Fueling Immunity To Sail Through Winter

fueling-immunity-to-sail-through-winter_300What are the best ways to prevent cold and flu? This question comes up a lot this time of year. Respiratory infections stampede through schools, workplaces and households. We can often see them coming a few days before impact in a co-worker’s racking cough or a child’s runny nose. These signs can make us think there’s nowhere to hide.

But that’s not necessarily true. We have an amazing tool to fight off disease: immunity. A healthy, balanced immune system identifies pathogens and starts fighting, while simultaneously orchestrating a more robust and sophisticated response. We’ve observed this mechanism in friends who never seem to get sick. Or if they do catch something, it never lasts long. This is probably an indication that their immune systems are working full force. With some exceptions, we can all have such powerful defenses. It’s simply a matter of fueling our immunity with the right nutrients. Here are a few ways to charge your batteries:


I start with zinc because it’s crucial to immunity. For example, people with zinc deficiencies are often immune-suppressed, and zinc deficiency is most problematic in the elderly. Many of our most important immune cells rely on zinc to function properly, including T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells. There are also studies that show people who take zinc get fewer infections; and when they do catch a cold, the symptoms don’t stick around as long.

Medicinal Mushrooms

A balanced immune system is the key to fighting off harmful invaders and maintaining long-term health. Sometimes, the goal is to boost immunity. Other times, we want to temper our immune response if we have an autoimmune disease such as Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Medicinal mushrooms do both, functioning much like adaptogenic herbs that work by fine-tuning your system to respond best to outside influences. They help to optimize immune cell function to provide the appropriate response. In some cases, this means energizing them to attack a cold virus. For example, mushrooms boost macrophages, which are important defenders against viruses. They also boost phagocytes and NK cells. Top varieties include reishi, oyster, maitake, Coriolus, Cordyceps, umbellatus and Tremella.


There’s some debate over whether vitamin supplements can help prevent colds and flus. In the laboratory, vitamins A and D have been shown to support lymphocytes, T-cells, B-cells and other immune components. Vitamins C and B complex have also been linked to NK and white blood cells. Unfortunately, human clinical studies have not always meshed with the lab findings.

However, there’s an easy workaround that has been shown to support immunity: Eating fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins and phytonutrients. In one study, researchers found that fruit and vegetable juice powders protected immune cells from DNA damage and increased the number of T-cells.

It’s likely that the complex combinations of minerals, enzymes, flavonoid compounds and other phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables synergize with their vitamin nutrients to provide better immune support.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Like fruits, vegetables are a key part of any immune-boosting diet. I particularly recommend cruciferous varieties, such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale. These superfoods have been found to modulate immune system genes, as well as eliminate harmful bacteria in the gut.


While we’re talking about digestive health, it’s critically important to maintain healthy bacteria, which act as a barrier against dangerous pathogens, as well as performing many other key functions. Because the digestive tract is a major entry point for viruses and other invaders, the immune system focuses a lot of energy there: Up to 80 percent of immune activity is located in the gut. Probiotics also support immune-related genes. We can support healthy bacteria with probiotic foods, such as kefir, yogurt and kimchee, as well as probiotic supplements.

Modified Citrus Pectin

Made from inner pith of citrus peels, modified citrus pectin (MCP) is one of the most powerful supplements in our arsenal. First, MCP is an effective way to safely remove heavy metals and toxins, which can damage the immune system. It also binds to the inflammatory protein galectin-3 to fight cancer and chronic diseases, boosts NK cells and provides overall cellular support.

Chicken Soup

I’m always interested when “old wives tales” turn out to be true. For example, chicken soup has been shown to inhibit inflammation and reduce cold durations. Use it as a nutrient-delivery vehicle with extra carrots, garlic, onions, kale and other nutrient-rich veggies.

Herbal Formulas

I particularly recommend a Tibetan herbal formula, which supports strong immunity as well as cardiovascular health. The formula’s benefits have been supported by decades of research. This blend, which has been used in Tibet for thousands of years, combines Iceland moss, cardamom fruit, costus root, beal tree fruit, golden cinquefoil herb, chebulic myrobalan, red saunders and other botanicals.

Each year, many of us expend a great deal of energy worrying about whether we’re going to get sick. I recommend reapplying that effort toward prevention, which also includes adequate stress relief. This is a partial list of immune-supporting remedies, and there are many more. Incorporate them into your lifestyle along with exercise, a healthy diet and good sleep, and the only thing you’ll notice about cold and flu season is just how great you feel.


Dr. Isaac Eliaz

By Dr. Isaac Eliaz

Dr. Isaac Eliaz is a renowned integrative medical doctor, licensed acupuncturist, researcher, product formulator and frequent guest lecturer. He has been a pioneer in holistic medicine since the early 1980s, and has published numerous peer-reviewed research papers on several of his key integrative health formulas. He is the founder and medical director of Amitabha Clinic in California, an integrative health center specializing in cancer and chronic conditions. Dr. Eliaz is an expert in using highly strategic, synergistic protocols to address numerous areas of health including metastatic cancer, immunity, digestion, detoxification, diabetes, cardiovascular health and more. His approach integrates modern science with traditional healing wisdom for optimal health and wellness. To download any of Dr. Eliaz's comprehensive wellness guides, click here.