Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Yes! It is Possible to Boost Immunity with Diet and Lifestyle

Support your body’s natural immune system with these immune-boosting foods, vitamins, and lifestyle habits for your most vibrant health.

Some people have sledding and hot chocolate traditions. Others light a fire in the fireplace and watch a favorite winter movie.

In our family, winter brings with it all sorts of routines to boost our immune systems.

Boring? Maybe.


Rebuttal: “Nothing Can Boost Your Immune System”

It was all across the Internet throughout the pandemic, dire warnings that you cannot boost your immune system, no supplements or foods can help, and please stop spreading this dangerous misinformation about the human body! (paraphrased)1

To be fair, the dietitians did go on to recommend a healthy diet and lifestyle habits but wouldn’t touch recommending certain foods over others. #nothelpful

RELATED: What is a Virus? With Molecular Biologist, PhD

A CNN article by Lisa Drayer (Mar 27 2020) was bold enough to claim that food CAN help boost the immune system (hooray!) and listed the following nutrients and related foods:

CNBC also goes out on that limb and recommends that actual foods might give your body more ammunition against a virus (gasp!), and they list red peppers first! Makes me glad we are eating a lot of chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and garlic lately, also listed on their top 10.3

RELATED: Recipe for chickpea wraps, one of our family’s favorites! I even have an amazing chickpea pizza crust recipe!

In part two of the CNN story, Drayer put weight behind exercise, meditation, sleep and stress management (although I would put the vote in for stress mastery instead, more brain-based and effective!).4 Check out my HeartMath Review for more resources on that.

Wish you could control your stress instead of feeling like it’s controlling your life, your sleep, and your temper?
Stress Mastery Challenge for Busy Moms

Women react to stress differently than men and need special strategies!

I was certified as a Stress Mastery Educator for this very reason – so I could bring HOPE to moms like me feeling like life is getting the better of them (and in my case, getting very angry about it).

Join me in my free stress mastery challenge for 4 quick daily trainings that are full of support to make it work in your busy life!

Build the “new, calmer you” in just a few minutes a day…

The New York Times author Tara Parker-Pope also was careful to say that there’s no specific food or supplement proven to boost the immune system (really? Not at all?) but goes on to cite great studies about stress, sleep, Vitamin D, a balanced diet, and exercise and cautioning against alcohol and any unproven supplement or home remedy claims.5

With the C-word, scientists were facing a novel virus, where novel = new and unknown. But whether we’re facing a novel virus or the common cold, there are foods and lifestyle choices that can boost your body’s immunity in general.

What Are the Best Immune System Boosters?

colorful vegetables

These are the immune-boosting products and practices my family has relied on for years, and I would also direct you to my friend, Dr. Elisa Song, a holistically-minded MD, who shared about boosting your children’s immune systems years before the pandemic.

Kitchen Stewardship® has always been about the balance — between budget and time, your family’s nutrition and the environment, and your general sanity. Let’s seek balance in this too, by using strategies that we can control, that don’t cost too much, and that are safe, and by trying to ignore those media pieces that are just trying to overwhelm us with negativity.

Of course, none of these measures will guarantee you don’t catch the flu or whatever bug is going around, but the stronger your immune system is, the better prepared you are to fight any virus.

It’s our responsibility to nourish our bodies and give our immune systems the best fuel possible — so these products and practices are ALWAYS applicable. 

Boosting Health Naturally – What We Use to Fight Viruses

Xlear Nasal Spray

Xlear is a new one this winter for our family. It’s a nasal saline spray with xylitol and grapefruit seed extract. The xylitol is the most important part.

To use, squirt two to four squirts into one nostril, blow your nose, squirt in the other side and blow your nose again. Note that since this goes in your nose, each family member will need their own bottle.

I can’t tell you how many times this was recommended to our family in the last six months. First, I’ve got kids with dust allergies and this is an important way to clear out their nasal passages for good sleep.

girl blowing nose

I’ve also seen Dr. Elisa Song say this is one of the best ways to prevent colds and the flu. Partly because viruses have to enter our bodies somewhere and the nose is one of the easiest places for them to get in. It’s the least protected spot. If something gets in your mouth, your digestive system may very well kill that virus before it gets you.

The third place this Xlear was recommended was by my dentist because we’ve got some mouth breathers at night. Mouth breathing is both a cause and effect of nasal congestion, so she said it’s really good to clear out your nasal congestion before you sleep so that you can close your mouth.

Over the course of the fall and winter, we ended up with six of these in the house, one for each person. It’s not a hard thing to do, it’s just a little bit uncomfortable, but as far as the daily routine right now, spraying out your nose is a great idea.

Bee Propolis

There is research that propolis, which is a bee product, is actually a really powerful antiviral substance.6

So we use this throat spray from Beekeepers Naturals – two to four squirts a couple of times a day is fine. My kids love it! It tastes kind of sweet. Take 20% off with the code KatieKimball!

beekeepers naturals propolis throat spray

Propolis is from beehives. It’s basically bees’ defense mechanism against the rest of the world. For example, if a mouse were to crawl into a beehive the bees could kill it, but they couldn’t remove it, the decaying mouse would kill their whole hive. The bees coat the whole thing in propolis and preserve it. Isn’t that wild!?

RELATED: I did an interview with the owner of Beekeepers Naturals all about bee products. So fascinating!

Vitamins That Strengthen Immunity

I’ve seen a lot of practitioners say keep up with your Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Vitamin C.

I don’t actually have Vitamin A in our regimen, other than in our grass-fed butter.

We do take Vitamin D, which is generally inexpensive and they’re usually tiny little pills that even little kids can often swallow.

In a 2017 review of 25 studies in the British Medical Journal, researchers showed that a Vitamin D may offer some protection against colds, flus, and other viruses.7

It’s important to pair Vitamin D with Vitamin K. We take Vitamin K from a company called JustThrive, (Use the code “Katie15” for 15% off) which you’ll want if you find a D without K. Seeking Health has a very affordable D/K combo capsule which the whole family can take. 

My five-year-old can’t quite swallow the Vitamin K, so he gets drops from Raise Them Well that have both Vitamins D and K mixed already and they really don’t taste like much of anything.

This time of year, especially if you live in northern climates like us, your system is starting to run out of any stores of Vitamin D you may have had from last August or September when we last saw the sun. (That’s one theory as to why people get sicker in the winter–because we’re running out of Vitamin D.) So to me, Vitamins D and K are really important.

I know a lot of people rely on Vitamin C for immune boosting. Paleovalley has a good food-based source of Vitamin C. It’s a capsule, but you could open it to mix it in with smoothies for the kids, or even into applesauce or yogurt. That link automatically gives you 15% off!

We also have a bottle of powdered Vitamin C from Earthley and I’ve heard good things about this brand, too.

supplement capsules

Probiotics: Gut & Microbiome Health for a Healthy Immune System

I’m always keeping up on our probiotics.

This is not a recommendation specifically for viruses, but a healthy gut microbiome is the foundation of all health so my younger kids are currently taking a liquid probiotic from Mary Ruth’s, and the adults and my oldest son are currently taking JustThrive probiotics. We rotate those probiotics quite regularly, at least for the adults. For the kids we don’t have that many options.

Some Quality Probiotics

Some of these I’ve used, some I’m planning to use, and some have been recommended by friends and professionals alike. It’s good to remember a few things about probiotics: 1. People should get different colonies of probiotics, so switching brands/strains every so often (6 weeks?) is good practice. 2. What works great for one person’s needs doesn’t always work for another.  I’ve personally tried:
  • Just Thrive Probiotics – this one can be taken during antibiotics and not be rendered ineffective, which almost all other probiotics are! It’s the top-recommended probiotic overall by Paleo Mom Sarah Ballantyne. 😮 (Be sure to use the code Katie15 for 15% off; also found on Amazon and from Perfect Supplements where you can use the coupon KS10 for 10% off!)
  • Seed Daily Synbiotic – the new player in the field but recommended by superstars like Chris Kresser for its unique probiotic/prebiotic synergy. Here’s my full review including a number of surprises for my thinking and a 15% off code!
  • Note: If you’re struggling with digestion, especially constipation, or you feel like you really need to populate your gut with healthy probiotics, I would recommend Saccharomyces Boulardii in addition to any other you choose (except any above which include this strain). Saccharomyces Boulardii is research-proven to get through the digestive tract without being killed, which is rare. 
  • Balance One probiotics with a unique time-release formula (use the code KITCHENS15 at either Balance One’s site or even Amazon to save 15% either place! Wow! Use the code at checkout on Amazon btw.)

For Little Ones (we use all of these):

  • Mary Ruth’s liquid probiotic is a liquid probiotic that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and tastes like…nothing! It’s my new favorite for administering to kids! (Use code KCRF15 for 15% off!)
  • WellBelly by WellFuture (9 strains of probiotics in apple and banana carrier – it’s a powder)
  • Buddies in my Belly probiotic powder (2 strains of probiotics + potato starch carrier and prebiotics) or chewable tablets
Recommended by experts I trust:

And don’t forget to balance with prebiotics and a variety of plant foods to keep your microbiome healthy! The Human Microbiome Project recommends 25 different plant foods each week (remember that this includes various grains, legumes, and nuts, and then it sounds more doable than if it was just vegetables!).

RELATED: Sarah Morgan of Buddies in my Belly explains gut health in ways easy for kids to understand

Diffusing Immune-Boosting Essential Oils

Essential oils from Plant Therapy

I diffuse some of these essential oils during the day during the colder months for extra help. We’ve got the Germ Destroyer blend, which is KidSafe from Plant Therapy, as well as thyme. Over the years thyme oil and its constituent thymol have been shown to be antiviral and antibacterial.

RELATED: Thymol is one of the EPA-approved disinfectants against SARS-coV-2, an alternative to bleach!

Wish You Knew All the Answers to Keep Your Family Healthy?

How about a crash course?

I’d love to send you a 7-day “Quick Start Guide” email mini-course to give you Health Agency! When something goes wrong in your family, YOU can be the agent of healing and not allllllways have to call a doctor for every little thing.

Imagine this email series as a virtual chat over the backyard fence with your own neighbor, a wise older mom who’s raising 4 kids with intention, trying to avoid unnecessary medication and being kind to the earth.

Looking forward to connecting to help you learn EXACTLY what you need to know to stock your natural remedies “medicine cabinet,” deal with normal childhood ailments, and even the dreaded, “What’s that on my skin?” issue! 🙂

Foods to Build Immunity

If the food we eat doesn’t affect our health and immune system, what does? A real food, balanced diet that supports general health is also going to support immune function, but there are also some specific foods you can be sure to incorporate as well as some foods to avoid to promote optimal immunity.

citrus fruits

What Is the Best Thing to Eat to Boost the Immune System?

Foods high in antioxidants like berries, cruciferous vegetables, onions, leafy greens, and beets boost immunity. Focus on eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables as much as possible.8

I know it can be hard to get many colors of fruits and vegetables if you’re unable to get to the grocery store and focusing on vegetables that stay fresh the longest. Although I heard from people in various places around the country that fruits and veggies seemed to remain well-stocked even when canned soups and white flour were sold out back in March 2020!

For both preparedness and ease-of-use sake, dehydrated veggies are an excellent option. Paleovalley’s Supergreens is packed with a variety of nutrient-dense produce and tastes great, even just mixed in water (although my kids would only want it in a smoothie or maybe juice). Take 15% off automatically as a reader with that special link! While you’re there, grab some anti-inflammatory turmeric too…

Any foods that are healing for the gut such as bone broth, coconut oil, yogurt, and other ferments are beneficial to immunity by keeping the gut healthy.

Ginger and garlic have both been studied for their effects on the immune system. You can incorporate them in recipes (like this garlic soup) or take them supplementally in higher amounts when you begin to feel something coming on.910

garlic bulb

Take garlic by chopping up a clove and mixing with some honey to make it a bit more palatable. Wash it down with water unless you really love chewing raw garlic (which I don’t recommend!). Ginger can be made into a tea very easily.

RELATED: These herbal recipes contain immune-boosting herbs.

What Foods Should I Avoid for Optimal Health?

If you think about foods that are bad for your gut health, those same foods may depress immunity. If you have any specific food sensitivities, you will definitely want to avoid those foods to maintain good immune function.

Some foods that may create an inflammatory response are:

  • Gluten and grains
  • Vegetable oils
  • Dairy
  • Caffeine and alcohol
  • Processed foods
  • Beans and legumes

Whether or not these foods affect you may be individual. Some people, for example, do better with legumes than others. You may need to do some experimenting to see how you react to these foods, or if you’re trying to maintain optimal immune health you may want to limit these foods if you can.

Lifestyle Factors That Maximize Immunity

Don’t Let Your Sleep Slide

I have said it several times lately, as much as you can, maintain sleep routines. It’s crucial that we get enough sleep when trying to keep our immune systems strong. (Check out the benefits around the 3:30 mark here.)

girl sneezing into tissue

A 2015 study in the Journal of Immunology Research showed that sleep is essential to maintaining homeostasis in the immune system.11

RELATED: 5 tools to help you get better sleep! (They’re all less than $20 or take about 30 seconds of your time!)

Master Your Stress

Stress has a bigger impact on our physical health than many of us realize. Have you ever noticed yourself getting sick more during times of acute stress?

Chronic stress especially leads to the suppression of immune function over time. A meta-analysis of 30 years of studies found links between chronic and acute stress and lowered immunity.12

Prayer, meditation, gratitude, and breathing techniques are all free ways to start managing your stress. I know, easier said than done!

About a year ago I completed training to be a Stress Mastery Educator. (I learned that I’m stress-sensitive during that course.) I’ve put all my training into a mini-course for you guys on Stress Mastery for Busy Moms. I would love to share these techniques with you!

Get Outside

If you are able to, get outside every day.

Frontiers in Psychology published a study which concluded that increased immune function was the most likely reason why time spent in nature reduces your risk of a whole list of diseases and conditions.13

walking on path in woods

Bonus points if you do some sort of movement while you’re out like taking a walk. This can be a huge help in stress reduction as well as a change of scenery.

Connect With Community

Believe it or not, some studies have shown that connection to community increases your immunity.

A 2005 study conducted with college freshmen showed a decreased immune response in lonely students.14

Play a game as a family, read together, teach your kids to cook, cuddle your kids, hug your spouse, schedule a time to chat with friends, take a class together, or video chat if you don’t have time to meet up in person.

After a few years of not seeing each other as much as we would like, I hope we’re all appreciating that in-person connection a lot more!

We Can Boost Immunity Naturally

We can’t go through our days thinking that we can control illness, thinking that we can avoid it all or fearing what happens if we get sick. There’s no use worrying about what we can’t control.

Global pandemic, couldn’t control that. Kids pick up the flu? Just gotta deal.

But when things ARE in our control, like what we put in our mouth, what we read, and what we fill our brains and our bodies with, let’s not give up in defeat.

Something is going to go in…We can be smart and wise, take care of ourselves and do what we can without being overwhelmed by everything else.

Shopping List: The Easiest Items to Have on Hand (with Coupons!)


  1. Lanese, N. (2020, March 10). Why vitamin C won’t ‘boost’ your immune system against the coronavirus. Retrieved from
  2. Drayer, L. (2020, March 27). How to strengthen your immunity during the coronavirus pandemic. Part 1: Diet. Retrieved from
  3. Anas, B. (2020, April 3). Stock up on these 9 healthy foods to boost your immune system during coronavirus, says doctor and dietitian. Retrieved from
  4. Drayer, L. (2020, March 27). How to strengthen your immunity during the coronavirus pandemic: Exercise, meditation, sleep and stress management. Retrieved from
  5. Parker-Pope, T. (2020, March 10). Can I Boost My Immune System?. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  6. Gniewosz, M. & Krasniewska, K. & Pobiega, K. (2017, December). Antimicrobial and antiviral properties of different types of propolis. Zeszyty Problemowe Postępów Nauk Rolniczych. 2017, 69-79. Retrieved from
  7. Martineau, A.R. & Jolliffe, D.A. & Hooper R.L & Greenberg L. & Aloia J.F & Bergman P. et al. (2017, February 15) Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. British Medical Journal, 356(6583) Retrieved from
  8. Puertollano, M.A. & Puertollano, E. & de Cienfuegos, G.A. & de Pablo, M.A. (2011). Dietary antioxidants: immunity and host defense. Curr Top Med Chem. 11(14), 1752-66. Retrieved from
  9. Arreola, R. & Quintero-Fabián, S. & López-Roa, R. I. & Flores-Gutiérrez, E. O. & Reyes-Grajeda, J. P. & Carrera-Quintanar, L. & Ortuño-Sahagún, D. (2015). Immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory effects of garlic compounds. Journal of Immunology Research, 2015, 401630. Retrieved from
  10. Sultan, M.T. & Butt, M.S. & Qayyum, M.M & Suleria, H.A. (2014). Immunity: plants as effective mediators. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 54(10), 1298-308. Retrieved from
  11. Ibarra-Coronado E.G. & Pantaleón-Martínez A.M. & Velazquéz-Moctezuma J. & Prospéro-García O. & Méndez-Díaz M. & Pérez-Tapia M. et al. (2015, August 31). The Bidirectional Relationship between Sleep and Immunity against Infections. J Immunol Res, 2015(678164). Retrieved from
  12. Segerstrom, S.C. & Miller, G.E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, 130(4), 601–630. Retrieved from
  13. Kuo M. (2015). How might contact with nature promote human health? Promising mechanisms and a possible central pathway. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 1093. Retrieved from
  14. Pressman, S.D. & Cohen, S. & Miller, G.E. & Barkin, A. & Rabin, B.S. & Treanor, J.J. (2005). Loneliness, Social Network Size, and Immune Response to Influenza Vaccination in College Freshmen. Health Psychology, 24(3), 297–306. Retrieved from

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.