Wintertime Immune Support

THE DOCTORS and nutritionists at the UltraWellness Center put together the supplement lists and other tactics below to help our patients–and you–face winter and the flu season, providing maximum immune support. Remember, let food be your medicine!

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially warmer fluids. With the dryer air inside and out, winter can be particularly challenging to stay hydrated! Consuming adequate fluids supports all your bodies’ functions including the immune system. Make soups and broths (from scratch with fresh vegetables is always best) and have them throughout the week. Drink herbal teas like ginger and echinacea daily. Keep a bottle of filtered water with you at all times. Avoid concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages, as the sugar content is harmful for the immune system. If you do drink juice, dilute it with 2/3 water!
  • Try a daily saline flush. Along with staying hydrated, flushing your sinuses with mild salt water helps to keep mucous membranes moist which protects you from microbes. You can use a neti pot, or easy to carry plastic bottles that come with saline packets to take with you when traveling or even at the office!
  • Avoid simple sugars as much as possible! This includes those sweet treats and desserts but also the white flour and refined grain products that turn into sugar quickly. Studies have shown that refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingested.
  • Have protein with each meal. Proteins are the building blocks of the body and this includes your immune and detoxification systems. Organic, clean and lean animal protein as well as plant based (legumes, nuts/seeds) proteins are important to get with each meal and snack.
  • Add garlic, onions, ginger and lots of spices (oregano, turmeric) to your meals! Add these to your soups and vegetable dishes, as well as bean dips and sauces. Garlic and onions offer wide spectrum antimicrobial properties.
  • Eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables high in vitamins C, A and phytonutrients that supports the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes and squashes. Aim for 3-4 servings of fruits and 5 + servings of vegetables!
  • Get sufficient sleep! We all know sleep restores and heals the body. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible! Get in a better rhythm and head to bed earlier on those dark winter nights. Aim for 7-8 hours a night. Incorporating various relaxation and breathing techniques throughout the day to help with stress and allowing the mind to rest is also very helpful!
  • Get regular exercise: Mild to moderate exercise (for approximately 30-45 minutes) helps to boost the immune system. Avoid overexertion such as training for endurance events when you are feeling run down. This will lower your immune defenses.

Supplements for Immune Support:

  • Vitamin D3: Adequate vitamin D status is critical for optimal immune function and this cannot be achieved without supplementation during the winter months. It is best to get your levels of 25 OH vitamin D checked for accurate dosing. The ideal blood level is 50-75 ng/dl. Many need 5,000 IU or more of vitamin D3 a day in the winter. Start with 2,000 IU for adults, 1,000 IU for children.
  • Buffered Vitamin C: The role of vitamin C in supporting the immune system has long been known. Take 500-1,000mg throughout the day with meals and snacks.
  • Zinc citrate: You can take an additional supplement or consume more foods high in this powerful immune supporting nutrient. Oysters and pumpkin seeds are the best food sources.
  • Probiotics: A healthy gut flora supports a healthy gut, a major barrier against pathogens and integral to the immune system. Look for brands that offer several species of good bacteria and contain at least 5-10 billion organisms per capsule.
  • Fish Oil (Artic Cod Liver Oil): This old time remedy for good health and robust immunity still stands true! This cod liver oil contains additional vitamin A and D for added immune protection.
  • 1-3, 1-6 Beta Glucans: Much research has shown that these compounds up-regulate the function of the innate immune system. This part of the immune system is the first line of defense against viruses and bacteria. It helps white blood cells bind to and kill viruses and bacteria. Patients with autoimmune diseases should not take this.
  • Natural Anti-viral/Anti-bacterial herbs: Many herbs have broad spectrum antimicrobial effects or immune enhancing effects. Formulas contain different immune boosters such as astragalus, echinacea, green tea extract, elderberry, andrographis, goldenseal, monolaurin, various immune enhancing mushrooms, and beta 1, 3 glucan.
  • Cordyceps and mushrooms extracts: These provide immune supporting properties.

Immune Support for Kids:

  • Vitamin D: It is always best to get your child’s vitamin D levels checked first before supplementing. Most children do well with 1,000IU /day. Liquid and capsule forms are both available.
  • Fish oil: (Arctic cod liver oil): This old time remedy for good health and robust immunity still stands true! Cod liver oil contains additional vitamin A and D for added immune protection. Many companies sell small capsules and flavored liquids for easy administration to children.
  • Multi-vitamin/mineral: is a good way to cover the basics and ensure optimal nutrient intake. Look for brands that supply optimal levels of nutrients for children and are free of artificial colorings and sweeteners.
  • Probiotics: A healthy gut flora supports a healthy gut, a major barrier against pathogens is critical for normal immune function. Look for brands that offer several species of good bacteria and contain at least 5-15 billion organisms per capsule. There are companies that tailor probiotics to young children that are more strain specific and are in powder form, they can be mixed into beverages and room temperature foods.
  • Vitamin C: The role of vitamin C in supporting the immune system has long been known. Approximately 500 mg of buffered ascorbic acid in powder or capsule, 1-3 times a day with meals is sufficient for most children.
  • Zinc: In the form of citrate orally or gluconate in a lozenge helps to ensure children are getting enough of this immune supporting mineral. Liquid forms are often not very palatable for small children but capsules can be consumed by older kids. Take 15 milligrams daily, or every other day, with food.
  • Natural anti-viral/anti-bacterial herbs: Many herbs have broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects or immune enhancing effects. Formulas contain different immune boosters such as astragalus, echinacea, green tea extract, elderberry, andrographis, goldenseal, monolaurin, various immune enhancing mushrooms, and beta 1, 3 glucan. There are immune supporting tinctures with these ingredients that provide an easy way for children to take.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

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Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman MD is the Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.


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If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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