12 Strategies to Strengthen Your Immune System

Modern medicine can help if you get sick, but for the most part it's up to you whether you maintain good health. If you want good health, here are some tips to strengthen your immune system naturally.

| August/September 2010

strengethen your immune system - vegetable basket

Eating a variety of colorful vegetables is just one easy (and delicious!) way to naturally strengthen your immune system.


Infections are as inevitable as death and taxes. You spend your first years catching colds, influenza and strep throat. You sniffle, scratch, cough, vomit, ache, sweat and shiver. Your immune system remembers the microbes it has encountered and protects you the next go around. At the other end of life, your immune system wearies from years of fighting. In that great expanse of active, productive life in between, you still get colds and flus and “stomach bugs.” You may wonder why you are sick more or less often than your partner, co-workers and neighbors. You may wonder why one person hacking on the airplane successfully sickens the passenger to his right but not the one to his left. The answer is that not all immune systems function alike. A number of factors affect immune system health. Some you can’t control: The very young and the very old are vulnerable. Surgery and wounds give microbes a chance to sneak into the inner sanctum. Other risks include chronic disease, poverty, stress, living with lots of other people (dormitories, low-income housing), and drinking tap water (with its local microbes) in many foreign countries. Fortunately, there are ways you can strengthen your immune system.

1. Eat Like Peter Rabbit

Malnutrition impairs immune function. French fries, soft drinks and bourbon don’t build strong white blood cells either. No, it’s those virtuous, self-righteous diets high in fruits, vegetables and nuts that promote immune health, presumably because they’re rich in nutrients the immune system requires. Adequate protein intake is also important; the source can be plant or animal.

Medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake, maitake and reishi contain beta-glucans (complex carbohydrates) that enhance immune activity against infections and cancer and reduce allergies (cases of inappropriate immune system activity). While studies have focused on purified mushroom extracts, fresh shiitake and maitake (also called “hen of the woods”) mushrooms are delicious sautéed in a little olive oil.

One substance to avoid is simple sugar. Brigitte Mars, herbalist and author of The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicines, notes that sugary foods and juices impair immune function; research bears her out.

If you’re a new mother, breast milk provides essential nutrients and immune system components to your developing child. Compared with formula-fed babies, those nourished at the breast have fewer serious infections.

2. Stress Less

When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands churn out epinephrine (aka, adrenaline) and cortisol. While acute stress pumps up the immune system, grinding long-term duress taxes it. For instance, psychological stress raises the risk for the common cold and other viruses. Less often, chronic stress can promote a hyper-reactive immune system and aggravate conditions such as allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease.

9/23/2015 12:45:53 PM

I love that you mentioned the benefits of mushrooms in boosting immunity and to help fight cancer! One great recipe I have found kills two birds with one stone - it's LOADED with immune boosting ingredients (ginger, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, sage, turmeric, etc.) and it's a soup so it provides that warm hug you need when you're feeling under the weather. The stock is even made from immune boosting herbs and roots! http://yaletownnaturopathic.com/immune-boosting-soup-recipe/

9/22/2015 9:11:14 PM

Great article, we can boost our immune system just with the right kind of food. Here is another great article you might like http://nourishtheplanet.com/2015/03/7-foods-to-boost-your-immune-system-naturally/

1/5/2015 5:04:43 AM

There are many herbs for immune system one, that helps me a lot is chuchuhuasi. It is mainly sold as natural remedy for rheumatoid arthritis, but it is not broadly advertised as a strong immune system booster. You can find it here http://chuchuhuasi-store.com/researches-about-chuchuhuasi/

11/5/2014 7:40:21 PM

I have found that, drinking a tablespoon of braggs apple cider vinegar in a glass of water , first thing upon waking, keeps me free of any type of illness. I seldom even get headaches

11/4/2014 11:39:59 PM

you people are all literally insane for saying that vaccines are unnatural, sure humans made it but its a way of exposing the human bodies to infections and colds so our bodies can take the time and build up a strong immunity to the bacteria. without these vaccines horrible disease like small pox would still be killing us and our children and small thinking isn't going to help our people to progress and stay healthy. It disgusts me with your lack of faith in our research for a silly superstition that's only going to get you killed.

4/28/2014 9:10:46 AM

This article said it was going to tell me how to boost my immune system naturally, which is exactly what I was looking for. I was very disappointed when I came to the point that it told me to get vaccinated. In no way should the writer of this article be telling people this is a natural way to stay healthy. Vaccines are full of unnatural and dangerous chemicals that you have to literally dissect each vaccine to learn about because the CDC won't be honest about it and they have convinced or paid off the FDA enough to allow toxic levels of aluminum and other ingredients be injected in the bodies of our children and us because "the benefits outweigh the risks". However, they don't inform the consumer of the risk. The consumer is a patient, we have the right to make informed decisions about our treatment and not be treated like lab rats that keep coming down with ailments attached to these vaccines, just because the people that benefit monetarily think the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks but never give the consumer the fine print about the risks. Start researching vaccine injuries and the ingredients in them, then can you still honestly tell me that you recommend vaccination for naturally boosting the immune system?! If this is meant to be about natural health, make it about natural health and leave big pharm out of it! Everything else seems like useful info, just harder to trust when I see someone considering big pharm as a natural approach.

3/7/2014 11:50:53 AM

I'm disappointed that the author basically pooh-poohs the use of large amounts of vitamin C to boost the immune system. I have read a lot of the research. Unfortunately, the studies which show no benefit from the vitamin are those in which participants were given very small amounts. To be effective, the C has to be ingested in amounts like 5,000 mg. daily or more. Linus Pauling's book on the subject is worth reading. Mother Earth, you should not print articles written by allopaths!

2/27/2014 4:03:42 AM

The only thing that works for my is taking supplements. If I don't take supplements I'll get a sick every time something comes around. I usually take Immuno-Care https://immuno-care.com/what-is-celt-immuno-care.html I usually will get a cold within a month of I stop taking an immune-system boosting supplement. I eat really healthy too, lots of vegetables, seeds and yogurt. I eat little to no refined sugar ever.

2/23/2014 7:36:54 PM

Check the stats. Before we had vaccines the number of mortalities from what we now consider harmless diseases were staggering. Caution, yes, common sense, yes. By the way, the doctor in Great Britain that began this controversial research and connection to autism was completely discredited and his license to practice medicine was taken away. It was revealed that his research was fraudulent. But even if that we're not so, the stats speak for themselves. And if autism has recently risen, what bearing could that possibly have on the fact that the vaccinations have been ongoing for years, prior to that rise?

12/14/2013 2:59:09 PM

I was really enjoying this article...until the part about vaccines!! Hello?? Is this Mother Earth News?! I actually double checked. Vaccines are a toxic chemical cocktail. Who bought you out? Clearly someone has. Shame!

11/24/2013 11:08:43 PM

I was shocked to see Mother Earth News promoting vaccines (not the most earth-friendly "health" tip). Then, I noticed the article was written by an M.D. Not so surprised now.

Thomas Zinecker
9/20/2013 4:07:00 PM

I also have lost faith in Mother Earth News. You cannot recommend straight up poison such as vaccines to health conscience people!

Thomas Zinecker
9/20/2013 4:01:12 PM

Mother Earth accepting big money from Big Pharma?!?! I have just decided to cancel my subscription to Mother Earth News. They well know vaccines are extremely dangerous particularly for children. France ruled MMR causes autism and another court in the us has too I recently heard. Truth about vaccines in a good free watch, youtube "A shot in the dark"

9/9/2013 10:46:35 AM

I just lost faith in Mother Earth News, how sad that they have caved to the vaccine pushers. Vaccines HARM the immune system and the flu vaccine has even been shown to increase susceptibility to the flu, and indeed the package insert says it has never been proven effective. Seriously Mother Earth News, how disappointing and incredibly misguided.

rose moreno
1/2/2013 2:29:06 AM

I was disappointed to not read anything in the article about Native Americans using this exact term for events they have had and their return to native foods to combat diabetes and other catastrophic diseases that plague Native populations often in higher numbers. In the research I am positive that this was encountered but the author must have made a choice not to use the Native voice, that happens far too often and is unfortunate.

Jase Mill
1/2/2013 12:11:10 AM

Vaccines DESTROY the immune system. Sorry but you got that wrong. Instead BREASTFEED your child from birth and given them the vital COLOSTRUM. Do not listen to your doctor (probably the best advice).

Bonnie Barta
12/5/2012 4:21:20 PM

DON'T get metal, virus injected vaccines!!!!! Mother Earth you need to carry an opposing article or your cred is zip!!!! Is there anyone in your editing dept. reading real stastics on innoculations????? THEY ARE A MONEY MAKING, ILLNESS INDUCING, IQ REDUCING, EUGENICS PROGRAM!!!

Meo Miller
12/4/2012 11:58:30 PM

I lost a lot of respect in future articles from Mother Earth due to the recommendation of vaccines in this article. I will have to read more carefully to determine if your sources have been bought out. So many have...

Margaret Tow
12/3/2012 6:27:41 PM

Shame on you, Mother Earth News, for recommending immune-REDUCING vaccinations!

Dianna Duffie Holland
12/3/2012 2:37:23 PM

I cannot believe this atricle recommends the flu shot and other vaccines, this is the pitts....Why Mother Earth would you post such.......

8/23/2012 12:13:15 AM

If you are looking for a well researched immune supplement check out Ai/E-10. It is well researched and has a lot of proven history as an immune modulator and stimulator. It is completely organic and non-toxic. There is a supplement called "Cyto Ess" that comes from the patent holder of the "bovine infusion" method in which it is extracted (From a private herd of grass fed cows). That is the brand I trust. You can check it out at healthysolutions4u.com Best Wishes, -Mike

Colette Theroux
7/14/2012 11:48:33 AM


Kris Johnson
1/3/2011 11:30:14 AM

Forget the HIV part (see aliveandwell.org). Toxins, poor nutrition, and stressful lifestyle put lots of people subject to immune deficiency (AIDS) , and the illnesses that can result. The points in this article are great. I would add one important thing to avoid besides sugar - that is modern vegetable oils - the kind with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats - as they are pro-inflammatory, and overwhelm the modest amounts of the essential anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats that we get in our diets. Grass-fed meat, eggs, and dairy help to correct that imbalance and provide valuable protein and good fats, providing satisfying meals.

Marie Lloyd
9/1/2010 10:23:35 AM

Am writing a paper on Positve Living and Prevention for a workshop with HIV/AIDS women and children. I found the above article very useful but wonder whether you have any articles/references specifically for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. M

Susan Rarick
8/30/2010 10:40:21 PM

I would just like to share my success with the herb astragalus. It takes just about exactly 5 hours to feel alot better if I start to get a virus. It knocks a cold or flu right out. It does not work as well on bacterial infections.

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