There are so many ways to support the immune system, and given our current state of affiars, I thought it would be helpful to put some of my top tips in one spot for you.
It’s good to keep in mind that there’s not a magic bullet when it comes to supporting the immune system. And, while we can take various supplements, if we’re not practicing the fundamentals of healthy living, the potential for getting sick can increase.
So, many of the ideas listed are habits you can incorporate on a daily basis to support your immune system throughout the year.
Here are 20 ways to help support your immune system:
1. Get out in the sunshine daily – Sunshine not only helps the body produce Vitamin D, but it also helps regulate our circadian rhythm and calms the nervous system which helps keep the immune system strong.
2. Reduce your stress – When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced which makes us more susceptible to infections. Anything you can do to reduce stress and relax the body can be helpful to support the immune system.
3. Exercise, but not too much – Daily exercise relieves stress and increases the circulation of the lymphatic system which assists the body in the rapid elimination of toxins, including viruses and bacteria.
It’s also good to know that if you aren’t feeling well, the risk of suppressing the immune system goes up the harder you train. Dr. Ben Lynch does a great job explaining this concept in this video.
4. Make sleep a priority – The body needs sleep in order to rest, restore, heal, repair and detoxify and is very important for the health of the immune system.
If you’re struggling with insomnia, click here to read my tips for how to help with this issue.
5. Do a castor oil pack – A study in the Journal of Naturopathic Medicine found that castor oil applied topically was found to enhance immunologic function. Castor oil packs are easy to do and can be used for both adults and children.
6. Drink 1-2 cups of bone broth or meat stock daily – Homemade chicken stock contains a wealth of nutrients, helps strengthen the immune system and is also known for its antiviral properties. I recommend drinking a cup or two each day along with some Celtic sea salt (the unrefined salt contains extra minerals). If you prefer not to drink it from a cup, make a big pot of soup and serve some alongside meals.
7. Reduce your sugar intake – Sugar can cause inflammation and also weaken the immune system. Keep the desserts at a minimum. Choose whole fruits over sugar-laden sweets.
8. Stay hydrated – Water is the most important “nutrient” in the body because it helps transport other nutrients and hormones into the cells, regulates body temperature, improves oxygen delivery to the cells, etc. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. So, a person weighting 150 pounds should drink at least 75 ounces of water each day. Keep in mind that alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeine-containing beverages don’t count as water.
9. Remove processed foods from your diet – Processed foods weaken the immune system, so it’s best to stick with real foods.
Here’s a quick list of nutrient-dense real foods:
Fruits and Vegetables
Grains (if you can tolerate grains)
Pastured, organic meats
Wild seafood and sea vegetables
Healthy fats like butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, and tallow
Raw and/or cultured dairy such as yogurt, kefir, sour cream, and raw milk
Natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup
Homemade bone broth or meat stock
10. Eat probiotic-rich foods at each meal – Over 85% of the immune system is in the gut, so it’s important to keep the gut healthy. One way to do this is by consuming probiotic-rich foods. These foods include: traditionally-prepared sauerkraut, cultured yogurt, kombucha, and fermented vegetables. You can also purchase probiotics to take with a good diet. Some of my favorites are JustThrive, and BioKult.
11. Cook with healthy saturated fats – Unprocessed, saturated fats are essential for energy, hormone production, a healthy immune system, and many other important functions. These fats include: organic butter (butter can help strengthen the immune system, suppresses inflammation, and is a great source of iodine), coconut oil (contains antiviral and antimicrobial properties which are great for keeping the immune system strong), ghee, grass-fed lard or tallow, palm oil (I purchase from companies that buy from sustainable farms), and duck fat.
12. Drink filtered water – Remember – the center of the immune system lies in the gut, so you need to keep it as healthy as possible to keep your immune system strong. Chlorine is a disinfectant that kills bacteria and is added to most drinking water. It can damage the good bacteria in your gut, making you more susceptible to inflammation, allergies, autoimmune disease, etc.
There are several different options for at-home filtration including: a countertop water filter like a Berkey, an under-the-sink reverse osmosis system, or a whole house water filtration system.
13. Take an epsom salt bath – When we are stressed (being sick is a stressor for the body), the first mineral the body burns through is magnesium. So replenishing the body with magnesium and sulfate via an epsom salt bath can be very helpful. It also has the added benefit of forcing you to slow down and relax.
All you need to do is add 1-2 cups of epsom salts to a warm bath and soak for at least 20 minutes. I also like to add a drop or two of essential oils such as lavender, roman chamomile or forgive to help relax the body.
14. Eat Vitamin A rich foods – Vitamin A (aka retinol) plays a vital role in immunity, so it’s a great nutrient to consume on a daily basis. Foods such as: organic eggs, cultured dairy, pastured meats, wild seafood, and butter are all good options.
15. Go outside and get fresh air daily – Fresh air can reduce the stress response in the body and support the immune system.
16. Turn off the wifi in your home when you’re sleeping and do what you can to reduce your exposure to EMFs – While it’s impossible these days to completely get away from man-made EMFs, taking steps to turn off your wifi, not sleep near your router, and reduce your time on electronics can be helpful.
EMFs disturb immune system function through stimulation of various allergic and inflammatory responses. For more info about the effects of EMFs on the body, click here to read peer-reviewed studies.
17. Eat cooked leafy greens – leafy greens such as kale, chard, and collards are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are all supportive of the immune system.
18. View the morning and evening sunlight for 2-10 minutes – I highly recommend watching some of Dr. Huberman’s videos on this topic. He is a professor of neuroscience at Stanford University School of Medicine and they have found that just doing something as simple as viewing the morning and evening sunlight for just a few minutes each day helps keep the body healthy.
19. Walk outside barefoot daily (aka grounding) – Grounding can support our overall health, and the best part is that it’s free!
20. Eat cholesterol-rich foods – Cholesterol is an essential for our immune system to function and can help protect against infections. Food such as caviar, shellfish, organ meats, cod liver oil, egg yolks, butter, ghee, and sardines are all great options.
Supplementation can also be a helpful tool alongside a nutrient-dense diet, sleep, stress reduction etc. You can click here to read over my list of favorite vitamins and supplements for optimal health.
Note: The purpose of this post is to give an overview of some ways to support the immune system from a holistic perspective. This information is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s advice.