During covid many clients asked about what they could do themselves to fortify their immune system as a self-protective measure.  And while some of my suggestions were specific to emotional issues they faced at the time such as fear, loneliness and sadness, my suggestions to boost immunity were mostly the same ones I’ve given every winter for over twenty years.

Preparing our immune systems to deal with winter ailments is vital. When your immunity is depleted your susceptibility to colds and flu increases, allowing infections to take hold more easily, or extending the time it takes to recover from them.

So, long before winter starts, we should be asking ourselves “am I well enough to weather winter?”  If we’ve been attending to our health and taken steps to boost our immunity through the autumn, we’re more likely to get through without falling victim to the usual gamut of coughs, colds and annual flu.



Put Your Best Immunity Foot Forward


Although we have a reasonably good idea of how to care for our immune system through winter many of us let that slide as the busy-ness of life takes precedence.  And I must confess that I have been guilty of this this winter with awful results.

Just like our muscles and our mind, our immune system gets stronger through being exercised just by coming into contact with germs – bacteria, virus and other pathogens. As we go about our day this contact helps to build our immune system to overcome winter ailments before they overwhelm us. But after being closeted in our homes for the best part of two years our immune system didn’t get the workout it needed so now we are paying the cost and we’re succumbing to these illnesses.

But if this sounds like you don’t despair, all is not lost!

While aspirin or other medications may make you feel better because you can forget your symptoms for a bit they only suppress the symptoms and don’t actually make you better any faster. For that you need to look at other options.

When my family catch the coughs, colds or the flu we immediately reach for the best selected Homeopathic remedy, because they are so effective against viral infection, unlike Antibiotics which we would not choose anyway.  (Also, I am a professional homeopath).  Homeopathic remedies are great as they reduce the unpleasant symptoms such as cough, aches and pains, fatigue or headache dramatically while they also quickly clear up the infection.  But to get the fast, complete relief and resolution the choice of remedy needs to be made individually.  This means the remedy that works for me may not be the same as the one you need.  If you’d like to go down this path head off to a Homeopath (not a Naturopath) or else look for a short course to earn how to prescribe homeopathic remedies for acute illnesses yourself.



Prevention Is Better Than Cure


While there are many great Homeopathic medicines and herbs that are awesome for the flu, it is much better not to catch the illness in the first place.

These simple lifestyle changes will help you avoid getting the Winter ailments by boosting your resistance with a stronger immune system.  Use them knowing they should keep you healthier, but they won’t be a 100% guarantee.  It is really important to follow precautionary steps if you have come into contact with someone who has flu or bronchitis.  But when these illnesses are doing the rounds, you can bet that you will have been in contact with sufferers, at work, the train, the shopping centre, at school, or anywhere you have been.



Get plenty of rest. Your immune system recharges itself while you are asleep. When you are overtired your system is not strong enough to fight off infection. Try for eight solid hours a night. And move your phone or other device AWAY from you while you sleep.  These better sleep strategies will help you nod off.



Drink plenty of water as it improves the function of every system in your body. Plus, it helps lubricate the mucous membranes of the throat.



Eat regular small meals.

Increase fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, preferably with organic ones if you can. Fresh organic produce in a rainbow of colours is packed with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are crucial for maintaining your immune health. Add spices such as turmeric, oregano, cinnamon and cloves which have high levels of antioxidants. Superfoods are especially high in these essential antioxidants and although many are exotic many others fall into the ‘everyday food’ category. Add a high-quality daily multivitamin to fill nutrient shortfalls.

Avoid dairy products if you get sick as they encourage the production of mucous.



Get regular exercise. Exercising for 30 minutes a day improves your immunity although it is not known exactly why. The exercise needs to be regular and consistent, running occasionally won’t do much to protect your health. However, it’s just as important not to overdo it, as too much exercise makes you more susceptible to infection.



Wash your hands often, especially before eating. You need to use warm water and soap and to really lather up. This is one of the best ways to avoid contracting a virus. Also, try not to touch your mouth, nose or eyes to prevent the virus entering your system. At least we all know this now, after covid.



Cut back on sugar and grains in your diet as they are both weaken your immune system.



And If You Think You’re Getting Sick…


At the very first indication you are coming down with a cough, cold or flu you need to take steps to fight it off effectively, because this is when the strategies work the best.  Don’t be half-hearted, you need to fight the virus off on all fronts and adopt every strategy you can – nutrition, sleep, exercise, supplements, calm, herbs.

Take time off to rest and recuperate. It is much better to rest for one day rather than getting sick for much longer simply because you pushed on when your body was telling you to slow down.




My Winter Ailment Arsenal

Living With The Seasons: Winter Health

These nutrients form the basis of my ‘Winter Ailment Arsenal’.  Begin taking the supplements in low doses from autumn right through winter for immune support and to help keep your mucous membranes healthy.  But these supplements are also useful in higher doses if you do get sick as they will reduce your symptoms and speed up recovery.

Your immune system needs lots of nutrient rich foods in your diet.  But the amount of nutrients that produce contains varies wildly.  Levels depend on the growing and storage conditions of each plant and so they may not be a reliable source on their own.  Unless your produce is absolute optimum quality you will probably need to supplement with these.


Vitamin D

Most importantly with this list is to get yourself on to Vitamin D.  It produces antimicrobial peptides in your body to kill viruses as well as bacteria and plays a huge role in your immunity.  Large numbers of the population are deficient in this crucial vitamin and because the source is sunlight their levels drop even further during the winter when sunlight is scarce or weak. Take 1000IU a day for a health maintenance dose to fight off winter ailments.  Increase that to 2000 IU if you do get sick.


Vitamin C

Adding a Vitamin C supplement during the cold and flu season provides your immune system with lots of extra power when it comes to warding off viral illness, as it acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body.  You can find it in many foods including citrus (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit) which are in season during winter.  Capsicum (red pepper), kiwi fruit and broccoli are excellent sources of this important vitamin.  Make certain your vitamin C supplement contains bioflavonoids which enhance absorption and the way your body uses the vitamin.  Take 1000mg a day for maintenance and increase that to 3000mg a day when you’re ill.


Beta Carotene (Vitamin A)

There’s a strong link between upper respiratory infections and Vitamin A, which also acts as an antioxidant. It reduces the severity of respiratory ailments and helps protect against them.  Food sources are orange and yellow foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin as well as broccoli and leafy green vegetables. Cod and halibut fish oils are great sources.



Strong immunity depends on good zinc levels as it has many roles in the immune system. But unfortunately, many people are deficient in this trace element as the body has no way to store it.  Zinc increases our production of infection fighting white blood cells and helps your immune system release more antibodies.  If your levels of zinc are low you will be far more susceptible to infection.  Levels of zinc in the body drop naturally as you age increasing the risk of infection.  Your natural health practitioner can quickly test your zinc levels for you.



Studies show that long term use of probiotics protects against catching cold and flu infections. Probiotics also speed up the healing process if you do get sick. The lactobacillus strain is the most effective.


Olive Leaf Extract

Olive leaf is a very effective at boosting the immune response and has been used traditionally to help the body resist infections. Use daily for both prevention and fighting illness.  Look for an organic product containing 100mg of oleuropein, the active component of olive leaf extract



Garlic has potent antibiotic and immune boosting properties, and it helps relieve mucous congestion.  Fresh garlic you need to know how to take it or it won’t work. Watch this video about how to take fresh ‘Garlic, Nature’s Antibiotic’ for illness.  Or find a supplement containing the equivalent of 3g of fresh garlic bulb.



Symptom Relief If You Do Still Get Sick


If in spite of taking preventative measures you are unfortunate and do catch a heavy cold or the flu, here are some more suggestions to help ease the symptoms.

  • Hot water bottles or heated heat packs are great for sore, chilly patients
  • Hot baths with Epsom salts help draw out inflammation and ease muscle pain.  Put 1-2 cups of salts into a warm bath and soak.
  • Gentle massage can help increase circulation
  • Vitamin C in a powdered form in juice or water is easier to swallow than tablets and will ease inflamed mucous membranes as it passes over them.
  • Chicken soup can be good as it helps replace electrolytes as well as having other healing properties
  • If you feel nausea ginger or chamomile tea may help
  • Honey is a traditional treatment for respiratory ailments and manuka honey is the one to use. Let it slide slowly down the throat to release its antibiotic properties. Or steep lemon (including the skin) and fresh ginger in boiling water before adding manuka honey for an excellent health-giving tea.
  • Steam inhalations can help break up respiratory mucous so it’s easier to expel.  Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of very hot water and cover your head with a towel as you breathe in the steam.



And remember…


Your immune system has just fought a battle and that has taken a toll on your body.  As you start feeling better you are more vulnerable than normal to lapsing back into your illness.  You need to take things easier for a while by cutting back your schedule and keeping your stress levels down.


Living With The Seasons: Winter Health