16 ways to fortify your immune system during the winter months

Herbal Tea

Sandrine’s Notes: 

Beyond Raine’s list of 16 proactive steps to take in order to fortify your immune system, I would like to add one more. It has been recommended to me by various health practitioners that I supplement with Vitamin D if my levels are low, especially during the winter months. Dr. Mercola recommends these levels and testing protocols. My levels tend to run low even with regular consumption of vitamin D rich foods, so I take Biotics Research Bio-D-Mulsion Forte Vitamin D via our Amazon affiliation when lab work reveals a need.

Author Raine Saunders

Winter is here, and if you experience cold and flu symptoms a lot this time of year, there are numerous natural ways you can improve your body’s ability to stay healthy – especially with the foods you eat and lifestyle you maintain.

Many people believe that hand-washing is one of the best ways to keep illnesses away. In the last two decades we’ve seen a huge increase of the use of anti-bacterial substances which are supposed to keep our bodies healthier. But actually, these substances are toxic and don’t help our bodies to maintain health. They wipe out all bacteria, and our bodies need good bacteria to function optimally.

There are also many other factors which come into play toward keeping healthy. If your body doesn’t have the right nutrients every day – especially during times of stress, when you consume processed foods and especially those with sugar, exposure to illness from others, and days where sunlight is in short supply – your body will likely weaken and succumb to sickness and disease.

Whether you are a person who tends to “catch” every cold or flu that comes along or you just experience symptoms once in awhile, here are some tips that really work to fortify your immune system:

  1. Avoid eating processed foods and refined sugars. Fall and winter months are times when people tend to eat more sugary and processed foods due to holiday activities and gatherings. Sugar is a poison to your body and lowers immune system function. This includes foods such as crackers, chips, most breads, bagels, pastas, cookies, desserts, candy, juice, soda pop, and other related items. All of these items contribute to lowered immune system function and poor health. A good rule of thumb to follow – if it is not a whole food, avoid eating it regularly. Load up on real, raw, whole foods for snacks and meals alike.
  2. Consume plenty of healthy oils and fats. Real, organic butter (grass-fed and raw is a recommended), ghee, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oils, coconutoils, sustainably-produced palm oil, and healthy animal fats from organic, grass-fed sources such as lard, chicken, duck, or goose fat, tallow (from beef), and drippings from those same types of animal meats. 
  3. Avoid vegetable oils and trans fats including vegetable shortening, margarine and fake butter spreads, soybean, cottonseed, canola, corn, sunflower, safflower, and peanut oil, which are rancid, contain too many Omega 6s, and have inflammatory and hormonal disrupting properties. These foods are often from genetically-modified sources which are hazardous to health. Some of our recommended traditional fats via our Amazon affiliation: 
  4. Be certain to obtain essential fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) in your diet. Take fish oil daily (good source of Vitamin D), eat grass-fed meats, pasture-raised eggs, raw dairy, and safe-source fish. Green Pasture Products sells the only fermented cod liver oil in the world and is the best source for fish oil nutrients like Omega 3s, Vitamins A and D, and other trace nutrients. Good sources of other EFAs include healthy oils like cold-pressed organic flax seed oil and coconut oil
  5. Continue to eat plenty of organic, GMO-free and pesticide-free fresh fruits and vegetables. Especially those in season in your local area. Vegetables and fruits are high in nutrients and antioxidants which help thwart the development of disease and illness when properly prepared such as cultured or eaten with healthy fats like butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil, or olive oil.
  6. Drink mineral water or add liquid minerals or fulvic acid. There is some controversy about whether filtered water with added minerals is actually healthy for us to drink because it’s not much different than a lot of processed foods which have been stripped of nutrients and have synthetic added back in. Avoid plastic containers, tap water, and bottled water. Tap water contains toxins and plastic contains pthalates – both of which supress immune system and health.  Two other great ways to get minerals is to drink nettles infusions (made with filtered water) or add real sea salt to water and drink throughout the day. Good salt brands include The Spice Lab’s pink himalayan salt Celtic Sea Salt  and Real Salt. Lack of minerals is one of the leading causes of illness and disease. Directions for nettles infusions:
    • Get a glass container, which could be a quart-sized or or larger. I normally use either a half-gallon or gallon size, depending on how much I want to make and know my family will consume. We drink nettles daily. You can also add other herbs to your mixture such as mint, chamomile, red raspberry leaf, or others. We love adding mint and always put it in our infusion!
    • Cover the bottom of your jar with nettles and other herbs if you desire. I don’t usually measure, but you will want about a half an inch for a quart, and at least one inch for a half a gallon or more. Experiment to see how much you like, as using less will make the infusion weaker, whereas more will make it more potent.
    •  Add 2/3 cold water to the herbs and 1/3 hot water from the kettle on top. This helps to maintain potency of the nutritional properties of the infusion (not to be confused with most tea that is steeped for just a few minutes in a pot or cup), and still extracts the desired elements into the water due to the long amount of time the mixture is infused.
    • When your infusion has brewed for at least 4 and no more than 8 hours, there are two choices about how to drain the herbs: a) you can drain out immediately with a fine mesh metal or nylon strainer and store in the refrigerator. This will require having another clean vessel of the same size in which to store your drained infusion; or, b) you can simply store the finished infusion in the refrigerator as is, and use your strainer each time you pour a glass. Our family prefers option b as we don’t always have another clean vessel available to use.
    • I recommend using your nettles infusion up within a 24 hour period as the potency of the minerals and other nutritional elements diminishes rapidly once it is made. You can still drink the infusion beyond 24 hours, but know that benefits will be lessened as time goes on.
  7. Drink bone broths and incorporate them into your meals as well. Bone broths made from the bones of healthy animals and birds on pasture are full of easily-digested and essential nutrients which can help your body stay healthy such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, amino acids, and glucosamine (for bone health), and gelatin (muscles, metabolism, weight, skin, digestion, hair, fingernails, joint health). Read this post for more information on health benefits and recipes for making your own bone broths at home. More on bone broths.
  8. Eat real, fermented foods like home-made yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. Making your own at home is best for optimal preservation of nutrients and beneficial bacteria, as well as immune supporting and digestive enhancing. Commercial yogurts, sour cream, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, and other foods do not have the health benefits or probiotic activity of home-made cultured foods. 
  9. Be certain to take a good probiotic each day – especially if you are lacking fermented foods. Good brands include Prescript-AssistBody Ecology Full Spectrum and BioKult.
  10. Use digestive enzymes. If you have maintained the Standard American Diet at any time in your life, your digestion is likely compromised.  Altered digestive function is one of the cornerstones of disease and illness. Digestive enzymes can help you to digest foods – proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. I use Enzyme Formulations, live enzymes with healing herbals, and Sandrine uses Biotics Research – Bromelain Plus CLA as per her nutritionist Anne Fischer Silva, with great success.
  11. Watch intake of alcoholic beverages, which tend to increase during holiday months. Drinking excess alcohol can have adverse affects on appetite, blood sugar, blood pressure and cardiovascular function, metabolic processes, and weight. If you are a binge drinker during special occasions, cut yourself off after two drinks and make certain you are eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water at the same time. Consider unpasteurized beer and wine.
  12. Make sure you are getting adequate rest and not overextending yourself. If necessary, say no to extra tasks that you know you really won’t have time or energy to accomplish. Stay home on a night where you might normally go out and rest, relax, catch up, and go to bed early. Go to bed by 10 p.m.
  13. Set aside time for some regular exercise, preferably outdoors. In the colder months people tend to go to health clubs more. Many more toxins lurk indoors during colder months, so bundle up and go for a walk, hike, or bike ride. You’ll be pleased with how exhilarated you feel afterward. If you are a winter sport enthusiast, get out on the slopes and go skiing, snowshoeing, or snowboarding. If you are an equine enthusiast, make time to get out on your horse or a friend’s mount during weather that is not icy.
  14. Set aside time for contemplation, stress reduction, and relaxation.  Whether that is a hot bath, a massage, tai chi, yoga, stretching, meditation or some other method you prefer, make sure you give yourself this time to recharge.
  15. If you do experience cold or flu symptoms, load up on probiotics, foods with healthy fats, and everything else mentioned above.   Take time to pamper yourself (but not with toxic products that contain harmful chemicals – remember -read labels and if you cannot pronounce something or don’t know what it is, avoid!), rest, and put off things that aren’t necessary so you can get back to a state of health quicker and easier. Read this informative post about my home medicine cabinet and things you can do to remedy illness and other health issues.
  16. Avoid taking pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics. These substances rarely help your body to heal sooner, are over-prescribed, and actually cause nutrient depletion and lowered immune system function by wiping out friendly bacteria that is vital to health. For information on nutrient depletion caused by drugs, read Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition by Dr. Hyla Cass, M.D.

If you cannot shake a cold or flu symptoms consider visiting an alternative health care practitioner such as  a chiropractor, naturopathic physician, accupuncturist or other qualified individual. These practitioners are often very successful in alleviating health issues and perform treatment based on the cause of the problem rather than just treating symptoms.

If you maintain a schedule of eating traditionally-prepared real food, avoid processed foods and beverages, take proper supplementation when needed, obtain moderate activity, exercise, rest, and relaxation, you will likely notice an improvement in the way your health responds. My hope is that you will have more energy, feel more productive, and fortify your immune system.

What would you add to this list?

Photo credit: Wil Taylor
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Filed under Natural Remedies, What is a healthy diet?

26 responses to “16 ways to fortify your immune system during the winter months

  1. Sheena

    This has been our best year avoiding illnesses in a while. We are certainly exposed to them. I think the main reason is that I am vigilant about everyone getting their FCLO 5 days a week (we don’t take it on the weekends). Secondly, for me, getting enough sleep. I’ve always insured my kids get enough sleep, but now I’m trying to do the same.

    • Sleep is so restorative. I liked Raine’s recommendation to go to sleep at 10:00 p.m.!

      • This is something I am still working on! I don’t go out late at night, but tend to stay up late doing things I haven’t finished yet or even just watching a video or show I’ve been wanting to see. I have been going to bed much earlier though lately, on some nights. I have noticed a big difference in how I feel the next day!

  2. I’ve heard that dry skin brushing, briefly turning on cold water at the end of a hot shower, and rebounding are all ways to improve movement in the lymphatic system and help the immune system.

  3. Dean B. Hamlin

    We have been very successful with the 50,000 vit D3 when sore throat starts up, and yes only 1 a week has done it. Average 10,000 daily otherwise of D3.

  4. Rosemary LaFollette

    the fermented cold-pressed cod liver oil in combination with butter oil is very beneficial. The butter contains the Factor X that Dr. Weston A Price was in favor of.

  5. Susie Zahratka

    We add garlic to things and use it as a rub infused into coconut oil and olive oil when we are sick. Also make elderberry syrup with cloves, cinnamon, ginger. Take Epsom salt baths a couple times a week. Stay positive. Extra vitamin c when we feel like we are coming down with something or already sick. Massage with essential oil… It’s a full time job:)

  6. Oil pulling is really cool, I bought the book and am doing this. Swish 1-2 Tbsp in mouth for 15 minutes. Do NOT swallow, as the oil pulls out bacteria from your mouth as well as a lot of other garbage that could enter your bloodstream through the tender gums. Then spit out. Coconut oil seems to be the best. I know I did it a little and every last bit of gunk was gone and my husband did it and had the same experience (a lingering end of a cold)

    • autismhelper – I have done oil pulling in the past, but not consistently. I know it’s important to maintain this regularly in order to achieve positive results. Thank you for including a procedure for how to do this so that others may benefit!

  7. Truth

    Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms are also missing from this list.

    • Truth – I have not used Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms and therefore don’t have experience with those. It is not possible to list every type of natural remedy here, but I would be grateful if you would be willing to share your experience and ideas for using them.

  8. Lucy

    You suggest, “Avoid plastic containers, tap water, and bottled water.”

    What is left and what do you recommend? I grew up on well water in Pennsylvania, but this is not an option where I live in California.

    Thanks for the informative post.

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  11. nowtoolate

    I am 66 years old female. Where do I start? I read all this and I’m overwhelmed. I work full time, live alone and am about 15 or 20 lbs. overweight. I don’t take any vitamins at present. I am on Lipitor for high cholesterol even though I don’t eat fats. I sit all day at a computer on a full time office job. I don’t exercise because I am so tired when I get home at 5:30 or 6:00 pm daily. I want to lose 15 or 20 lbs and I want my health to be as good as you make all this sound. I didn’t know Lard was good for us. Help! Anyone out there my age reading this?

    • Kerry

      You should visit the Weston a price foundation website. Lots of great information there. It seems overwhelming, so the best thing to do is start in small stages. Switch out your hydrogenated oils (such as canola oil, etc) and replace with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and real butter. Then move on to something else. It’s a great start.. It’s never too late. Good luck.

    • nowtoolate, you should change your name to NOTtoolate! good luck :)

  12. Chris

    I developed some digestive issues during my last pregnancy- no longer can I tolerate dairy, beans or cruciferous vegetables. Can I take the digestive enzymes you mentioned while I am now nursing? Thanks.

  13. I found this very interesting I like all the information this site has to offer

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