Winter Immunity is front of mind for most of us right now, particularly as we emerge from Covid-19 lockdown. I’m pretty sure that we are all trying to boost our winter immunity, ready to fight off all manner of winter lurgy.

With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of tips for natural ways to do just that, with a little help from top Southern Highlands’ naturopaths Mim Biem and Tabitha McIntosh from Awaken Your Health. I have also pulled in some ‘big gun’ advice from global holitisic food and nutrition juggernaut and leading whole foods chef, Lee Holmes from Supercharged Food.

Just a very important note – none of the advice I list below is here to replace that of your doctor and it most certainly is not in any way, shape, or form a way of preventing any illness, especially one as serous as Covid-19. Rather, this is advice that will help support your general health and wellbeing. If at any time you feel unwell, have a rise in temperature, feel short of breath or experience other such ‘flu-like’ symptoms, seek traditional medical help immediately.

Winter Immunity and Vitamin C

Get plenty of vitamin C. This advice is as old as the hills, but it’s as relevant today as it ever was!

“You simply cannot beat vitamin C for immune building,” says Tabitha. “Vitamin C has been found to reduce the duration of common colds in adults as well as children, as well as to reduce severity of infection. Look for it in kiwi fruit, passionflower, citrus fruits, acai, papaya, broccoli, kale and especially in red capsicum, the latter of which has more vitamin C than oranges. If you can find it, also eat Wild Kakadu Plum, as this native Australian fruit has the highest concentrations of vitamin C known to man.”

If you think your diet is lacking, look for a really great powder supplement, like Eagle Beta A C powder, which also contains zinc and vitamin E. Pop some in your smoothie in the morning. 

Zip into Zinc

“I like to think of zinc as the absolute underdog of the immune system pyramid,” says Lee. “Eating foods rich in zinc is vital when it comes to looking after your immune system, as well as your gut. Foods rich in zinc include grass-fed beef, oysters, lamb, activated pumpkin seeds and spinach.” Check out her recipe for zinc filled Moussaka here.

Tabitha adds: “Plant sources of Zinc include daily seeds and nuts ~ such as pine nuts, cashews and pepitas. A simple home made pesto can be zinc-rich, as can a seed and nut trailmix to go with your afternoon herbal tea. Also look for pasture raised beef.

The Southern Highlands has plenty of ethically raised meats and sustainable local choices like those from Meugers Meat in Moss Vale.

Again, if you think you aren’t getting enough in your diet, a supplement may help. Choose a high quality brand that is practitioner dispensed. Tabitha suggests BioMedica BicoZinc capsule, or Bioceuticals Zinc sustain tablet, both of which you will need to visit a compounding chemist or naturopath for.

Watch Your Iron Levels 

Iron is a natural mineral that is essential to healthy body function. A natural source of energy found in many foods, Iron is needed in many bodily processes, helping to transport oxygen in the bloodstream and maintain physical stamina and mental focus.

It’s important to consistently maintain healthy levels of Iron in the body, as we don’t naturally produce it. To avoid levels dropping and potentially causing health issues, we constantly need to consume Iron-rich sources for our daily energy needs and to build-up stores.

Women are also at greater risk of being deficient due to the Iron loss experienced during menstruation. Lee strongly suggests getting all the iron you can from sustainably sourced meats and fresh fruits and veggies (side note: so many or our local producers are home delivering now, like  Highlands Fresh in Mittagong, The Mill in Bowral and Moonacres in Robertson, so you can get plenty of farm fresh produce delivered to your door.

If you’re lacking in iron, consider a supplement. Supercharged Food Love Your Gut powder, is made from Diatomaceous Earth, and is a natural source of Iron, easily absorbed by the body. This makes an ideal addition to your daily orange juice, smoothie or favourite recipe to boost natural Iron intake. Another that I find easy to take, and that is gentle on digestion, Spatone, be from the pharmacy. Do be careful though, as too much iron can also have a detrimental effect. Chat to your GP before taking any supplements whatsoever. 

Get Spicy! 

Tabitha hails spices as a fab all-rounder when it comes to wellness. “Spices like horseradish, fenugreek, turmeric, garlic and chillies can help boost immunity,” she says. “They all boast various anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory qualities, and can be considered therapeutic inclusions to soups, roasts, and meals, to help boost immunity.”

Baical Skullcap

What’s that you say? This unusual plant is typically found in high-altitude places like Siberia and Mongolia. “It has really high immune-regulatory properties,” says Mim. “You can find it in tablet or liquid form from your local health food store.” 

Take Probiotics

Good Gut Health equals great immunity.

“This is essential for competent immunity,” says Tabitha. “So many aspects of modern living can compromise our gut health. Many medications, poor dietary choices, stress, and excess caffeine and alcohol can all cause imbalances in the gut and disrupt immune response, promoting inflammation throughout the body.” 

“If you choose to supplement with a probiotic, it’s best to get some personal advice as to which probiotic strains may be most suitable to your unique requirement. Remember too, that eating a diverse range of colourful vegetables and plant foods every day is vital for great gut health.” 

Can you fit some more vegetables on to you plate each day?

If you are after some practical dietary support and inspiration, do check out Tabitha’s Autumn and Winter Meal Plan. For just $22, it comes with unique and easy to cook recipes catered to boosting your immune defences throughout the cooler months. 

Avoid Alcohol

While a glass or two of wine may actually come with benefits according to some research, in excess it adds an enormous sugar-load to the body and can place a strain on the liver, kidneys.

It can also interfere with a good night’s sleep, heeds Tabitha.

“Maintaining several nights alcohol-free, and sticking to just two standard drinks a night otherwise, can give the body the edge it needs through winter. Swapping out the evening tipple for a cool Kombucha sundowner, or a pot of herbal tea, like rosehip, elderberry, lemongrass, thyme or ginger which also offer some therapeutic benefit”.

Stop Smoking

We know COVID-19, the common cold, the flu and well, ALL winter lurgies affect the lungs and weaken winter immunity. We also know that smokers are struck down far worse with such diseases than those who don’t smoke. Finding it tough to quit? Call the Quit Line.

Old and Improved

“Perhaps a little retro, Cod Liver Oil is due for a comeback,” says Mim Biem.  “It contains a generous amount of Vitamin D which helps prevent respiratory infections and boost the immune system. It also has plenty of Vitamin A for protection of mucous membranes (our lungs are lined with these) and fish oil which is anti-inflammatory.  For those still having nightmares about being dosed with Cod Liver Oil as a child, you will be relieved to know it’s now available in a ‘you don’t need therapy for the rest of your life’ citrus flavour.” 

Lung tonics for Winter Immunity

“Herbal medicine has a long history of lung tonics,” says Mim. “Science is only now catching up with why these remedies are so effective.  Some of my favourites include the delicious Elder Berry with proven antiviral properties. Licorice, sadly not the allsorts variety, is soothing for the lungs and is also antiviral.  Thyme, the culinary and garden herb is excellent for the lungs and often used in bronchitis formulae.  Garlic, a herb no one should be without is also a specific lung tonic. Not only antibacterial and antiviral, garlic is a mucolytic, meaning it breaks down and eliminates mucus. Add garlic to your salad dressing, or why not bake and enjoy a whole bulb?”

Get Plenty Of Exercise

Lastly, all health and wellness experts agree that regular exercise is one of the best ways to maintain health, wellness and winter wellness. Even a brisk 20 minute walk around the block a few times a week can help. Anything you can do to raise your heartbeat, strengthen your muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness will help. it costs nothing to get off the couch and go for a walk! All you need is motivation – I promise you, the hardest part is turning up.

Stress Less

Winter Immunity can be impacted by high stress levels. If you can afford it, try to book in for a regular massage. If not, exercise (as above) is a great stress buster, as is simply taking time out to nurture yourself.