6 Dietitian-Approved Ways to Naturally Boost Your Immune System
This post is sponsored by New Chapter, maker of whole-food vitamins & supplements. All opinions are my own.
It’s winter, and cold are coming in . . . hot. As every mother ever likes to say, “Let’s go ahead and nip that in the bud, honey.”
So before you resign yourself to sick-sniffling through an entire series on Netflix or spending your beloved Christmas money on that expensive “miracle” cure you saw on Instagram, I have a better idea.
Pair your flu shot, hand-washing, and healthy lifestyle with these six research-backed immunity boosters.
Your gut houses ~70% of your immune system. So, no shocker here. Your gut bacteria have significant influence on your immune system. Just like foreign bad bacteria can make us sick, our own good bacteria can help keep us healthy.
Recent studies have continued to suggest that strengthening our little bacteria armies with probiotics (aka good bacteria) may boost gut and blood immunity to help keep away nasty respiratory infections. According to a systematic review from the British Journal of Nutrition, certain probiotics strains, specifically Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, were found to shorten the duration of respiratory infections in children and adults.
Not all probiotic supplements are created equal, so be sure to check the bottle for the specific strains and amounts included. Some supplements try to deliver as many probiotics as possible, and more doesn’t necessarily equal better. So, it’s important to choose a quality supplement.
My go-to supplement is New Chapter’s Probiotic All-Flora, because it contains clinically studied and DNA tested strains in the amounts you need to make a difference you can actually feel. It delivers 5 billion CFUs (colony forming units) each of beneficial bacteria and yeast. Plus, it’s got prebiotics too, which act as fuel for the probiotics so they can do their job.
Additionally, you can find natural probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
2) Chicken Soup
It turns out chicken soup isn’t just good for the soul. It’s great for a cold, too. One in-vitro study suggested that chicken soup may contain a number of substances with medicinal properties and anti-inflammatory effects, which could possibly ease symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Although there are no human studies to support this, it’s worth giving it a shot.
Between liquid for hydration, vegetables for vitamins and anti-inflammatory effects, and the heat of the broth to help loosen mucus for better breathing and less coughing, chicken noodle soup has a lot to offer.
I typically recommend homemade over canned when possible, so you can pack in extra veggies and even some ginger and other spices/herbs for a larger immune boost. Try this delicious That Chicken Zoodle Soup from the blog – it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, Whole30 compliant, packed with vitamin C and fresh ginger (other immune boosters), and ready in under 20 minutes!
In syrup, pill, or powder form, this tough berry is all the rage right now. Many people believe it can help fortify the immune system. And they’re not wrong. The research seems to agree that elderberry can support your body’s natural immune defenses.
One 2016 study found that travelers taking elderberry extract reported shorter colds and milder symptoms than those taking a placebo. (Umm, yes please.) A recent meta-analysis backed these findings and found that elderberry syrup substantially reduces both symptom severity and symptom duration for colds and flu.
Where does elderberry get its impressive cold-fighting powers from? It’s thought that phytochemicals found in elderberry can help strengthen the immune system, arming it for action.
Two other studies on elderberry extract in lozenge-form drummed up similar results. Elderberry is potentially the proud owner of antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, so we wouldn’t be too surprised to see it come through for you.
If you want some extra support during the changing seasons, New Chapter Vitamins has got you covered with a full line of elderberry products in syrup, capsule, and powder form. Their highly concentrated (64x concentrated) Elderberry Syrup Advanced Immune Defense is a perfect immune system booster through the winter season or at the first sign of an immune challenge, is naturally sweetened with throat-soothing honey, and perfect for adults and kids 4+!
Well, we know that movement is crucial for the heart, lungs, and muscles. But did you know exercise may actually boost your immune system, too? While it may not do much to kick your current cold, it can definitely improve your immune competency in the long run.
One study found that just 30 minutes of brisk walking temporarily increased circulating levels of immune system protectors, like white blood cells. A separate, small review of four studies regarding exercise and the common cold revealed that those participating in regular, moderate-intensity exercise experienced less sick days and lower risk of getting a cold than their less active counterparts.
Again, even if it does nothing to improve your current cold, the health benefits of exercise are well worth the effort. Just try not to overdo it. 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week is likely enough to optimize immune function. Frequently engaging in intense/rigorous exercise could yield the opposite and elicit a stress response. And we know we don’t want that (read more about stress and it’s effect on hormones and weight here).
5) Vitamin D
Of all our immunity boosting tips, Vitamin D is definitely the most scientifically-supported. It’s the real MVP.
Daily supplementation of Vitamin D resulted in reduced respiratory infection risk for participants of 25 different studies, whether or not they were deficient in the vitamin from the start. For those who were deficient, daily supplementation cut their risk of upper respiratory infection in half.
Lucky for your wallet, extra large doses did not help. Consistent, small doses of Vitamin D as a daily supplement will be your best bet.
Though only supplements were reviewed, Vitamin D can also be found in food sources like fatty fish, dairy, eggs, and fortified orange juice. Also: the sun. Sun exposure is best source of vitamin D because when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol.
If you dream of the sun more than you actually see it, a supplement might be your best bet. Look no further than New Chapter’s new Fermented Vitamin D3 supplement, which includes fermented whole turmeric & adaptogenic reishi mushroom for superfood support.
6) Vitamin C
This one likely comes as no surprise, vitamin C has long been touted as a cold remedy. Vitamin C acts as a potent antioxidant and several cells of the immune system need it to perform their tasks.
Supplementing with vitamin C may not reduce your risk of catching a cold, but it could speed up your recovery and reduce the severity of your symptoms. Research has shown that ≥200 mg significantly reduced the duration of common cold symptoms: in children, the effect was reduced by ~14% and in adults, it was reduced by nearly 8%.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning it can’t be produced by the body. Luckily, many fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C. Citrus fruits, like oranges, are well known for being high in vitamin C, but some vegetables are even more potent. In fact, a cup of chopped red bell pepper contains nearly three times more vitamin C than an orange.
If you’re looking for a quality Vitamin C supplement, New Chapter’s new Fermented Vitamin C includes 250 mg vitamin C plus elderberry extract for enhanced immune support.
As always, there is no one superfood that will keep you immune from a cold or flu for good. It’s the sum of all the parts to keep you on the road to healthy. And even then, a little bout of sniffles and sneezes is pretty normal. To minimize sick days and do your darndest to keep those colds away, try throwing in a few of our tips. Don’t forget to tell us how it goes by leaving a comment below!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease