From kids going back to school to you spending more hours at the office, winter brings seemingly unending viruses. Luckily, there are things you can do at home to help boost your immune system so you can avoid getting sick or, if you can’t avoid it, to get better faster.
Don’t get the flu shot
Whether you’re pro vaccine, anti-vaccine, or somewhere in the middle, the evidence overwhelmingly shows you are better off avoiding the flu vaccine. Why? Well, firstly because it doesn’t work. A Lancet review shows the flu vaccine prevents the flu in only 1.5 out of every 100 adults who get the vaccine. In other words, over 97% of people who receive the vaccine get no protective benefit from it at all.
Some may argue that if there’s no harm in getting the vaccine then it’s better to get it, even if it doesn’t work that well. The problem is it’s not harmless. The flu shot actually causes illness. Study after study shows that those who receive the flu vaccine are much more likely to get sick.
Much anecdotal evidence has suggested that getting the flu shot causes you to get the flu. However, it’s not quite that simple. The flu vaccine doesn’t cause the flu itself, but it can cause your immune system to be suppressed. That means you are more likely to catch the flu or one of the hundreds of flu-like illnesses (none of which you’re protected against with the flu shot).
Boost the immune system naturally
A much better approach to staying well during flu season is to take care of yourself and support your immune system. Here are some things that can improve your overall health and support your body’s natural ability to fight off bugs.
Nutrient-dense and toxin-free diet
By giving your body the nutrients it needs to keep the immune system working well, you are less likely to get sick. Some of the things you should include in your diet are healthy pastured meats (including organ meats), fresh fruits and veggies, and healthy fats like coconut oil and pastured butter. Avoid highly processed packaged food and high sugar foods which are hard on your body and may cause your immune system to suffer.
Get enough vitamin C
Though vitamin C is best known as an antioxidant, it is also incredibly important for immune function. Vitamin C has been shown to decrease cold and flu symptoms by 85%.
There’s a reason people eat chicken soup when they’re sick. Homemade bone broth is full of healthy fats and easy-to-digest protein. It’s also rich in nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, and trace minerals that boost the immune system. The gelatin in bone broth can also help relieve digestive distress.
Vitamin D has been shown to have a significant effect on our immune systems. It helps the body produce antimicrobial peptides to fight off infection. A Japanese study found that supplemental Vitamin D worked better than the flu shot at preventing flu. For many of us though, getting enough vitamin D from the sun is hard or impossible in the winter. Cod liver oil is a great way to get vitamin D and A in an absorbable form since it’s derived from a natural source.
Seventy to 80% of our immune system is in our gut. When the gut microbiome is out of balance we are much more likely to get sick. Adding a daily probiotic can help rebuild the good bacteria in the gut which will help your body fend off invaders. Fermented foods are a great way to add a variety of good bacteria to the gut, but supplements work well too.
Sleep is incredibly important in helping the immune system function optimally. When we don’t get enough sleep our bodies become inflamed and our immune system becomes suppressed. Both prime the body for sickness.
Studies show that exercise (but only moderate exercise) can help reduce illness. The emphasis on moderate exercise is important because this study found that those exercising more were actually more likely to get sick than the sedentary group while the moderate exercisers were least likely to get sick.
Our modern world is so fast paced; many of us don’t relax enough. It turns out though, that relaxation is essential for immune function. A review of 20 studies found that mindfulness meditation had a positive effect on immune system function. Meditation reduced markers of inflammation and increased cell-mediated immunity. More research is needed in this area, but meditation is 100% safe so there’s no harm in trying it.
Natural remedies for flu symptoms
The great thing about natural remedies is that they can both ward off illness and also fight symptoms if you do end up catching something.
Homemade elderberry syrup is a centuries old folk remedy that has been shown in studies to treat flu symptoms. Elderberries contain vitamins A and C, antioxidants, and tannins which boost the immune system. Though you can buy elderberry syrup at the store, it’s simple and inexpensive to make at home. Take a tablespoon (1 tsp. for kids) each day as a preventative and every 3-4 hours while fighting flu.
This folk remedy is said to date back to the time of the Plague. It’s basically apple cider vinegar spiced with hot peppers, garlic, onion, citrus fruit and some raw honey. You can also buy this remedy or make it at home. Take a shot each day or every 3-4 hours while fighting flu.
Though not a preventative, homeopathic medicine is safe and effective for treating colds and flu. During the Spanish Flu of 1918 about 30% of people treated conventionally died from the flu. It’s important to note that this pandemic occurred before the flu was discovered and the treatment was basically just aspirin, which explains part of the high mortality rate. However, of those that were treated with homeopathic remedies, only about 1% died.
Homeopathy works by treating your specific symptoms (which happen to be your weaknesses) and helps your body to be an optimal bug fighting machine. Therefore, it’s best to work with a homeopathic medicine professional to get the right treatment for you.
No one wants to get the flu. Luckily there are natural ways to stay healthy and get well during the peak flu season that are easy to do at home. Avoiding the flu shot and boosting your immune system with a healthy lifestyle is a good starting point. Add in natural remedies to avoid getting sick and to treat symptoms if they do appear, and you have a natural wellness arsenal.