Supercharge Your Immune System

February 27, 2015 Updated: February 26, 2015

Your immune system does a remarkable job of defending your body against disease-causing microorganisms. But, for a multitude of reasons, it can still fail to fight off bacteria and viruses when it’s weak.

The best way to keep your immune system strong is to follow a healthful lifestyle. Here are some simple things you can do to get on the right track:

1. Eliminate sugar, as well as processed and refined foods.

2. Eat a diet high in healthful protein, vegetables, fats, and low-sugar fruits.

3. Eliminate smoking and minimize alcohol intake.

4. Exercise with short bursts of intensity followed by periods of rest.

5. Maintain a healthy body weight, with lean composition and low fat.

6. Get 7–8 hours of sleep each night.

7. Avoid infection by washing your hands during the day.

8. Get fresh air to break up periods of being stuck indoors.

Foods and Supplements

In addition to washing your hands and sneezing into your sleeve to avoid the spread of unwanted microorganisms, consider eating certain foods and taking supplements that have been shown to improve the immune response.

Some of the foods to include in your daily diet are mushrooms, garlic, chicken soup, green and black tea, grass-fed meats, ginger, acai berries, and cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

Supplements can also provide your body with a variety of nature’s helpers to fight off disease. Some of the common supplements known to boost immunity are listed below. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the best options for your individual needs.

Mushroom Extracts. Mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which have been shown to increase the function of natural killer (NK) immune cells. NK cells hunt and destroy virus-infected cells. Extracts to try include those from maitake, turkey tail, Ganoderma, and Cordyceps mushrooms.

Echinacea. Echinacea provides compounds called alkylamides, which have been found to modulate the immune system and regulate its function.

Astragalus. The astragalus herb has been shown to control compounds called cytokines. These chemical messengers are important regulators of the immune response.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a powerful mediator of the immune system. It has been shown to improve the function of white blood cells called macrophages, which hunt and destroy unwanted microorganisms.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C has been shown to improve the immune response by turning on white blood cells called T lymphocytes. These cells can activate other immune cells and kill virus-infected cells.

While the sunlight is weaker during the colder months, and we are stuck inside with coughing folks, eating a diet rich in immune-supportive foods and taking appropriate supplements can give you a helpful boost to skate through this season without getting sick.

Dr. Robert Zembroski, DC, DACNB, MS, is a chiropractic physician, functional neurologist, clinical nutritionist, and author of “Rebuild.” He is the founder of Cancer Victor—Beyond Survival and Darien Center for Functional Medicine in Connecticut. For more information visit