The Local Grocer

Herbalist-Recommended Top 12 Tips for Immune Support

Join Us For Wellness Monday, November 30th where we will be offering 20% Mega Food, Organic Traditions, and Wholesun Mushroom Powders all day! This is the perfect time to put together an “immune system plan” to keep you healthy this winter with the highest quality products. Social distancing protocols will be in place. Our onsite Herbalist, Elizabeth, will be available to explain our new products and answer any questions you may have.

Immunity is on our minds more than ever in 2020 and as we approach our “Cold and Flu” Season, it’s the perfect time to be thinking about winter wellness and preventative health care.

Here are my Herbalist-Recommended TOP 12 Tips for supporting the immune system this season:

  • Exercise and Fresh Air:  We all know that exercise is good for our immune system but did you know that getting outside in nature boosts the immune system as well? Finding a winter outdoor activity that you enjoy will help boost your immunity and your mood!
  • Sunshine and Vitamin D: Supplementing with Vitamin D (adult dose: 2,000-4,000 IU/day, children: 1,000 IU/day, infants: 400 IU/day) during the fall/winter months is extremely important for those living in our climate.  The sun’s rays become less potent this time of year in our region and our body is unable to make enough Vitamin D from sun exposure alone.  Some people have issues producing vitamin D and may need to supplement year-round.  It is recommended that you talk to your doctor to get your Vitamin D levels tested.   
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is proven to support immune defense.  One quarter of a lemon in 16-32 oz. of warm water (recommended first thing in the morning) will supply your daily vitamin C requirement in a highly bioavailable form.  In addition, try to eat some raw fruit and vegetables every day as they contain quality Vitamin C.  Supplementing with a whole food form of Vitamin C is a good idea when you don’t get enough fresh raw food in your diet.
  • Selenium: Studies show that having adequate selenium levels helps impede viral replication.  As few as 2 Brazil nuts a day will give you the recommended amount of selenium in a whole food form.  Ionic selenium is another highly bioavailable form.   
  • Medicinal Mushrooms: a quality (water-extracted) medicinal mushroom supplement is one of the best immune builders to prevent illness.
  • Astragalus:  Astragalus is another of my favorite immune builders and I pair it with medicinal mushrooms as my usual preventative medicine for cold and flu season.     
  • Elderberry: Elderberry works as a preventative measure to boost immune response and increase the body’s ability to ward off viruses.  Kids tend to love elderberry syrup and gummies too! Should you actually come down with a viral seasonal illness I would recommend switching to alternate anti-microbial herbs such as oregano oil (not for infants or young children) or goldenseal (please use cultivated goldenseal only as it is being overharvested in the wild), along with herbs to alleviate specific symptoms and prevent secondary infections.   
  • Throat Spray: I recommend using olive leaf throat spray daily this fall and winter as a preventative for strep throat and other infections.  With the wearing of masks, bacteria that normally live in our bodies in balance and that we exhale can concentrate on the mask surface.  These bacteria also thrive in the moist warm environment that masks create.  It is very important that proper “mask hygiene” is followed for these reasons.  Change masks frequently, do not wear moist masks, and wash your hands after touching your mask.  Olive Leaf is one of those medicines you can take daily without overdoing it and is safe for children as well.
  • Mineral-Rich Infusions: These “strong teas” are made with nutritive herbs that are safe for daily consumption.  I call these herbs the “superfoods” of the Northeast. They are high in minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and all sorts of health promoting benefits too numerous to list. Mineral-Rich Infusions are my “multi-vitamin of choice” and I recommend drinking 2-4 cups/day.  Nettle, Oatstraw, and Red Clover are my favorite foundational nutritive herbs.   Some other herbs to add for flavor and function are:  tulsi (mood uplifting, adrenal health, lung support, digestive), mint (digestive and anti-inflammatory), hyssop and mullein (anti-viral and lung support), lemon balm (mood uplifting, anti-viral, digestive, relaxing), and ginger (antiviral, digestive, circulatory support).  Handouts with detailed instructions for making infusions are available at the Front Desk of The Local Grocer.
  • Support your Microbiome:  This is an article in and of itself but I’ll just plant a seed here.  As we discover more about the human microbiome (microbes that live in our body including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa), it’s becoming clear that the health of our microbiome is one of the most important factors to our overall health and immunity.  We are made up of more “bug” DNA than human DNA!  Our microbiome determines our health and a large portion of what determines the health of our microbiome is what we feed it. If we feed the “bad bugs” with a diet high in sugar, dairy, processed foods and meat, we are setting up a feast for the bad bugs.  Our “good bugs” thrive on fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and FIBER! Eating fermented foods is another way to support a healthy microbiome.  Even using the terms “good” or “bad” bugs is not fully accurate as it’s more about the BALANCE of these organisms. There are other factors such as stress, environmental pollution, household chemicals, toxic body care products, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals that negatively influence our microbiome.  One of the worst chemicals for our microbiome health is glyphosate, a chemical found in Round Up and now used on its own as a broad-spectrum herbicide. Glyphosate is now used as a desiccant on non-organic grains at time of harvest to speed the drying and processing time.  Glyphosate was originally patented as an antibiotic in the 1950’s and is thusly extremely damaging to our microbiome.   Now more than ever it is important to eat organic foods as much as possible to avoid chemical exposure.  I highly recommend listening to a few lectures by Dr. Zach Bush M.D., a triple-board certified doctor and highly regarded educator and thought leader on the human microbiome and its importance to our health.
  • Healthy Diet: There are many versions of a healthy diet but the recurring basics are to stick to a whole foods diet.  As much as possible avoid sugar, dairy, refined flours, processed foods, food additives and colors.  Eat organically as much as possible for the reasons listed in Tip #10.  If eating meat, buy organic or naturally raised to avoid the antibiotics found in conventional meat which damage the microbiome.    
  • Human Connection and Mental Health: Stay connected to those you love and those that make you laugh. Meditate. Exercise. Ski. Do Yoga. Dance. Have fun! Keeping a positive frame of mind is one of the best things we can do to keep our immune systems strong.

Should you or a family member feel you may be coming down with a seasonal viral illness, seek out the advice of a qualified holistic health care professional to recommend the proper herbs, supplements and nutrition to support your speedy recovery.  Seek medical advice as needed.   

Heather Chase is a clinical herbalist and the founder and proprietor of The Local Grocer (our locally owned health food store), Table + Tonic Organic Café, and Be Well Studios Wellness Center. Stop by The Local Grocer for premium supplements and herbal products professionally selected by our in-house herbalist who is available to help with product selections and questions.