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10 Tips for Building a Healthy Immune System

When it’s the cold & flu season, do you or your kids seem to catch everything going around, and always get a bad case of it?

If so, then you’re being given a warning to build up your immune system. (Or if you have any health issues, you always need to strengthen your immune system, especially before any vaccinations you might be getting!)

A friend’s doctor told her something that makes perfect sense to me: a healthy immune system doesn’t mean you’ll never catch anything (although you’ll catch much less of what’s going around), but it means that if you do catch a bug and your immune system is doing its job, you’ll have milder symptoms and get over it quicker.

This made even more sense to me recently when I had the flu. The real flu. Not the stomach bug that we used to call the flu. Influenza symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, sore throat, and cough. Thankfully, it was very mild and short-lived. The first day I took a couple short naps, and was very achy with a low-grade fever and sore throat, but I still had energy to do some things around here and I even ran an errand (don’t worry, I wasn’t by any other people). I got a lot of sleep, and tried to drink a lot of fluids, but wasn’t great about that. The next day my symptoms were much improved, and I just took it easy, got more sleep, and made the most delicious tasting vegetable beef soup ever, with homemade beef stock and plenty of onions and garlic. That was all that sounded good and it hit the spot – homemade stock, onions & garlic, are very healing – all you’ve heard about chicken noodle soup is true! (Not the kind from the store, though.) That was it, only a couple days of not-too-bad symptoms.

I was reminded of how important it is to continue to eat well at all times. That way, when you get sick and none of the natural remedies that you might want to try sound appealing at ALL, instead of forcing extra supplements down or whatever else you should be doing, you can just let your immune system do its job.

How do you support your immune system?

Some of these tips you’ve surely heard of in the past, others may be new to you – most are plain common sense:insomnia

  1. Get enough sleep (I need to do better with this one!) Thankfully, I’ve never dealt with insomnia, but my best tip is to read a book that a friend recommended, Say Good Night to Insomnia.
  2. Read why it’s important to take your cod liver oil! It’s a powerful immune system booster and natural anti-inflammatory. (Where to find fermented cod liver oil.)
  3. If you’re really sick or have long-term issues, look into a strong probiotic (here’s where I get mine), otherwise, try to get more fermented foods & drinks into your diet – like yogurt, Kefir soda pop, Kombucha, fermented veggies, etc. Raw milk also has natural probiotics. (Where to find good probiotics or fermented food starters.)
  4. Eat well – watch those refined carbs! (Not easy, believe me, I know.) Drink bone broth or make soups!
  5. Eat a lot of healthy fats! They are so nourishing!
  6. Eat fruits & veggies, yes, but organic is best so your body doesn’t have to deal with all the preservatives, pesticides, & GMO‘s. (Same thing for meat – find safe meat from a local farm or from this trusted online source.)
  7. Exercise is as important as you’ve heard. Even just a nice walk in the fresh air, especially with a good friend you can talk to.GAPS_thumb.jpg
  8. A few things I’ve listed are part of the Gaps Diet, but for some, in order to build up your immune system, you may need to take it further and implement even more of the GAPS Diet principles. (Get the GAPS book here.)
  9. Find ways to cut the stress in your life. I know, I know, many of you don’t see a way to do that. I feel like that at times, too. So here’s 2 more tips then: 1. Learn an easy way to relax, at least for a moment, in the midst of the stress, and 2. Read about someone at my other blog who can help you get through the tough times in your life.
  10. This last one is for you to fill in the blank – what did I forget? What have you done to build, or heal, your immune system? (Be sure to check the comments for great advice from readers!)

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  1. Kel,

    I agree with this post 100% and have found the same to be true with myself and my family.

    I use lots of garlic,kombucha, water, coconut kefir, broth & miso paste, coconut oil, and NO sugars (even fruit I leave out).

    I try to think of what Chinese medicine considers "warming foods" because when we have a "cold" it usually means we're "damp". Warming foods are sweet potatoes or winter squash, chicken soup, cinnamon, ginger, cloves….

    I also try to beef up vitamin C with Acerola powder.

    Great post! Now I better go to sleep!!!

  2. Thanks for the post, Kelly. I usually stay pretty healthy, but just recently came down with what I would call the flu, but a mild version. Still it hangs around for awhile, I have a persistent cough. I think I picked it up over the Thanksgiving holiday while spending many many hours in airports and on airplanes. I was glad you listed getting enough sleep and rest as number one. Also, the beef and chicken stock is so important. There’s a reason it’s called “Jewish Penicillin”!

  3. Hey – I think that was my doctor you were talking about! :) Cool!

    The homemade bone stocks/broths are SO important. I try to make sure we get stock several times a week. I usually make homemade soup atleast once a week, plus I cook all my brown rice in stock, and if I’m roasting a chicken, I make sure to ladel each person’s serving with those delicious pan juices (if you let the juices refrigerate, they turn to jello – that’s how you know they’re full of the noursing geletin from the bones that heal your digestive tract!)

    I have also read recently that 80% of your immune system is your gut. A healthy gut equals a healthy immune system (which is why the GAPS information is so helpful). Stock keeps our GI tract healthy and functioning optimally.

    We don’t deal with GAPS issues…… but I know several people with either cronic GI issues, and/or autistic children – and they fit the GAPS symptoms like a T. They also have VERY weak immune systems and are also laid out with illness EVERY single winter for weeks on end…. I am becoming more and more convinced of the link between a healthy gut and disease. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to connect the dots that when we started refining our foods and denaturing them, all this disease skyrocketed!


  4. I second the High Vitamin CLO!
    I had a fever a number of weeks ago, and I just doubled my dose, as well as drinking extra Kombucha.
    I have never recovered so fast in my life!
    The fever was gone in 12 hours flat.

  5. Taking probiotics daily for the past year or two, on a daily basis, has really done something wonderful for my immune system. I also have about a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar (Braggs)with filtered water each evening. It’s pretty gross, but I like what it’s done for me. Improve my health! I also take CLO, but am not sure if I’m taking the right quantity. I take two capsules daily and I believe that they’re 400 mg each. Does that sound like enough? I new to the CLO, so forgive me if I sound like a moron. I also haven’t researched the type I buy, and have just bought (from a Natural Grocer)it so I could start taking it!


  6. Donielle, oh believe me, I feel your pain!

    Lisa, the brand of CLO you take is very important, some brands can be harmful if their vitamins are synthetic. Read my posts all about CLO for more info. :)

    Thanks everyone!

  7. I just want to chime in and say that we started GAPS in mid-October, and we haven’t succumbed to any illnesses yet! I was quite sick just before starting GAPS, even though I was mostly avoiding sugar and doing many of the things you listed to avoid sickness.

    We started to come down with something 2 weeks ago, but I just gave us a little elderberry tonic and some echinacea, along with vitamin C and propolis. The symptoms vanished quickly!

    I in particular left early in the morning to go shopping in the city (about 2 hours away), and when I was almost there, I suddenly realized I was getting sick! So I drank some of the bone broth soup I bring everywhere with me. I felt fine immediately. Then later I started to drag again. I drank more broth. Every time I started to feel bad, the broth fixed it!

    Being able to turn away sickness reliably is something I’ve never been able to accomplish in my 33 years of life. I’ve been sick almost nonstop during fall, winter, and spring (even summer sometimes). This has changed.

    I really recommend the GAPS diet. For all the benefits you get from it, it’s not so hard to implement. It’s going to be our standard diet for many years to come.


  8. Laura,

    LOVE that story! Soon I’m doing a “low-carb carnival” when everyone can share their favorite low-carb recipes – I’ll bet you’ll have some good ones to share, so keep them handy!


  9. GREAT blog, Kelly! I agree 100% with every one of these 10 tips :)

    We started the 24 hr bone broths almost 6 years ago, consuming it in some form at least 2x/day, and a healthy immune system is only one of the benefits. I have not had the flu and only a couple of very mild colds since.

    I culture kefir and kombucha, too, and have ‘hunted the wild yeast’ for sourdough bread, drink raw milk, grass-fed beef, use real whey in making chutneys, etc, and LOTS of other great stuff from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

    THRILLED to find so much wonderful info here, Kelly. I will definitely be promoting your blog!


  10. Kelly, In my practice I’m recommending these mandatory items for cold/flu prevention: Vitamin D (Biotics Research) 2,000IU’s kids or 6,000IU’s adults, A probiotic (GR8 or Probiotic Defense from Now Foods), and NAC 1000mg’s (Adults only – from Now Foods – also contains selenium and molybdenum). Prevention is easy, treatment is a lot harder. Wash your hands, get 8 hours of sleep, keep sugar to a minimum (sucrose and corn syrup in sufficient doses is a immune depressant), and exercise (exercise, not excessive exercise, is an immune stimulant.

  11. On the Today show they were just talking about doctors offices that are refusing patients because they are not vaccinated…

  12. I hate laws based on one anecdotal incident. There was a lot of talk about a law after the Casey Anthony trial. You can’t legislate for everything.

  13. Perhaps it should also be a law not to include horrible things like aborted fetal cells and formaldehyde in immunizations as well.

  14. There is still an opt out option. Some people will be lead like sheep to slaughter but some know they have options to reject any and all vaccines.

  15. We are slaves… we are cattle… and they want to thin our herd. Don’t you know that there is a depopulation agenda in effect?

  16. For as conservative as Perry is supposed to be… his administration is WAY too vaccine-mandate happy (i.e., taking-control-of-freedoms happy). I hope they come to their senses SOON.

  17. It’s so upsetting! They are forcing us, even without laws. In my area, no doctor will see your child unless you have them up-to-date on all vaxes. And if you try to claim religious exemption, they say, “Well, that’s fine, but you will have to find another doctor.” They simply wont’ accept you. They push and push. It’s getting harder and harder to not vax. So upsetting!

  18. You know that in MI, they moved that meningitis vaccine up from “entering college” to 12 yrs—to get more compliance. moo. moo.

  19. LOVE <3 the comments!! Nice to see there are many others that feel this way, too-although there needs to be a lot more of us to affect change!!!

  20. In Texas you have the right to refuse vaccines so I’m not sure how this works.. Just like Perry “required” the HPV vaccines (for a very short time, huge upheaval) it technically wasn’t because any parent could refuse it.

  21. @kristan and Greta, it’s like that here in IL. The pediatrician in my town told me that she “wasn’t trained to handle the diseases that your children WILL get because I chose not to vaccinate them”. Oh please.
    Then the ped that I had seen just a couple times a few years ago (when she was ok with not vaxing) told me that their policy changed and she wouldn’t see me…but “if you change your mind and decide to we’d be happy to have you” ummm…NO.
    So I’m left with Prompt Care or drive 3hrs to Chicago.

  22. @kristan and Greta, it’s like that here in IL. The pediatrician in my town told me that she “wasn’t trained to handle the diseases that your children WILL get because I chose not to vaccinate them”. Oh please.
    Then the ped that I had seen just a couple times a few years ago (when she was ok with not vaxing) told me that their policy changed and she wouldn’t see me…but “if you change your mind and decide to we’d be happy to have you” ummm…NO.
    So I’m left with Prompt Care or drive 3hrs to Chicago.

  23. No shots, No school, Not true. There is still an exemption. If there wasn’t you would be able to sue the govfor damages if the vaccines injured you.

  24. I’m not familiar with the details of the case at all, but I’d be interested to know what strain of meningococcal it was. Here in Australia, the most common strain is B and it’s not available in any vaccine currently out there.

  25. Do you still have another blog? I tried to click on the link, but it was just a random GoDaddy thingie.

  26. I clicked your other blog link but it goes to and has this message. “NOTICE: This domain name expired on 01/29/2013 and is pending renewal or deletion.” Would love to check out your other blog!

    Since switching to mostly real food, I hardly get sick. A couple months ago I thought I had the flu, I sipped bone broth and I was all better after only two days! My daughter also caught something similar (about a month later) and hers lasted only two days too. My husband and son are not good eaters, they are not on board with me on eating better. Hubby is ALWAYS sick. But he just can’t give up his all day Dr Pepper habit. My son has just lucked out in the non-sick days so far. But I also sneak stuff into his food when I can… (like kefir in whole fat yogurt.)

    • Hi Jessica,

      I lost a credit card a while back and forgot to update it on the site that holds my domain for that blog, so the auto-renew didn’t go through. It’s all fixed now, though!


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