Immune Support Tips

The cooler seasons of the year are well and truly upon us and with this comes cold and ‘flu (and COVID) season!

As a result, we have been getting a lot of queries from our patients at Fertile Ground of the best ways to give our immune systems an extra helping hand with the many viruses currently going around.

Marketing campaigns in general media at this time of year would have us believe that we ‘just need this one product’ to avoid or recover from respiratory illnesses.

However, this does not take into account that:

  • Our immune systems are incredibly complex and are influenced by a multitude of internal and external factors, and1,2
  • Our inherent individuality extends to how our immunity responds to infection.

A nerdy side note….

A key factor that determines our susceptibility to viral infections and the severity to which they affect us, is the functional and adaptive capacity our innate and adaptive immunity  when we are exposed to infection.3 These two ‘arms’ of our immune system are made up of many structural and chemical components (cells, proteins, mediators) that work together to facilitate an appropriate response following our exposure to an infectious pathogen. The complexity of our immune systems extends to the many internal and external factors that can enhance and impair this response and consequently our body’s ability/capacity to resist infection and recover quickly and effectively (or have difficulty resisting such infection, resulting in prolonged, severe and more frequent illness).4-6

So, keeping this in mind, when we are thinking of how best to support our immunity:

  • Our immune systems respond most effectively to a multifaceted therapeutic approach, and
  • The specific strategies needed to support our immunity may vary from one person to the next.

So, with that in mind, what can you do to give your body the best chance to mount an effective immune response:

Do more of this

From a naturopathic and nutritional perspective, dietary intake is the most important consideration when addressing any health concern and this goes for supporting your immune system as well.7-11

This includes eating plenty of:

  • Fruit (2 serves/day)
  • Vegetables (5+ serves/day, organic is preferable)
  • Protein (eggs, meat, poultry, tofu, seafood, legumes or beans)
  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Beneficial fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil or milk)
  • Probiotic foods (yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, nato, tempeh, pickles)12
  • Herbs and spices in smoothies and/or cooking (ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilli, cinnamon, mustard seeds, horseradish, safe, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cloves)9
  • Chicken soup or bone broth (TIP: you can buy good quality bone broth powders or concentrates if you don’t want to make up your own – check out your local health food or bulk wholefood shops).

What you drink can make all the difference as well, such as:

  • Plenty of filtered water
  • Fresh vegetable juices or smoothies: choose your own flavour combination of apples, garlic, ginger, parsley, wheatgrass, lemon and carrots.
  • Gargle and drink green tea13,14
  • Gargle apple cider vinegar (add 5mL of organic vinegar in 25mL filtered water and gargle and spit a few times each day)15,16
  • Garlic drink: add 2 cloves of finely chopped/crushed raw garlic to boiling water with juice from half a lemon, ginger and a tablespoon of manuka honey and steep for several minutes before straining to drink. Aim for 1-2 cups each day. (NB – this is fine to drink if you are pregnant).
  • Ginger and spice drink (crush a clove of garlic and add 2-3cm of fresh ginger, 6 cloves and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to 2 cups of boiling water and simmer in a covered pot for 10 minutes. Strain and add in a pinch of cayenne powder, lemon juice and honey. Drink 2-3 cups each day. (NB: skip this combination of you are pregnant).
  • Yarrow, elder and peppermint tea combination can help reduce fever, cold and sore throat symptoms. Put 2 teaspoons of tea leaf mix into cup and infuse for at least 10 minutes.

What else can you do?

  • Prioritise rest and getting enough sleep.
  • Do some low-moderate intensity exercise daily (avoid high intensity work outs though as they can have a suppressive effect on immune activity, and it’s important to listen to your body on this one and not push through a work out if you need to rest instead)17
  • Spend some time in the sun each day to top up your vitamin D stores.
  • Infuse essential oils in an infuser or oil burner (eucalyptus, cinnamon, sweet orange, lemon, cloves, rosemary, tea tree oil)
  • Try contrast hydrotherapy in the shower: stand in a hot shower for 3 minutes the turn the temperature on cold for 10-30 seconds – do this 1-3 times and always end on cold 18,19
  • Get your stress under control: meditation, yoga, exercise – supplements can also help20,21
  • Steam inhalation to help reduce mucous congestion: add 6-10 drops of eucalyptus or tea tree essential oil in a bowl of boiling water. Put a towel over your head and breath through the nose for nasal congestion or through the mouth for a cough or sore throat.
  • Chest rubs: in a base cream oil (moisturiser, almond or olive oil) mix in 4-5 drops of eucalyptus oil and mix together. Rub on to your chest and throat before bed.

Effectively supporting our immunity requires a whole-body system approach (after all, we are in the business of holistic medicine which treats the whole person). This is because just as with fertility and reproductive health, our immune system does not function in isolation and is very much affected by imbalances and pathologies in other organs and systems including gastrointestinal lining and microbiome, adrenal and nervous and female reproductive systems.20-26

Also, do less of this…

To give our immune system the best chance of an effective response to infections, limiting substances and activities that impair effective immune activity, it is also recommended to limit:

  • Smoking27
  • Alcohol28
  • Ultra-processed foods29
  • Refined sugar foods (biscuits, cakes, lollies, ice cream, chocolate)29,30
  • Artificial sweeteners31,32

What about supplements?

On top of many of these strategies, supplements can be a fantastic way to give your immune system a specific type of additional support.8,33

Please note – they are not meant to be the only strategy you use – they are called ‘supplements’ for a reason and work best alongside dietary and lifestyle strategies.

We are fortunate in natural medicine to have access to a wide range of nutrients and herbs that each bring something special to the immune table.


Book in for a consult today so we can ensure we formulate the best immune supportive remedy combination for your individual needs.

Written by Senior Fertility Naturopath & Nutritionist, Georgia Marrion

MHNut, BHsci (Comp Med), Adv.Dip HSci (Nat)




  1. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Factsheet about seasonal influenza. Accessed 30 May 2023 from: 2
  2. Thomas M, Bomar PA. Upper respiratory tract infection. [Updated June 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL); StatPearls Publishing; 2022.
  3. Panossian A, Brendler T. The role of adaptogens in prophylaxis and treatment of viral respiratory infections. Pharmaceut (Basel) 2020; 13 (9): 236.
  4. Panossian A, Brendler T. The role of adaptogens in prophylaxis and treatment of viral respiratory infections. Pharmaceut (Basel) 2020; 13 (9): 236.
  5. Hamer M, Kivimaki M, Gale CR, Batty GD. Lifestyle risk factors, inflammatory mechanisms and COVID-19 hospitalisation: a community-based cohort study of 387 109 adults in UK. Brain Behav Imm 2020; 87: 184-187.
  6. Tavakol Z, Ghannadi S, Tabesh MR, Halabchi F, Noormohammadpour P, Akbarpour S et al. Relationship between physical activity, healthy lifestyle and COVID-19 disease severity: a cross-sectional study. J Pub Health 2021; doi: 10.1007/s10389-020-10468-9.
  7. Walsh NP. Nutrition and athlete immune health: new perspectives on an old paradigm. Sports Med 2019; 49 (Suppl 2): 153-168.
  8. Smith TJ, McClung JP. Nutrition, immune function and infectious disease. Med J (Ft Sam Houst Tex 2021). 2021 (PB 8-21-01/02/03): 133-136.
  9. Vahid F, Rahmani D. Can an anti-inflammatory diet be effective in preventing or treating viral respiratory diseases? A systematic narrative review. Clin Nutr 2021; 43: 9-15.
  10. Mahassni SH, Bukhari OA. Beneficial effects of an aqueous ginger extract on the immune system cells and antibodies, hematology, and thyroid hormones in male smokers and non-smokers. J Nutr Intermed Metab. 2019;15(October 2018):10-17. doi:10.1016/j.jnim.2018.10.001
  11. Jagetia GC, Aggarwal BB. “Spicing up” of the immune system by curcumin. J Clin Immunol. 2007;27(1):19-35. doi:10.1007/s10875-006-9066-7
  12. Hamida RS, Shami A, Ali MA, Almohawes ZN, Mohammed AE, Bin-Meferij MM. Kefir: a protective dietary supplementation against viral infection. Biomed Pharmacother 2021; 133: 110974.
  13. Yamada H, Takuma N, Daimon T, Hara Y. Gargling with tea catechin extracts for the prevention of influenza infection in elderly nursing home residents: A prospective clinical study. J Altern Complement Med. 2006;12(7):669-672. doi:10.1089/acm.2006.12.669
  14. Matsumoto K, Yamada H, Takuma N, Niino H, Sagesaka YM. Effects of Green Tea Catechins and Theanine on Preventing Influenza Infection among Healthcare Workers: A Randomized Controlled Trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011;11(1):15. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-15
  15. Gopal J, Anthonydhason V, Muthu M, et al. Authenticating apple cider vinegar’s home remedy claims: antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties and cytotoxicity aspect. Nat Prod Res. 2019;33(6):906-910. doi:10.1080/14786419.2017.1413567
  16. Pavlov VA, Tracey KJ. The vagus nerve and the inflammatory reflex. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2012;8(12)(12):743-754. doi:10.1038/nrendo.2012.189.
  17. Alkhatib A. Antiviral functional foods and exercise lifestyle prevention of coronavirus. Nutrients 2020; 12 (9): 2633.
  18. Baker PW. Is there a role for contrast hydrotherapy? J Lymphoedema. 2011;6(2):72-80.
  19. Mooventhan A, Nivethitha L. Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. N Am J Med Sci. 2014;6(5):199-209. doi:10.4103/1947-2714.132935
  20. Walsh NP. Recommendations to maintain immune health in athletes. Eur J Sports Sci 2018; 18 (6): 820-831.
  21. Dalpati N, Jena S, Jain S, Sarangi PP. Yoga and meditation, an essential tool to alleviate stress and enhance immunity to emerging infections: a perspective on the effect of COVID-19 on students. Brain Behav Immune Health 2022; 20: 100420.
  22. Giefing-Kroll C, Berger P, Lepperdinger G, Grubeck-Loebenstein B. How sex and age affect immune responses, susceptibility to infections and response to vaccination. Aging Cell 2015; 14 (3): 309-321.
  23. Villa P, Cipolla C, D’Ippolito S, Amar ID, Shachor M, Ingravalle F et al. The interplay between immune system and microbiota in gynecological diseases: a narrative review. Eur Rev Med Pharmac 2020; 24: 5676-5690.
  24. Trenti A, Tedesco S, Boscaro C, Trevisi L, Bolego C, Cignarella A. Estrogen, angiogenesis, immunity and cell metabolism: solving the puzzle. Int J Mol Sci 2018 Mar; 19 (3): 859.
  25. Dumas A, Bernard L, Poquet Y, Lugo-Villarino. G, Neyrolles O. The role of the lung microbiota and the gut-lung axis in respiratory infectious diseases. Cell Microbiol 2018 Dec; e12966.
  26. Gasta MG, Gossard CM, Williamson CB, Dolan KE, Finley HJ, Burns CM, Parker EC, Pizano JM, Lipski EA. Probiotics and disease: a comprehensive summary – part 5, respiratory conditions of the ears, nose and throat. Integr Med 2017; 16 (3): 28-40.
  27. Kumpitsch C, Koskinen K, Schopf V, Miossl-Eichinger C. The microbiome of the upper respiratory tract in health and disease BMC Biol 2019; 17: 87.
  28. Hulsebus HJ, Majarro KM, McMahan RH, Boe DM, Orlicky DJ, Kovacs EJ. Ethanol intoxication impairs respiratory function and bacterial clearance and is associated with neutrophil accumulation in the lung after Streptococcus pneunomiae infection. Front Immunol 2022; 13: 884719.
  29. Molendijk I et al. Towards a food pharmacy: immunologic modulation through diet. Nutrients 2019; 11 (6): 1239.
  30. Ma X et al. Excessive intake of sugar: an accomplice of inflammation. Front Immunol 2022; 13: 988481.
  31. Zani F et al. The dietary sweetener sucralose is a negative modulatory of T cell-mediated responses. Nature 2023; 615 (7953): 705-711.
  32. Escoto J et al. Chronic consumption of sweeteners in mice and its effect on the immune system and the small intestinal microbiota. Biomedica 2021; 41 (3): 504-530.
  33. Pecora F, Persico F, Argentiero A, Neglia C, Esposito S. The role of micronutrients in support of the immune response against viral infections. Nutrients 2020; 12 (10): 3198.