How Do You “Boost” Your Immune System?

Have many times have you been told to “boost your immune system” during flu and cold season? But what does that actually mean? Does a boost to your immune system mean something you can buy over the counter? A booster shot? A booster seat?

Jaysun / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Ok, while that last suggestion is just me being silly, there is confusion about how to effectively support your immune system during cold and flu season.  And yes, there are tons of immune supportive products you can buy over the counter, but there are some easier changes you can make that won’t cost a penny, except the time and willpower it takes to do them.

Stop the Sugar

Study after study has shown that sugar will actually lower your immune system’s ability to fight infection. So while sugar might seem like just the sort of comfort food you need during the cold/flu season, laying off the sugar may help your body fight off any infectious agents you could be exposed to.

If you need more support to avoid sugar, herbs can provide wonderful support. Placing a few drops of Gymnema sylvestre on your tongue and swishing the liquid around in your mouth for 30 seconds will selectively inactivate sweet taste buds for a few hours.  This means eating anything sugary will taste terrible and allows you to let any sugar cravings pass.

Sleep It Off

I’m sure we all inherently know that sleep is good for us. I mean, just forgo sleep for one night and tell me how amazing you feel.  That’s because sleep is important for so many processes in your body. Sleep is prime healing time so setting aside the time to ensure you get an extra few hours of shut-eye can make a huge difference when it comes to proper immune function.  Even scheduling a 15 minute nap during the day can provide your immune system with the extra support it needs.


Your body is approximately 70% water. Therefore, hydration is key to optimal functioning. Take a moment to check-in and, not only acknowledge your thirst, but do something about it. And keeping the first point in mind, perhaps quenching your thirst with a liquid other than sugary drinks.  If plain water doesn’t appeal to you, adding lemon, mint, cucumber, strawberries, or even rosemary, can greatly change the flavor without adding extra sugar.

Manage the Stress

While bouts of acute stress can actually help your immune system, long-term chronic stress can depress your immune system, leading to more infections. Starting a daily meditation practice, even just 5 minutes a day, can create a deeper and longer-lasting sense of calm to help you deal with stressful situations. And just like it would take a month or two to notice changes from working out regularly, think of meditation like an exercise that takes time to start to see significant changes.  YouTube has tons of great guided meditations if you feel you need extra help getting started but there’s really no wrong way to meditate.

While this list is not exhaustive, your naturopathic doctor can offer more tailored suggestions to boost your immune system or come up with a plan to help you implement these tips. When it comes to healthy immune function, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…or rather, a pound of snot from having a cold. What do you do to “boost your immune system”?

Stay radiant,
Dr. Russell

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