It seems that the moment we hit Autumn, everyone automatically gets a cold! Once upon a time I would have  reached for paracetamol and other over the counter drugs aimed at cold and flu relief. But now I understand more about the damaging effects they can have on the body, I prefer to use natural ways to bolster the immune system.

Paracetamol can be toxic to the liver and ibuprofen can damage the gut lining. A 2011 study also found ibuprofen increases your risk of a heart attack. So, call me old fashioned, but I would rather stick to some of the more traditional remedies! Here are a few:

Bone broth is packed with amino acids and essential minerals. It helps support a healthy gut, which optimises immune function. This is because 70% of our immune system cells reside in the gut. Chicken also contains an amino acid called cysteine which thins mucous in the lungs, helping to expel it. So the traditional cold cure of chicken soup really does work!

Fermented foods like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), miso, kombucha and kefir provide the gut with beneficial bacteria which are essential for optimum immune function. Get the recipe for water kefir here.

Brightly coloured vegetables and fruit such as berries. These are high in antioxidants and other immune boosting phytonutrients.

Garlic is antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral. Cooking it can reduce the active immune boosting ingredient, allicin. So leave it to rest for 5 – 10 minutes after chopping it, and before cooking to help retain more allicin in your meal. Eating it raw is an even better option.

Mushrooms, especially reishi & shiitake which contain immune boosting beta-glucans.

Manuka Honey which is produced by bees that gather pollen from the Manuka bush in New Zealand. This honey is so potent it has been approved for use in medicine! Its antimicrobial and may also help to reduce mucous. Take it straight off the spoon for optimum effect, as adding hot water may harm its medicinal qualities.

Propolis is a resin that bees produce to fill the cracks in their hives. It’s high in antioxidants which protect the body from disease, is a potent antimicrobial and contains caffeic acid and apigenin which are important to immune function.

Vitamin D is often associated with good bone health (it helps regulate calcium levels) but its also really important for immune function. It modulates immune cell responses and has anti-inflammatory properties too. Optimal levels are thought to be between 80 to 100 ng/mmol, so ask your doctor for a test. During the winter months its wise to use a supplement as most of our vitamin D comes from the sun.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water, especially hot drinks which will help you sweat it out! Try fresh ginger tea, which is hydrating and anti-inflammatory. Bash a 1 inch lump of ginger in a pestle and mortar, put it in a cafetierre or teapot with some hot water. Avoid milk, which increases mucous production. 

Stress suppresses immune function, so makes it that much harder to fight illness. Give in to it and try to take some time out, rather than battling through. Have a warm bath and an early night.

Sleep is when our body heals and repairs, so its important to get enough! Try this ‘Golden Milk’ recipe as a bedtime drink. It contains turmeric, a powerful anti-inflammatory which will work its magic while you sleep.

If you have regular colds that you find hard to shift, then it may be your immune system is struggling and you need some more support.  Email me today at for more details on how nutritional therapy can help you.