halve the heads of garlic across the cloves (do not peel). Pour the olive oil into a baking dish and place the garlic head halves cut side down on the dish. Cover to roast for approximately one hour or until garlic cloves are fragrant and starting to brown.
While garlic is roasting, melt butter in a large pot and add sliced onions. Sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly until onions are translucent. Add the herbs, salt, and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes.
Let garlic cloves cool slightly, then carefully pick up the shell of the garlic heads. Add peeled garlic cloves to the onion mixture in the pot.
Add broth. Simmer for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add milk of choice. Blend the soup until smooth. Serve warm.
3. Lemon Ginger Tea
Lemon ginger tea is a simple, soothing, and effective immune booster that you can make in just a few minutes. Ginger is known for its medicinal properties, including a high level of antioxidants and antimicrobial elements. Research shows that ginger is a highly antimicrobial food.
In short, a warm cup of lemon ginger tea is an effective (and tasty) way to boost your immune system and keep you feeling healthy.
- 1 inch of fresh ginger (grated)
- 2 ounces organic lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon raw honey (optional)
- 4 cups of filtered water
Grate the ginger and place into a pot with filtered water. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the fresh lemon juice and honey. Mix well and serve in your favorite mug.
4. Chicken Vegetable Soup with Bone Broth
Chicken soup is an age-old remedy for a good reason: the combination of rich and hearty bone broth, nutrient-rich vegetables, and healing herbs and spices help to nourish your body and boost your immunity.
Bone broth is a powerful tonic made from simmering bones to brew up a tasty and nourishing broth. Add a variety of colorful vegetables—such as garlic, leeks, carrots, celery—and leafy greens such as kale—to ensure you are boosting your vitamin C and antioxidant levels, both important factors in a strong immune system.
Here is a simple recipe for chicken soup for you to try. Or if you have a family recipe for chicken soup, perhaps one that has been passed down for generations, make a batch and prepare to nourish your body and your soul.
- 2 pounds of organic chicken
- 32 ounces (4 cups) bone broth (premade or homemade)
- 1 yellow onion
- 4 carrots
- 4 stalks celery
- 2 leeks
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups leafy greens of choice
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup avocado oil
- Optional herbs: oregano, ginger, basil, thyme
Place the bones and chicken into a large pot. Cover with 32 ounces of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a low simmer for about 4–24 hours, adding extra water if needed. Skim any top layer of fat off as necessary.
Remove bones and chicken with a slotted spoon and cool.
In a separate pan, sauté onion, garlic, leeks, carrots, and celery in avocado oil until the onion is translucent and aromatic. Add in salt, pepper, and optional herbs and stir. Pour into bone broth, add the deboned chicken back in, and simmer.
Once the soup has simmered for an hour or so, add in the leafy greens just before serving, so they wilt but you preserve their bright green color. Taste, and salt again if needed. Serve warm.
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5. Herbal Infusions
Herbal infusions can help prevent you from getting sick, or shorten the duration and intensity of your symptoms when you do come down with a cold or flu. Here are a few immune-boosting herbs to know about, as well as a few tips to brew up your herbal infusions at home.
- Elderberry is a dark violet berry containing immune-boosting benefits. Research shows that elderberry can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms of the common cold.
- Echinacea is a pretty purple flower grown primarily in North America. When used medicinally, it can help decrease the duration and severity of colds and other upper respiratory infections when taken at the onset of symptoms.
- Osha root (Ligusticum porteri) is an herb that has long been used by Native Americans for a variety of ailments. Recent research has found that osha root may boost immunity while also protecting cells from oxidative damage.
How to brew:
First, choose quality bulk herbs. If you do not have a local apothecary, you can order them online. Use primarily leaves, flowers, or finely chopped stems and roots. Start with approximately one tablespoon of herbs to one cup of water. Using purified water, place 4 tablespoons of herbs, covered fully in a pot with 4 cups of water. To ensure you steep a potent herbal infusion, keep the lid on while simmering, stirring the herbs occasionally. For optimal benefits, steep medicinal herbs for approximately 15–20 minutes. Strain well and drink. You can store any leftovers in a glass jar in the refrigerator. For optimal potency, keep the herbal infusion for no more than 24 hours.
6. Wild Mushrooms
Mushrooms have been enjoyed for their many health benefits and tasty flavors for centuries. Mushrooms are a fungus, known for their powerful nutrient density and immune-boosting properties.
Wild mushrooms are mushrooms that grow in the wild and are most often harvested by local mushroom experts in a process known as “mushroom hunting.” Similar to most wild food, wild mushrooms are said to be more nutrient-dense than regular mushrooms. However, since wild mushrooms can contain dangerous levels of poisons, only eat wild mushrooms if they have been harvested or certified by an expert.
Here are some potent wild mushroom varieties that can boost your immune system:
How to prepare:
Eating wild mushrooms can be easy and delicious. Try adding medicinal mushrooms to your favorite stir-fry, blending them into a soup or stew, or roasting them in the oven with a gentle coating of olive oil and salt. For a potent source of mushrooms to boost your immunity, consider taking a dietary supplement of a wild mushroom blend.
Probiotics are live strains of healthy bacteria and yeast that are good for your digestive tract, microbiome, and immune system. Research shows that probiotics enhance your immune function through supporting a healthy and strong intestinal lining, keeping the bad bacteria from entering the bloodstream and, therefore, supporting the overall health of the immune system.
You can get plenty of probiotics from your diet by eating a wide array of fermented foods—such as yogurt, cultured vegetables, miso, and apple cider vinegar. Or explore a potent probiotic supplement to ensure your levels are abundant.
There are many ways to enhance your immune system and stay healthy all season long. In addition to the recipes and immune enhancers described above, here are two more keys to staying healthy and strong:
- Manage your stress level.
- Get enough sleep.
Both sleep and stress management are foundational for a healthy body and mind. Try these daily practices to ensure your stress is low and your rest is deep:
- Meditate. Meditation has been shown to relax the nervous system and decrease symptoms of stress.
- Take a warm bath. By increasing the body temperature in a warm bath, your body relaxes more easily, helping you fall asleep at bedtime.
- Get some extra sleep. Studies show a good night’s sleep can increase the immune response in your system.
- Diffuse essential oil of lavender in your room. Aromatherapy can set the tone for relaxation and deeper rest.
Feeding your body immune-boosting ingredients, minimizing stress, and getting deep rest can help prevent those unwanted sick days—allowing you to feel healthy and ready to enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.