With the rise in the novel COVID-19 viral infection, there is no better time than now to take the health of your immune system seriously. While the novel coronavirus is thought to be serious in elderly populations, or those with preexisting health conditions, the state of our overall well being and other risk factors may actually be a cause of lower immunity.
Here are just a handful of other factors that can affect how strong your immune system is:
- Imbalanced gut bacteria—aka dysbiosis
- Leaky gut
- Consuming a diet that’s high in sugar and processed foods
- Taking certain medications such as immunosuppressants, which include corticosteroids like prednisone and hydrocortisone
- Autoimmune diseases
- Chronic Epstein-Barr virus
- Chronic stress
- Nutrient deficiencies
As you can see, various health conditions (or even medications) have the potential to cause our immune system not to function as optimally as we may like.
And, even if you are in tip-top shape with no preexisting health conditions, it doesn’t make you totally immune to illness. Taking steps to safeguard your health right now is the perfect way to keep your immune system working at its best when you need it to the most.
Below, I share my top 10 proven ways to boost immunity naturally. These are all researched-backed suggestions. So I encourage you to find where they can fit into your current lifestyle or supplement routine to support your health now and for the long term.
10 Proven Ways To Boost Immunity Naturally
#1: ALKALINE FOODS AND DRINKS INHIBIT VIRAL REPLICATION
Nutrition goes a long way in supporting overall health and supporting a robust immune system.
An alkaline diet and detoxing drinks are always a good idea, but if you’ve been thinking about ways to ramp up your diet for a stronger immune system, now is the time.
Cilantro: Certain foods like cilantro have been shown to hold powerful alkaline and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have been shown to boost immune response, giving us another reason to include this potent herb in our diet.
Broccoli sprouts: Recent findings suggest that broccoli sprouts may actually boost the body’s antiviral defense response when presented with viral infections like the flu. This specific study concluded that further investigation is needed, but that it helps us better understand how natural supplementation may help the body fight off viral infections.
Green Drinks: In our Five-Day Detox Guide Freebie, I share the following detox drink that also serves as one of the best drinks to boost immune system!
Cilantro Lime Drink Recipe
- Add 12 oz. of purified, cool water to your blender.
- Squeeze in one whole, washed lime or small lemon with a citrus juicer. (Or use ⅕ of your pre-squeeze mixture. See tip below.)
- Add one generous handful of organic, washed broccoli sprouts.
- Add one medium handful of organic, washed cilantro. (Trim off thick bottom stems of cilantro- retain upper stems.)
- Add one teaspoon of local honey.
- Blend thoroughly.
- Strain, pour and drink within 15 minutes.
#2: ESSENTIAL OILS HELP CLEAN YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Essential oils are a wonderful complementary tool to use all year long, but specific oils can be especially helpful when you are trying to bolster your immune system a bit.
And, while I wouldn’t suggest internal use unless you are truly sick (and only with a quality therapeutic-grade oil, like those from dōTerra), they can be great for diffusing in your home and keeping your household as clean as possible.
HOW DO ESSENTIAL OILS SUPPORT A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM?
The immune benefits of essential oils tie back to their cytotoxic effects, which can cause cell membrane damage in a cell that may be infected. And, since essential oils compounds are lipophilic (meaning that they dissolve in fats), they are able to pass through the cell wall. These oils can then cause disruption to the fatty acid or phospholipid layers in the cells, affecting them at a cellular level.
What that being said, I have a handful of oils that I rely on for immune support, that have been research-backed and shown to fight off infection or boost the immune system.
Eucalyptus has been studied and shown to have antiviral activity. Blends of oils, like the dōTerra immune support oil, OnGuard, is a blend of rosemary, orange, clove, and cinnamon and has also been studied and shown to fight against H1N1. This shows us that blends of essential oils, and not just relying on one, may serve as a valuable antiviral tool to have at home.
Some of my other go-to essential oils for immune support include:
- Tea Tree
- Star Anise
WHAT ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS & ESSENTIAL OILS?
There aren’t any studies out that have looked at how a specific oil would work against this virus. However, Sage (also referred to as Salvia officinalis) has had some studies that show it may have some potential benefit against SARS-CoV. This is an infection similar to the novel coronavirus we are currently seeing.
The study showed that Sage essential oil was active against the SARS-CoV virus from the patient’s sputum.
While, of course, we can’t make any claims that sage essential oils are going to be as effective as it was in this study, or that it will work the same way against this strain of coronavirus, it’s just another oil to consider.
You can try diffusing this in your home, combined with other potent immune boosting essential oils, and you can even add some sage to your cooking for an added flavor and potential immune boost!
#3: PARTIAL FASTING
Fasting, and particularly intermittent fasting, are in the spotlight now, and for good reason. (Partial fasting means you fast during certain times of the day only, such as 16:8 fasting, where you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour window.) The benefits come in all different forms, from increased energy to supporting cellular repair. While we fast, we give our body the time to eliminate free radicals and get rid of cells in the immune system that may be damaged or need regeneration.
So, if you’re up for it, and you don’t have any medical reason not to, trying intermittent fasting may be a great way to give your system a bit of a re-boost. Just be sure to stay adequately hydrated during the fasting hours!
#4: SAUNA THERAPY
Sauna therapy is another great tool to use to boost immunity naturally. A study found that a single sauna session was able to increase the number of immune cells, including white blood cells, lymphocytes, neutrophils, and basophils.
Sauna therapy also helps with detox, another key part of supporting a healthy immune system.
If you are interested in using sauna therapy during this time of much-needed immune-boosting, you can read more about how to get started here.
#5: CASTOR OIL PACKS
Castor oil packs are commonly used to help support the liver, another key player in making sure your immune system is operating at its highest level. The liver is responsible for producing acute immune antibodies, clearing waste particles, killing antigen particles, and producing local inflammation (an important part of the immune response).
They may also help boost your immune system by increasing lymphocyte production and T-cell lymphocyte activity throughout the body, helping the body produce more antibodies and killing off viruses and other infections that you may come in contact with.
You can read more about how to make your own castor oil packs here.
#6: AVOID SUGAR
As mentioned above, proper nutrition is a key player in a strong and healthy body. And, unfortunately, the foods seen in the Standard American Diet are often packed full of sugar and artificial ingredients. Processed dietary choices have been shown to impact our microbiome and gut health (where 70-80% of our immune system lives). The overconsumption of these inflammatory foods has been linked to an increase in immune-modulated diseases, as well as reduced control over infection.
Not only during this pandemic but for the long run, consider avoiding sugar.
#7: EAT SUPERFOODS
While we’re on the topic of nutrition, let’s talk about all the amazing and delicious immune-boosting foods you CAN enjoy!
Here’s how to boost immunity with some of my favorite superfoods to keep on hand, especially during cold and flu season.
- Garlic (potent immune-booster, particularly if chewed raw)
- Tulsi tea (Holy Basil)
- Coconut oil
- Star anise
- Berries (blueberries, strawberries)
- Citrus fruits
- Olive oil
- St. John’s Wort
- Green tea (contains catechins, which are flavonoids, thought to help when there is an active infection, and also in the prevention of infection)
#8: NASAL WASH
Wondering if there are ways to boost immunity in a pinch? Using a nasal wash is a very quick, but effective way to give yourself a little boost. You can try using a Neti Pot, Neil Med Wash, or our ACS Silver Nasal Spray as a way to prevent or aid in the treatment of viral infections.
#9: DRY BRUSHING
Here’s another quick hack for you. Dry brushing can be done each morning (or whatever time works best for you) to help boost lymph movement. Drush brushing can help transport important lymph fluid, rich in lymphocytes to the rest of the body.
The lymph nodes that are responsible for the creation as well as the storage of the lymph are just beneath the surface of your skin, which is why dry brushing can be such an effective tool. Running a dry brush over your skin may be what you need to flood your body with that lymph fluid, packed with important immune cells to keep infection at bay.
We carry an amazing US-made dry brush set here.
#10: LYMPHATIC MASSAGE
Speaking of the lymphatic system, lymphatic massage can also be beneficial for immune-boosting.
Lymph massage, like dry brushing, can help get the lymph fluid moving through the body, which is especially important when there is lymph congestion present. With poor lymph circulation comes a weakened immune system, making it even more important to support the lymphatic system.
Lymphatic drainage massage is done by a qualified professional and is done as a way to help boost lymphatic drainage if there is an area with poor circulation and to get that lymph fluid that’s so rich in immune cells moving more freely.
If you need a quick and easy way to do your own lymph massage, rely on dry brushing until you can get into a qualified professional who can combine lymph massage with other therapeutic support.
With the confirmed cases of coronavirus rising each day, all of us are eager to find ways to give our immune system a boost. Start now by implementing these natural immune-boosting lifestyle hacks into your daily routine, try diffusing essential oils for immunity, and focus on clean eating, with the foods the immune system relies on the most.
Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDNP, is trained in functional health coaching and has worked with thousands of women over her career since 2004. She is the founder of Women’s Wellness Collaborative LLC and HormoneDetoxShop.com.