How To Boost Your Immune System The Natural Way

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Marlene Watson-Tara, author of Go Vegan and co-founder of “Human Ecology Project” offers advice on boosting your immune system for a healthier life.

Marlene Watson-Tara

Marlene Watson-Tara

The key to good health is a strong immune system. If we have a weakened immune system we are more susceptible to colds, flu and other health problems. By supporting your body’s own natural ability to defend itself against pathogens, you will not only have resistance to colds and flus but to other infectious illness that come your way.

Your health depends on the choices you make every day. By adopting a healthy lifestyle combined with a whole food plant based vegan diet, you can begin to build immunity. Here’s some tips on how to build your immunity naturally.

Eat an organic wholesome diet 

Organic Borlotti beans in tomato sauce with herbs close-up in a bowl on the table. horizontal top view from above ;

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Nutritional deficiencies make it easier for us to be susceptible to viruses and bacteria, so it is vital to have a balanced macrobiotic/whole food vegan diet with a variety of ingredients. The foundation of the immune system is in the gut. It is important that your diet is filled with those foods that promote good intestinal health.

Consuming a diet rich in grains, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds provides the diverse nutrients essential for good digestive health. These nutrients include phytonutrients that come from a plant’s immune system and are helpful for our own healing. The best known phytonutrients are antioxidants. The full range of our nutritional needs are met with a plant based diet in the most bio available form.


Sauerkraut variety preserving jars. Homemade Sauerkraut with Carrot and Salad Cabbage with Beetroot on a wooden table. Fermented food.

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Your body contains ten times more bacteria than cells. Most of them are friendly and live in the gut. These communities of micro-organisms are called the gut biome. It’s estimated that eighty per cent of your 100 trillion bacteria are located in the gut. Friendly bacteria not only attack pathogenic bacteria and fungi, they trigger appropriate white cell reactions to invaders.

Cultures from around the world have integrated fermented products in their diets to assist in the creation of a healthy gut. The healthy bacteria from fermented foods interact with the cells in our intestines in a way that has been shown to activate our immune response by feeding the “friendly” bacteria the live there. Fermented foods like miso soup, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and many types of pickled vegetables are a wonderful way to promote gut health.

Cut out the junk

Many of the foods that are in the modern diet promote inflammation and keep the immune system on high alert. Cutting down on your sugar intake and working towards cutting it all out altogether should be a number one priority. A few grams of sugar can destroy your white blood cells’ ability to resist infections for several hours. Meat and dairy foods are especially challenging to the gut and exacerbate the inflammatory process. Drop them out for a few weeks and see the difference.

Garlic benefits

Slate plate with fresh garlic and onion on wooden table, closeup;

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Eat more garlic and onion: besides being rich in antioxidants and selenium, garlic is antibacterial and antiviral. Both garlic and onions are part of the allium family, which is rich in sulphur-containing compounds responsible for many health-promoting effects.  

Avoid snacking

Many of us are attracted to eating snacks. Today many foods are highly processed and loaded with sugar such as biscuits, boxed cereals and juices. These additive rich foods will actually weaken the immune system. Snacking can become problematic if you fill up on these ‘nutritionally empty foods’. If you do need a boost, then make sure to always have good quality snacks such as vegetable sticks, fresh fruit, rice cakes with spreads, sushi or roasted nuts and seeds.

Avoid too many cooling foods

Several bottles with fruit and berry juices, vintage wooden background, selective focus;

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Excessive amounts of raw fruits and juices have a weakening effect on the immune system and should be eaten in moderation. Juicing has become a fad but is wasteful of the most important nutrients in the fruit and veg by removing the valuable fibre which is essential for good intestinal function.

Avoid unnecessary antibiotics

Today, people are prescribed excessive amounts of antibiotics. Antibiotics can seriously weaken the immune system and also cause build-up of resistance to the medicine itself. If you’re forced into taking antibiotics, double up with fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and miso soup twice daily.


Get more sleep

Woman sleeping on her front in bed.

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We heal during sleep. One of the ways we do this is to release melatonin from our pineal gland. We do this best sleeping in a room that is dark and has minimal EMF (Electromagnetic field).  Keep phone and electrical equipment, including radio alarms well away from you, as the body confuses EMF with light, suppressing melatonin secretion. We produce the most melatonin when asleep between 11pm and 3am. The different phases of sleep contain two cycles that are deep enough to refurbish your immune system. You need to sleep through them.

Exercise more

Senior couple is doing fitness training at home. Doing yoga together. Healthy lifestyle concept.;

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Moderate exercise, even walking a mile or two at least three times a week, helps your lymph system cleanse impurities to boost your immune system. Avoid long gruelling workouts. Mindful practices such as qi gong, tai chi, yoga, Pilates and Feldenkrais are also excellent for building strength and balance.

Enjoy Nature

Happy older woman watering plants in garden

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Getting out into the fresh air can stimulate the immune system cells in lungs and help make our immune system more active. Deep breathing can help as this will also bring more oxygen to our blood.  Nature is an excellent immune stimulator and being exposed in a happy, healthy way does wonders to all aspects of our lives. Relaxing exercise will help blood and lymph circulation, making it easier for our immune system to operate and get rid of unwanted bacteria or viruses.

Stress less

This should be an all year practice. Many consider stress or anxiety as the leading cause for decreased immunity. Lighten up. Try meditation or yoga. Laugh more. Be less critical. Worry less.

Get some T.L.C.

Give yourself lots of T.L.C. (tender loving care). Perhaps indulge yourself in a seaweed bath which is a wonderful way to detox and strengthen the immune system. Dry skin brushing daily, and ginger body scrubbing is a wonderful way to rid the skin of dead cells, boost the lymphatic system and strengthen the immune system.

Here’s a few of my Favourite Immune Boosters:

  • Maitake mushrooms are very high in protein (27%), contains 15 amino acids and is being studied for its positive effect on the immune system. They are an excellent addition to soups or vegetable stews. 
  • Shitake Mushrooms are loaded with nutrition and very powerful to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to cleanse blood. Shitake can be used in vegetable stir fries or soups. 
  • Umeboshi plums are Japanese pickles (actually green apricots) with a fruity salty taste.  Ume plums are reputed to aid in the healing of a wide array of ailments from stomach aches to migraines, because they alkalise the blood.


Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!