Top 10 ways to boost your immunity this cold and flu season

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Winter time is upon us. The days are short and cold, and we often find ourselves cooped up indoors. While being inside feels good on cold wintry days, the drying effects of heat and lack of sunlight can make us more prone to colds and other illness. I've compiled a list of 10 simple things you can do to help you stay healthy this year. You're welcome!  

As always, the basics are a great place to start:

  1. Get enough sleep. Read "How to fall asleep faster and sleep better tonight" for tips on how to sleep better.
  2. Eat nutrient dense foods. Read "Nutrient dense foods you should be eating" for tips on what to eat. 
  3. Reduce stress. Read "How stress affects your health, digestion and weight" for ways to reduce stress. 

If you want a comprehensive program to build your daily habits to incorporate all of the above, check out my e-course "Six Weeks to Abundant Energy".


Okay, on to the top 10 ways to boost your immunity!

1. Bone marrow: tastes great, super nutritious, and inexpensive. You can’t ask much more of a food than that. Bone marrow meets all these criteria, and it’s ridiculously easy to prepare too! Packed with omega-3 fatty acids (good for brain health as well as immune system function), Vitamin A, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, selenium, magnesium and many more essential nutrients, marrow is a nutritional powerhouse that is rich, decadent and luxurious. Try this 4-ingredient recipe next time you feel a little sluggish or like a cold is coming on:

Herb roasted bone marrow

Marrow bones from grass-fed, pasture-raised beef, 1-2 pieces per person

1/4 teaspoon (per marrow bone) Fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, chopped coarsely

Salt to taste

(Black pepper and chopped garlic are nice additions, but not necessary for a delicious treat)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place thawed bones in a baking dish. Sprinkle with herbs and salt (and pepper and garlic if using). Roast for about 15 minutes, until just done but before marrow starts to cook out of the bones.

Scoop out marrow with a spoon and serve hot with sautéed veggies and greens or put on crusty toasted bread. Or eat with a salad. Spicy arugula is a nice counterpoint to the rich marrow.  

Save any drippings and leftover marrow in an airtight container. Finely chopped marrow is a lovely addition to hot cooked veggies. And by all means save the bones when you are done for…

2. Bone Broth: Now that you’ve had some tasty marrow, toss the leftover bones in the crock pot, cover with water and a dash of apple cider vinegar (to help draw all the minerals out of the bones), and simmer for 24-48 hours.

Bone broth is a simple, delicious and highly nutritious, healing beverage. It’s loaded with collagen (good for skin, hair, bones, and joints), magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, sulfur, and potassium. Sulfur is important is helping your liver stay running in tip-top shape, which helps with your ongoing detoxification process in the body. It also contains glutamine, proline and glycine, important amino acids in healing the gut. Since 80% of your immune system is in your gut, a healthy gut is critical to staying free from colds and flu this season.

Other important components of broth are chondroitin and glucosamine, healing elements for joint health. These last two are popular as powdered supplements, which are not as easily absorbed or utilized in the body. Also, the full-spectrum components of bone broth help to support overall joint health, making the chondroitin and glucosamine more effective. Finally, extracting, drying and selling these 2 elements on their own is a more expensive way to consume them.

Other ideas to liven up your bone broth: add soup bones. You can roast the bones at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes before adding to the crock pot for more flavor. If you eat chicken, buying a whole chicken, roasting it and saving the skin and bones is a very economical way to get a delicious broth. Chicken stock can cook for a shorter time, 16-24 hours. Add chicken feet (loaded with collagen) for an extra-rich, tasty and healing broth. Try drinking a cup of hot bone broth every morning for a week to find out how great you will feel!

3. Gargle with apple cider vinegar (ACV). At the first sign of a cold or sore throat, start gargling with a 50/50 mix of water and ACV. Continue 3 times a day until your throat is better. Gargling with warm salt water will also soothe your throat, but ACV will greatly decrease the chance of getting sick, or shorten the time you are sick if you are already there.

4. Manuka honey with garlic, cayenne and turmeric. Garlic is unique due to its powerful ability to kill a wide array of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria and even fungus. It accomplishes this without harming gut bacteria. In fact, garlic is beneficial for intestinal health because it is a prebiotic food for the good bacteria residing in our intestines. It is a rich source of sulfur, which is good for the liver as mentioned above, but also has strong enough antibiotic properties to kill the superbug known as MRSA.

Cayenne contains high amounts of capsaicin, which is good for many ills. For sore throats, its ability to increase blood flow means more nutrients to the throat, and it speeds removal of toxins. Cayenne also promotes mucosal membrane health, important in resolving a sore throat.

Manuka Honey is the most powerful honey for resolving infections. Even the FDA recognizes the infection-fighting properties of Manuka honey. Be sure to use raw, unheated honey. Heat destroys the beneficial effects of honey.

To make: Crush 3 cloves garlic. Add ½ tsp cayenne and 2-3 tbls raw Manuka honey, or more to taste. The mixture should be comfortably warm on the throat, not painfully hot. Take ½ tsp of the mix every hour until you start to feel improvement. Then take every 2-3 hours for another day or two or until the condition is resolved.

5. Homemade Vitamin C powder made from lemon rinds. Many of us reach for Vitamin C when we feel that tell-tale tickle in the back of our throats. And that’s a great impulse. Now you can make your own Vitamin C powder, and avoid the synthetic stuff (often made from GMO corn!) that may have sugar or other unwanted ingredients in it. Citrus fruits are in season in fall and winter, and are packed with Vitamin C and natural flavonoids, which are both important for immune health. So eat your oranges and grapefruit, drink some homemade lemonade, and save the rinds for this super easy and super inexpensive DIY vitamin C supplement:

Organic citrus fruit is a must for this recipe. The rinds of non-organic fruit often have pesticide and herbicide residue on it, which will NOT help your immune system. Wash your organic citrus fruit thoroughly, peel (leaving the white pith adds more nutrients), cut rind into strips, and dry on a dehydrator or in an oven on the lowest temp until completely dry and a little crispy. If the rinds get to above 125 degrees the vitamin C and enzymes will be lost, so be sure to dry them at a low temp. When done, pulverize in a vitamix or herb/coffee grinder. Add the powder to a glass of water (this is not the tastiest way but certainly the simplest delivery system) or to a teaspoon of honey. Take 2-3 tsps per day if you feel a cold starting, or just as an immune system boost if you are feeling run down. It’s great mixed in yogurt. My kids love a “pink drink” made from a ½ teaspoon of powder, a cup of plain yogurt or kefir, a little raw honey and frozen berries (the berries are the “pink” part of the drink). Lots of good probiotics from the yogurt and extra vitamin C from the berries helps boost the effectiveness of the powder.

6. Sleep. Check the link at the beginning of this post for tips on how to get enough sleep. Here’s a great nighttime drink that will help you relax and give you a shot of turmeric for an extra immune boost.

Turmeric Golden Milk

First make a turmeric paste by combining ½ cup of water and ¼ cup powdered turmeric. Stir over gentle heat 7-10 minutes until a thick paste forms. Store in the fridge in a glass jar for up to 2 weeks.

To make the milk, combine:

2 cups coconut milk

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp coconut oil

1 tsp – 1 tbsp turmeric paste, depending on your taste

1 tsp chopped ginger

2-4 peppercorns (pepper helps “activate” the turmeric and make it more effective)

Whisk ingredients together, simmer 10 minutes, strain and add a sweetener of your choice. A touch of honey, coconut sugar or Sucanat are great choices. Drink before bed and enjoy a great night’s sleep!

7. Exercise. We all know exercise is good for us. But why? Whether it’s a brisk walk, a yoga session, dancing, hiking, biking, gardening, whatever your favorite form of exercise, it’s good for you. There are many reasons staying active during the winter helps your immunity:

*Physical activity leads to increased respiration, which may in turn help flush toxins, bacteria and viruses out of your lungs and sinuses before they get a chance to “take hold”.

*Exercise causes changes in your antibodies and White Blood Cell (WBC) counts. The antibodies and WBCs are your body’s first line of defense against illness-causing invaders, and exercise may increase their amount and cause them to circulate more rapidly through the body. This may allow them to detect illness earlier and potentially prevent infection.

*The rise in body temperature from exercise, both during and after a session, although brief, may prevent bacteria from growing. This is similar to what happens when you have a fever.

*Exercise slows the release of stress hormones, and increases the production of endorphins, (“feel-good” hormones), both of which help the immune system do its job better.

So get out and keep moving this winter. Or stay inside, put on your favorite music, and dance like no one is watching! Whatever it is, keep moving and keep your immune system humming.

8. Neti pot. Nasal and sinus irrigation with salt water is a great way to keep bacteria and viruses from getting a toe-hold in your system. The salt water helps to thin mucus and keep it flowing freely, which helps flush out the bacteria and other unwanted visitors. It’s an inexpensive investment that can help keep you healthy this year. Simply buy a Neti pot for under $20, and all it takes is a ¼ teaspoon of salt and some water to keep your sinuses happy and healthy. Follow the directions that come with the Neti pot to get started. You can add 2 - 4 drops of Grapefruit seed extract for an extra kick-in-the-pants to any germs trying to start a party in your sinuses. 

9. Wash your hands frequently, with plain ol’ soap and water. Nothing fancy here. Just good hygiene. It works to keep you from getting sick, and if you are sick it stops the spread of germs to others.

10. Hydrate. We’ve all heard it when we are feeling sick: “Stay hydrated!” And for good reason. Your body needs extra hydration when fighting an infection. But what should you drink? Warm beverages like decaf tea, lemon and water, or bone broth (see #2) all help loosen up stuffiness and congestion so you can breathe easier and get the mucus out.
*Avoid caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee, and energy drinks as the caffeine can be dehydrating. Also sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, and most fruit juices suppress your immune system. Ginger ale may be a standard when we are sick, but a better choice is ginger tea with honey and lemon for a throat-soothing, immune-supporting, tummy-calming beverage.

There you have it. If you want all the recipes mentioned in this post in one place to print and use, I've put that together for you HERE. Stay healthy!