Boosting your Immunity in a Time of Virus Anxiety to Stay Healthy

Immune system supportYou cannot turn on the radio or open social media these days without seeing something about the global spread of infections and viruses.  Whether it is the COVID-19, seasonal influenza or the rapid spread of Lyme disease year on year, one thing is for certain: our immune systems have never been more critical to our good health.  And more under siege.

Helping our patients recover from complex chronic infections has taught us a great deal about the power and fragility of the human immune system. We’ve learned to respect a virus’s incredible capacity to circumvent our body’s well-constructed defences (acquired over billions of years of evolution).   We’ve also learned to source natural ingredients that support our immune system in ways that pharmaceutical science has yet to replicate and make accessible.

We’d like to share some tips with you to ensure you are doing everything you can to support, strengthen and balance your immune system.  But first some perspective:


Our health depends on a healthy environment

The viruses we’re seeing this winter (with the aggressive tick season still to come), are strongly correlated to global ecological destruction (aka Climate Change), and our willingness to turn the other way as some countries struggle to provide the basic necessities for their people.  The world is a holistic eco-system.  What happens in one country will eventually impact all.

Embracing our relationship with our environment and our global neighbours is essential to our individual health and wellbeing because don’t forget: we too are a natural system, evolved to be strongest in a natural environment. This is one of the many reasons that KIHC continues to educate and promote sustainable practices in the way we live, work and interact with our community and the world at large.

We get it – sometimes it seems like too big a problem to even know how to begin. But every small step counts. Keep checking our website for ongoing tips and our blog for posts about things you can do to take action, love our planet and our environment.

And if you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter, please do as we often share timely information there are well.


A Baker’s Dozen Tips for a Stronger Immune System

  1. WASH YOUR HANDS. And try your best not to touch your face. Our hands come into contact with a massive variety of microbial invaders and while a strong immune system including healthy mucus membranes (in our eyes, nose, mouth) can do a lot to keep these from infecting us, hand washing is still vital.    It’s a simple and more effective way than those antibacterial sanitizers to stop pathogens from spreading. But you have to do it properly.  Here’s how:
  • Use soap and hot water for at least 15 seconds (that’s two rounds of singing Happy Birthday!)
  • Rub and lather all parts of your hands – the backs, between the fingers, under your nails – germs can lurk everywhere.
  • Dry your hands on a clean towel if possible. Wet hands are more likely to transfer microbes so be sure to dry well.


  1. We live in Canada. Vitamin D levels tend to be low, especially during the winter months. Proper levels are key to a balanced immune system function. How much you should be taking depends substantially on your blood levels. You can have this tested by your Medical doctor or Naturopathic doctor for about $35.


  1. Our indoor environment, whether at work or at home, is quite dry this time of year. Dried out mucous membranes (e.g. in our lungs, nasal passages) are a perfect gateway for viruses to enter our bodies. Stay hydrated, and use a humidifier in your home or bedroom, if needed.


  1. Many “winter” viruses damage the lungs. If you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit. The mortality rate of some viruses is considered high for vulnerable populations, and this includes people with lung conditions.


  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. Cortisol and melatonin play a critical role in immune system function. They exist in balance alongside a healthy circadian rhythm. This means that sleeping soundly, getting to bed at a consistent time, and minimizing stress can make or break your defences. If you are struggling with sleep – talk to your Naturopathic doctor or Nutritionist about the many solutions available.


  1. Take a bath…. in nature! Have you heard of shin-rin yoku, the Japanese art of forest bathing? There is ample research that shows being out enjoying time in a forest increases the activity of our Natural Killer (NK) cells.  NK cells serve to control and contain viral infections so that other immune cells can destroy them.  And being out in the colder weather is even more beneficial as it helps to stimulate our Vagus nerve.


  1. Our Vagus nerve, the longest nerve that wanders through our body, connects our brain to all our organs. It’s a major player in controlling the immune response when we are faced with infections and pathogen attacks.  One of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your Vagus nerve well-toned and capable of helping you in times of stress or prevention of sickness is through deep, diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes known as belly breathing.  Picture a wee baby in sleep.  Baby’s belly goes in and out with each breath, something we have forgotten how to do as adults as we are busy sucking in our gut most of the time and breathing from our chests instead of our bellies.   Try taking breath breaks throughout the day to show your Vagus nerve some love.


  1. Essential oils – chemically active aromatic compounds extracted from plants – have been used for disinfectants, healing and supporting immunity for eons. Eucalyptus, sage, oregano and thyme are all powerful and natural infection fighters. If you are curious, we now carry an effective and therapeutic line of oils at the clinic.


  1. Your microbes make you who you are. Know them, feed them, protect them! Probiotics – either in supplement form or from food – can help keep your microbiome in balance, and are especially important if you’ve been taking antibiotics at any time.  Fermented foods like miso, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha or kimchi are just a few of the foods that can help boost your friendly bacteria.  Not sure what to do with these?   Our Holistic Nutritionists can help.


  1. Sugar inhibits your immune system – Every. Single. Time. Addictive behaviours pertaining to sugar are real and extremely challenging, but for the sake of your long-term health, there is no better time to address this. Our Holistic Nutritionists and Naturopathic doctors are here to help if you’d like help to break old habits and make new ones.


  1. Vitamins, especially A and C, pack a punch when it comes to immunity. Vitamin A and its precursor, beta-carotene, is immuno-protective, especially for the lungs. Orange winter veggies like carrots, butternut squash and pumpkin are excellent sources. Vitamin A supplements can be toxic for people who are pregnant and harmful for some people, so consult a qualified health professional about appropriate dosing.  Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, critical to fighting infections.  Did you know that red peppers have even more Vitamin C per serving than citrus fruits do?  Spinach, broccoli, kiwi and papaya are also rich sources.


  1. Mom wasn’t wrong when she suggested chicken soup as a cure-all. The ‘magic’ ingredients might have been garlic and onions which both contain allicin which has been shown to have anti-microbial capacity.   So enjoy your soup – chicken or veggie! – with plenty of flavour from garlic and onions.


  1. Green tea is bursting with antioxidants and polyphenols. Catechins are a particular type that may kill influenza viruses.  But don’t add milk as that can bind to the polyphenols and render them ineffective.   Forego the matcha lattes for now and enjoy your green tea clear! Or with a spoon of Manuka honey, also known to be antibacterial and very healing.


The most important thing to remember when working on your immune system is this:  there is no single thing that will keep you healthy.  But by looking at our bodies and our lifestyles holistically and addressing issues in a preventative manner all year round, you have a much better chance of staying healthy or recovering more quickly should you be exposed to something.

Our clinic is committed to keep you well, so if you have questions or want to work on improving your overall health or immune response, book a consult with one of our Naturopathic doctors or Holistic Nutritionists to discuss your needs.

immune system


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We respectfully acknowledge that Kingston Integrated Healthcare is situated on ancestral Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. Since time immemorial they have cared for these lands and waters, and we are grateful. We recognize that a healthy environment is essential to the wellbeing of all people and all life.

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