How to Support Your Immune System Naturally
By: Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
December 16, 2019
- From soothing detox teas, to targeted supplements, to cleaning your nasal passages with salt water, these natural remedies will help you kick-start your immune system.
- Your grandma was right. Learn how garlic, ginger, lavender and a hot bath can soothe your body, and how vitamins help boost your body’s immune resistance.
- Plus, get Bulletproof recommendations for supplements designed to help you feel your best all season long.
The weather changes. You traveled by plane. You lost a night of sleep. And now you’re feeling … blegh. You want to feel your best day in and day out, but sometimes, life has other plans. Fortunately, there are things you can do right now to support your immune system, fast.
Below, get the best tips to kick-start your immunity. Further down, learn the science behind why these natural remedies work.
Your feel-better-fast checklist
Here’s your quick-and-dirty guide to natural remedies that support your immune system.
See the Checklist
- Eat garlic: To use garlic as a natural remedy, mince two cloves and let them sit for 15 minutes for the active compounds to develop. Combine with olive oil and salt, then spread on your tasty snack of choice.
- Drink ginger tea: Ginger is soothing and warming — great for when you’re feeling a bit run down.
- Supplement with turmeric: Turmeric is used for just about everything in Ayurvedic medicine for its immune-supporting properties. That’s thanks to curcumin, the active compound in turmeric. Don’t love the taste of turmeric, or find it hard to fit regularly into your diet? Try Bulletproof Curcumin Max — it absorbs 10 times better than standard 95% curcumin powders.
- Pop vitamin C: There’s evidence that this old standby is important for the optimal functioning of your white blood cells.
- Add glutathione: Glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant, strengthens the immune system and works with vitamin C. Take a glutathione supplement or get it from a high-quality whey protein.
- Don’t forget vitamin D: Vitamin D keeps your immune system in fighting shape.
- Take zinc: Studies have shown the importance of zinc in maintaining the activity of immune system cells. When loading up on zinc, make sure it’s paired with copper so you don’t deplete your stores.
- Use a nasal rinse: Sounds weird, but rinsing your sinuses is a great way to keep your nasal membranes clean.
- Take a bath: Add epsom salts, essential oils or bentonite clay to your tub to soothe an aching body. Don’t have time for a soak? Try taking a magnesium supplement.
Support your immunity with Bulletproof Detox Supplements
Eat garlic for added immunity
The scientific community needs more data on garlic’s ability to keep vampires away, but research and centuries of traditional use have solidified garlic’s abilities as a natural remedy. Raw garlic supports your immune system, so it’s great to add to your feel-better-fast toolkit.
Avoid elephant garlic because it doesn’t have the same immune-supporting oomph that other varieties have. Also, get your garlic from a grocer you can trust, and check the bulbs for mold.
Here’s our recommended preparation: Smash two garlic cloves in a bowl and let them sit for a couple of minutes. This allows the active compounds to develop so you get the full benefit. Mix this with olive oil and spread on something fresh and tasty — or if you can handle it, pop a smashed clove in your mouth and eat it raw (as the tears stream down your face).
Sip ginger tea
Ginger contains sesquiterpenes, plant chemicals that make it a powerful natural remedy. Ginger’s energizing aroma and warming effects can help ease aches, too.
Ginger is easy to add to your regimen. If you’re hardcore, peel the root, slice it thinly and eat it raw (again, queue the tears). If you want a more soothing experience, make ginger tea or peel and grate a knob of the root and add it to bone broth, another soothing elixir.
Take turmeric to feel your best
When you see a bright golden curry or sauce, you can guess that turmeric is a star ingredient. Historically used to treat a variety of diseases (and for its flavor), turmeric has been a staple in Eastern medicine and cuisine for thousands of years. It’s likely you’ve seen it popping up in capsules and extracts for its antioxidant activity.
Reaching for turmeric when you feel blegh makes perfect sense because the active compound, curcumin, can help keep your inflammation response healthy and regulate your immune system.
Your body doesn’t readily absorb curcumin without some help. That’s why Bulletproof Curcumin Max is designed to absorb 10 times better than standard curcumin 95% powders.
Try this: To get the health-supporting properties of turmeric into your diet, take a curcumin extract supplement, mix fresh or powdered turmeric into your bone broth or try this soothing turmeric latte.
Pop vitamin C
Vitamin C is a classic remedy for a reason: It supports your white blood cells, the good guys that help your immune system get rid of foreign invaders.
How much vitamin C should you take? According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily amount for adults is 65-90mg a day, and the upper limit is 2,000mg a day. When your immune system is under stress, your body will burn through much more vitamin C than it usually uses, so experiment with the dosage throughout the day and see how you feel. You’ll know when you’ve had too much — you’ll feel digestive discomfort when it’s time to scale back.
Heads up: If you have a stomach issue like acid reflux or GERD, high-dose ascorbic acid (vitamin C) might exacerbate symptoms. Ask your doctor about other forms of vitamin C, like a whole-food version or ascorbate. Some people swear by intravenous (IV) vitamin C — talk to your doctor before you try it.
Help your body make more glutathione
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals — compounds that can damage your cells. Your body makes some of its own antioxidants, including a powerful one called glutathione, which detoxifies your body.
Glutathione is busy when you’re under stress, acting on toxins and free radicals. However, your glutathione supply can deplete quickly. Thanks, stress.
Glutathione has a hand in antioxidant defenses, too, so get a little extra juju out of your vitamin C when you take it with glutathione. Try it as a supplement, like Bulletproof Glutathione Force, or load up on foods that help your body make more glutathione, like whey protein.
Supplement with vitamin D for killer defense
Vitamin D is arguably the most important nutrient for almost everyone to supplement. Well, everyone who wears clothes and doesn’t live in the tropics. Of the bajillion benefits of vitamin D, one of them is its role in the immune system.
Vitamin D supports your cytotoxic T-cells, otherwise known as the “killer cells.” These cells hang around the body, waiting for the immune system to signal them into action. Vitamin D has a key role in the signaling between immune system cells. Just as importantly, vitamin D plays a role in the “at ease, soldiers” signal to the killer T-cells when it’s time for the immune system to calm down.
Vitamin D supplements are easy to find. Bulletproof Vitamins A-D-K gives you science-backed doses of three essential vitamins in one pill. Easy.
Take zinc (with copper)
The typical American diet doesn’t include a whole lot of zinc-rich foods. Even if you get adequate amounts, your immune system may need more when it’s under fire. So, add zinc to your supplements stack.
Your immune function depends on an adequate supply of zinc. Of course, you can find zinc supplements everywhere, and it’s a start. But zinc and copper together (like what you’ll find in Bulletproof Zinc with Copper) form an antioxidant powerhouse called copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD). It’s one of your body’s most effective defenses, so consider it a must-have in your arsenal.
Another reason zinc and copper play better together: If you’re supplementing zinc, your body will find copper wherever it can to make CuZnSOD, which can deplete your supply if you’re low. If your zinc supplement doesn’t have any copper, up your intake of foods like dark leafy greens, cacao and organ meats.
Detox with lemon honey lavender tea
When you need a detox boost, combine lemon juice, lavender tea, coconut charcoal and raw honey to taste. The ingredients of this calming tea have amazing properties, like:
- Lavender: Soothing and relaxing
- Lemon: Vitamin C powerhouse
- Coconut charcoal: Binds to toxins and helps get them out of your system
- Raw honey*: Helps soothe scratchy throats
*Raw honey should not be given to children under 1 year of age.
Oh, and it tastes amazing. Don’t let the black charcoal throw you — it doesn’t taste like much. The lavender and lemon steal the show here.
Use a sinus rinse
Irrigating your nasal passages sounds like an unpleasant experience, but people who do it swear by it as a head-clearing remedy. The basic premise is that rinsing your sinuses will clear out the snot and help to relieve your congestion.
Nasal irrigation comes in many forms — saline spray, neti pot and yogic basin rinses. Saline (saltwater solution) keeps the sinuses moist, making your nose feel more comfortable. You can buy saline solution for an at-home nasal rinse, or make your own.
Take a soothing detox bath
Soaking your cares away in the tub makes you feel better almost instantly. While not a remedy, per se, the warm water can relax stiff muscles and joints, while the moist air opens up congested sinuses. Adding things like essential oils, epsom salts and bentonite clay can turn your plain old soak into a detox bath.
Bentonite clay is an adsorbent. That’s not a typo — adsorbents attract molecules with a positive charge. A lot of impurities have a positive charge, so bentonite clay draws the yuck to the surface of your skin, shortening the path to your pores where it can be eliminated.
Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate crystals found at pretty much any pharmacy or supermarket. They are super easy to use — simply add some to your bath as the water fills the tub.
When the hot water opens your pores, your skin absorbs magnesium from the epsom salts. Magnesium has calming effects, and coupled with the relaxing warmth, you’ll be ready for a good night’s sleep when you get out of the tub. Your immune system fights hard while you’re sleeping, so anything you can do to get a restful night’s sleep will help your body.
Since you absorb electrolytes in an epsom salt bath, you’ll probably need to drink a little extra water after your soak. Water is essential for flushing your system, so keep your fluids up whether you tub it or not.
Essential oils are another fantastic addition to your bathwater. The steam from your tub diffuses the oils so you can breathe them in, and the oil moisturizes your skin. You cannot dilute essential oils in water — they will form full-strength drops at the surface. Instead, dilute a few drops in a teaspoon or so of carrier oil before adding them to the water. Of course, be careful exiting the tub so you don’t slip.
Each essential oil offers unique benefits. Eucalyptus can soothe stuffed sinuses and open up a stuffy nose, lemon boosts the immune system and lavender has a calming effect that goes great with a warm soak.
Be sure to consult your doctor if you get hit with a superbug that takes you down quickly: Some illnesses are no match for any of these remedies.
Now you have a variety of tools to use and get back in the game pronto. Want more tips to boost your immune system? Discover ashwagandha’s benefits for stress, anxiety and immunity. Or learn why CLA, a quality fat in grass-fed butter, can help you support your immunity.
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