We’re in the thick of cold & flu season now, so perhaps this is a little tardy. But better late than never. I thought I’d share a few ways to boost your immune system and protect yourself from infections, and lessen their intensity if you do get them.
#1: Avoid common food toxins
The worst offenders are:
- Industrial seed oils
Food toxins provoke an immune reaction that can make us more vulnerable to foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Many people, myself included, find their immune system works best if they avoid all grains – not just those that contain gluten – and legumes as well as the toxins listed above.
#2: Take your cod liver oil
Vitamins A & D both play significant roles in immune health. Cod liver oil is rich in both, and also contains vitamins K2, E and various quinones which are also essential to health. All of my patients who take it regularly report fewer colds and milder and shorter colds if they do get them. This has been true for me as well. I suggest 1 tsp/day as a preventative, and then 2-3 tsp/day if you feel a cold coming on.
#3 Eat fermented foods
Probiotics found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi strengthen and maintain the mucosal barrier system (in our respiratory and intestinal tract), which is our first line of defense against pathogens. What’s more, 75% of our immune system is found in the gut.
#4: Wash your hands frequently
Maybe you already know this, but studies have shown that frequent hand-washing is one of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves during cold & flu season. Consider washing your hands every time you arrive at a destination while out and about, and first thing when you get home.
#5: Supplement when necessary
In addition to all of the steps above, there are certain supplements that can be helpful in fighting off a cold or lessening its duration. Many people have reported that high doses of vitamin D (i.e. 20,000 IU/day) at the first signs of a cold keep it away. There isn’t any research to support this, and I’m not sure what the mechanism is, but I’ve tried it myself and it does appear to be effective. If it’s placebo, I’m happy to get the effect because high doses of vitamin D over the short term (1-3 days) are not harmful.
Iodine is another important nutrient for boosting immune health. It’s best to start this early in the flu season, and gradually build up to a dose of 50 mg/d. (Do not take iodine if you have Hashimoto’s disease. It can cause an immune flare up.)
Vitamin C is also useful for fighting off colds. Take 1g every 3-4 hours.
Finally, there are a number of botanicals that have a potent immune-boosting effect. These include echinacea, astragalus, codonopsis, Siberian ginseng, catnip, ginger root, garlic and Elder flower (Sambucus).