It’s getting colder and dark outside, and you know what that means. Cold and flu season! If you want to skip the lurgies, now is the time to start supporting your immunity.

Add some probiotics
Did you know that much of your immune system is in your digestive tract? That’s why adding good bacteria with probiotic foods is a vital step for supporting your gut and immune health.
Probiotics replenish the good bacteria that live in your digestive tract. Good bacteria help to prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria, maintain the lining of the gut and directly affect some of your immune cells.

Probiotics can be found in the following foods:
•   Natural yoghurt and non-dairy yoghurt
•   Milk and non-dairy kefir
•   Water kefir
•   Sauerkraut
•   Kimchi
•   Miso

If you’re contemplating taking a probiotic, consult a naturopath as there may be certain species specific for your condition.  Further, strength and quality are worthy of consideration.

Munch on prebiotics
Adding good bacteria to your gut is a great start but you also need to feed those good bacteria so that they can thrive. That is where prebiotics come in.

Prebiotics are a type of fibre that act as fuel for good bacteria. They can be found in a variety of foods, as well as some supplements. Just a heads-up for those on a low FODMAP diet, some of the prebiotics are high FODMAP so it does pay to seek advice in this regard.

Good sources of prebiotics include:
•   Apple
•   Pear
•   Kiwifruit
•   Papaya
•   Banana (slightly green is best for prebiotic fibre)
•   Garlic
•   Onion
•   Leek
•   Asparagus
•   Chia seeds
•   Flaxseeds
•   Oats
•   Lentils and beans

Up the antioxidants
When you think of boosting immunity and avoiding infection, you probably think of vitamin C but vitamin C is only one type of antioxidant that supports your immune system. Instead of focusing on vitamin C, your best bet is to include a variety of antioxidants.

The easiest way to get plenty of antioxidants in? Eat your fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. There’s a list of my favourite antioxidant-rich foods in my earlier antioxidant article.

Don’t forget your zinc
Zinc is a key player in immune function. But many of us are either not consuming enough zinc, or have a higher demand for it.

Some good sources of zinc include:
•   Fish
•   Seafood
•   Eggs
•   Meat
•   Milk
•   Cheese
•   Beans and legumes
•   Pumpkin seeds
•   Hemp seeds
•   Cashews

If you’re not consuming a few of these foods daily, you might want to have a chat with me about a supplement.

Know your vitamin D
As the days grow shorter and colder, many of us become deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is one of the key nutrients the immune system needs to function. For those contending with an autoimmune condition, it’s paramount to have peak vitamin D levels.  It’s a good idea to get your vitamin D tested at the start of the season. That way, you can correct any deficiency before you end up sick.

Then there’s herbal medicines
Herbal medicines are the feather in our cap when it comes to being immune ready for winter.  They’re clever in that some of them boost the immune system while you’re still well and others that kick in when the onset of a cold or flu hit.  They can really make a difference to the duration of illness, helping to stop it in its tracks.

Here’s my favourite bone broth recipe (like a big old hug when you’re sick).  Bone broth has been used traditionally across cultures as a treatment for colds and flu. It also helps to repair the connective tissue of the gut where a lot of the immune system resides.

1kg (or more) of bones from a healthful source (e.g. 2-3 chicken carcasses, 8-10 chicken necks or beef/lamb long bones)
1 onion
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Optional: 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon or more of Celtic / Himalayan salt, 1 teaspoon peppercorns, 2 cloves of garlic, additional herbs or spices to taste.

Place the bones in a large stock pot. Cover with filtered water and add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow the vinegar to leach minerals from the bones.
Roughly chop and add the vegetables (except the parsley and garlic, if using) to the pot. Add any salt, pepper, spices, or herbs, if using.  Bring the broth to a boil.
Once it has reached a vigorous boil, reduce to a simmer for 24 hours for chicken bones and 48 hours for beef/lamb bones. I cook mine in a slow cooker and turn it off at night, cooking again the next day.
Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar every hour which helps release nutrients from the bones.  During the last 30 minutes, add the garlic and parsley, if using.
Let the broth cool and strain it, making sure all marrow is removed from marrow bones and returned to the broth.
Add Himalayan salt to taste. Drink the broth straight away or store in the fridge for up to 5-7 days or freezer for up to 6 months. May be used in soups or stews.

If you can’t afford to get sick or want to know what to take if and when you do get sick, you’ll need a personalised immune-boosting prevention plan. This can take the form of a 30 minute acute appointment and could be the best half hour you spend on arming you and your family.