When it comes to immune support natural medicine really shines and gives you a host of things you can do to support yourself to get sick less often, or kick it quicker if you do come down with something. I’ve got my favorite supplements and my own immune regimen at the end of this post but of course lifestyle, nutrition and prevention are the name of the game when it comes to surviving virus season.
Edit March 23, 2020: please note that no natural treatments, vitamins or herbs at the time of this edit have been proven effective for treatment of COVD-19. Please refer to the CDC, WHO and your health care provider for treatment.
Interestingly, the 5 Habits from Hangry all promote a healthy immune response as well as helping those hormones. Win win!
Here’s my best immune boosting tips (supplement recs at the end with a FREE downloadable protocol for you to print out and have at the ready) tied into the Hangry Habits:
Take A #mantrawalk
Unless you’re really down with a virus or other infection and can’t get out of bed (which happens and it’s Ok to just rest!), walking even for 20-30 minutes can give you a boost in your immune system, specifically neutrophils and natural killer cells.
Five walks per week is the first habit and I supercharge this hormonal balancing/immune boosting movement by taking out my earbuds and instead of listening to a podcast, I use a mantra and hone my mindset.
You can walk along with me in my Instastories most days – join me! We’ll be happier and get sick less often, together.
In snowy or rainy weather another option is walking indoors in a mall, on a track or on a treadmill but whenever possible get outside because not only is that sunshine great to bolster vitamin D levels but this study showed that even independent of vitamin D, sunshine supports immune cells that are responsible for fighting infections. Basically sunshine helps these T cells (immune cells) get to the site of infection faster meaning you get better faster.
The third habit of the Hangry Five Habits is three strength training sessions per week, which may be too much for you when you’re sick so #beyourbestfriend and don’t push yourself in the gym and give yourself a chance to get well.
Vitamins D and A
Walks in the sunshine are not enough to keep vitamin D levels adequate for many of us due to increased demand, autoimmunity or common genetic issues in your vitamin D receptors that increase your need to supplement with vitamin D.
5000IU of vitamin D or more during illness is usually helpful but ideally you’ll be monitoring your vitamin D levels via blood testing (test is 25 OH vitamin D) to keep your levels adequate year round. I recommend 50-80ng/mL for most women. This is helpful for hormonal balance, mood as well as immune support.
Then there’s vitamin D’s buddy the scary vitamin A. Most fear of vitamin A is unwarranted, high doses long term are dangerous and high doses during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding are also dangerous, but for the rest of us we can lay this fear to rest when using vitamin A for a just couple of weeks.
High dose vitamin A is an amazing anti-viral and support to your immune system, but it may take 50,000-100,000IU per day for a week or so to get this effect. Again, this short term high dose is fine (again, barring no pregnancy or breastfeeding and not long term).
Another way to bolster these nutrients is to eat foods high in D, A and beta carotene including:
High Vitamin A Foods
- Cod Liver oil
- Organ meats such as liver
- Grass Fed butter or ghee
High Beta-Carotene Foods
All the orange colored fruits and veggies: carrots, sweet potato, orange and red bell peppers, cantaloupe, butternut squash, acorn squash and pumpkin.
High Vitamin D Foods
- Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon)
- Egg yolks
- Organ meats
I however have both beta carotene processing SNPs (I don’t easily convert beta carotene from supplements or food into vitamin A) and vitamin D receptor polymorphisms in my genetics so I do rely on supplements over food and sunshine in this case!
Wondering about how your genetics are affecting your immune system and health? Contact my office to learn more!
Clean Up Your Diet & Your Hands
Wash your hands frequently. This one we know, but I find myself forgetting to wash my hands after I’ve touched all the grubby dumbbells in the gym cuz I’m on to the next thing and rushing out the door. If you can’t get to a sink use alcohol based hand sanitizers vs. antibacterial ones which we are likely overdoing right now and contributing to more resistant bacteria – as well as having multiple hormone disrupting ingredients in them.
If alcohol dries your hands too much, Cleanwell brand makes a great alcohol free hand sanitizer gel that also does not include triclosan and benzalkonium chloride and there are 100s of DIY recipes online as well.
Watch your food sensitivities and aggravators, what we talk about in Hangry as foods that don’t work well for you. Sometimes we forget that eating foods that don’t work for us, while not a classical allergy mediated response (IgE), still is an immune response (typically IgG and IgA) and that puts a burden on our immune system making us more susceptible to catching viruses and bacteria or having a harder time getting over them.
In Hangry, we suggest you minimize foods that don’t work for you and boost foods that do. Which for most of us is a is phytonutrient and fiber rich veggies, high quality protein, healthy fats and other foods that work for you as often as you need to daily to keep your hormones happy.
When it comes to the Five Habits, the 4 meals per day is among the first habits we suggest you customize as you may need to eat more or less frequently than that. Balancing blood sugar with your meal timing and macronutrient content is vital for your hormones and inflammation which will both support a healthy immune system.
Hangry will teach you how to tweak carb intake and meal timing to heal your hormones. You can also check out this blog on finding your Unique Carb Tolerance.
As well we gotta watch the wine. Alcohol of all types will lower your immune system overall by depleting you of nutrients like zinc and B vitamins, putting a burden on your liver and lowering glutathione (a key antioxidant and vital balancing your immune system). You can support glutathione with this amazing product and also with NAC.
Wonder how else wine affects your health and hormones? Check out this post.
Hydrate & Rest
The Five Habits recommends at least 2 liters of water per day, you may have also heard to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day – or you may know that you feel best on say 3 liters of water. Do what works but be sure you do it!
Thanks to dry cold air as well as indoor heat, the winter months really dry out our mucous membranes. These membranes that line your nose, throat and lungs need to stay juicy and moist to make it harder for viruses to penetrate the barrier.
The last of the Five Pillars is a daily commitment to real self-care and when we’re under the weather that probably looks like more rest and giving yourself a break to not be able to get it all done when you’re sick.
Man, I still struggle with this one and fight the idea that I’m “lazy” when I’m resting. But allowing yourself to rest, recovery and recharge is an act of real self-care and getting adequate sleep when your immune system is burdened is vital for a quicker recovery.
Immune Supportive & Antimicrobial Regimen
Ok here are the products I personally take to fight these nasty winter bugs:
Full Spectrum Immune Support
This is my go to because it has a host of antiviral herbs such as elderberry, a full spectrum of medicinal mushrooms and beta-glucans, antiviral lauric acid and immune- boosting echinacea.
better+vitamin C this blend includes flavonoids that help vitamin C work better as it’s more like how vitamin C is found in food (think an orange vs. a vitamin C capsule has flavenoids with the vitamin C that function better together). I take 2 capsules daily on a regular basis but I up that to twice or even three times that when I’m sick.
Olive Leaf is a potent anti-viral and one of my faves. Take 500-1000mg per day.
Colloidal Silver. Holy smokes, this one was a game changer to add to my immune arsenal. Take as directed.
Propolis throat spray 1-2 sprays 3 times per day (I also use this when I get an exaggerated histamine response, i.e. if I overdo dairy or am under prolonged stress). Save 15% on your order using this link.
Cordyceps is a great immune supportive herb and you can get it easily in many immune blends but also you can sip this one as an elixir or part or your morning matcha or coffee.
Zinc 30mg is a typical dose but when fighting a virus you can use up to 30mg three times per day for up to 2 weeks (longer can create other mineral deficiencies such as copper).
Want all these products and doses in an easy printable guide? I got you. Download the Dr Brooke’s Immune Support Regimen and feel better!
Garlic is a great anti-microbial and you probably have it in your house! You can certainly buy it in supplements but you can also crush a clove and mix it with honey and take it down! It’s intense -too intense for some! See this post for a few easier and tastier recipes to get it down!
And of course one of the best medicines for colds and other viruses is prevention! If you feel like you’re getting sick too frequently, can’t kick it easily when you get sick OR if you never seem to get sick at all we should talk.
Frequent illnesses can certainly mean we need to deal with stress and your adrenals or some common nutrient deficiencies and less than 1-2 illnesses per year is a sign that your immune system isn’t working quite right and we may need to dig deeper into autoimmunity, chronic infection, gut health, etc.
For a few other old-school, immune supportive treatments you can do at home, see this post.