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Foods to Boost Your Immune System

We are all surrounded by a sea of life threatening microbes. Our immune system protects us from these microbes. Antibiotic medicines are used to fight bacterial infections. Though, antibiotics can be a life saver for serious bacterial infections, over use for minor bacterial or viral infections (like common cold and flu) can make disease causing bacteria become resistant to them. This makes you vulnerable to other and more frequent infections in the future.

Support Your Immune System

Another risk with antibiotics is when your body’s immune system doesn’t get a chance to grow stronger. Your immune system develops with each combat and after every successful attempt it becomes stronger and better able to confront similar infections in future. In addition to these, antibiotics also have some side effects, while they can kill disease causing bacteria, antibiotics also wipe out beneficial bacteria found in your gut. Foods to Boost Your Immune System In absence of these beneficial bacteria, infectious bacteria get a chance to take hold resulting in urinary tract infections (UTIs) and diarrhea. Sometimes powerful antibiotics can even damage digestive lining[i] and reduce absorption of nutrients. Consider other, more natural options in conjunction with your doctor’s advice, and take antibiotics as a final resort, when these are absolutely necessary and other natural treatment methods are not effective. Make your innate immune system that is well fortified through nutrition, toxin avoidance, stress reduction, and exercise to be your first line of defense against infections. Natural medicines, herbal remedies and good nutrition, can assist your first line of defense to fight common infections. Besides being safe and effective in fighting off infections these natural alternatives boost your immune system without causing bacterial resistance. Unnecessary prescriptions of antibiotics can enhance antibiotic resistant bacteria.[ii] Here are some herbal medicines you can find in your kitchen.

Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Foods to Boost Your Immune SystemGarlic

The safest antibacterial and antiviral natural remedy is garlic. Freshly crushed garlic has a powerful compound “Allicin,” which is capable of fighting any microbial, fungal, parasitic and viral infections. It is effective in treating even multi-drug pathogens and drug-resistant microbial diseases. Garlic works as a natural antiseptic and helps in recovery from skin infections too. Additionally, garlic helps boost immunity by helping in detoxification and supporting growth of new cells in your body. To get the maximum antibiotic benefits you need to eat raw garlic. Crush a few garlic cloves and expose them to air for few minutes to fully activate allicin before consuming. You can also add this freshly crushed garlic to your salsa, salad or roasted vegetables just before serving or blend it with olive oil and vinegar to make your own salad dressing. You can also apply garlic oil externally to your feet, as anything applied to the feet is quickly absorbed into the body. Garlic extract capsules (with at least 1.3% allicin) are recommended at a dose of 600 – 1200 mg per day[iii] throughout the course of infection. Garlic is known as a healing super power

Coconut Oil

Coconut is a wonder food that improves digestion, boosts immunity and help in healing skin disorders. The medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and high anti-oxidant content of coconut helps in protecting against many (bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic) infections.[iv] It has also been found effective in treating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Try making nutritionally rich coconut oil a part of your daily diet to support your immune system and keep bacteria at bay. You can add coconut oil to your salad or roasted vegetables. You can also use it for cooking, as it gives a delicious faint nutty flavor to your recipes. Coconut oil can also be used in baking, as it tolerates high temperatures.

Essential Oregano Oil

The essential oil extracted from oregano leaves is a natural antibiotic. Oil of oregano contains a powerful compound “Carvacrol”, which is effective in fighting off bacterial, fungal, parasitic, viral and yeast infections. Oil of oregano is very strong in its pure form, so it is advisable to dilute it with other oils or purchase a diluted blend of oils from the market. Add 2-3 drops of oregano oil to your vaporizer and inhale for a few minutes to get relief from respiratory congestion. You can either take 4-6 drops of oil of oregano diluted in water or 1 capsule (100 – 150 mg) per day for maximum seven to ten days to cure infections. The therapeutic use of oregano oil is not suitable for infants, children, pregnant or nursing women.

Olive Leaf Extract

Olive leaves have a natural ability to resist infections. An active constituent called “Oleuropein” has been shown in many studies to help reduce blood pressure, prevent rheumatoid arthritis in animal studies, reduce the risk of cancer, lower blood glucose levels, and improve blood flower leading to significant drops in elevated blood pressure.[v] It is well known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects. The best thing about olive leaf extract is that it reduces harmful bacteria, fungi and yeasts but it allows beneficial bacteria to multiply. Besides being antimicrobial olive leaves extract have analgesic effects. Extract of olive leaves can be taken as a supplement in capsule or liquid form without any risk of toxicity. For an adult the recommended dosage is 25 mg per day to maintain optimum health.


Ginger has amazing health benefits. Its antibacterial effects on respiratory and periodontal infections are well known. The active components “Gingerols” and “Zingerone” in ginger are linked to its anti-bacterial effects. Ginger has also found effective in treating even drug-resistant forms of fungal infections. Additionally it is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and used as a pain reliever. You can use ginger in either extract form or as tea. However, alcohol based ginger extracts are better for therapeutic uses. You can make ginger tea by grating a cubic inch of ginger and boiling it in about 1½ cups of water for about 10 minutes. If you like the taste make it a part of your daily diet by adding 2 – 3” of shredded ginger to your salads, soups and other dishes.

Foods to Boost Your Immune SystemTurmeric

Turmeric is a potent natural antibiotic, which is used for its bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-infective benefits. It has been used for 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions. Studies show that turmeric may help fight infections and some cancers, reduce inflammation, and treat digestive problems.[vi] Turmeric contains a powerful active chemical compound called “curcumin”, which is responsible for its color, taste and therapeutic properties. Besides being used in treating common infections (cold, flu and allergies), turmeric is a natural antiseptic with analgesic effects. Essential oil of turmeric is used as a topical antibiotic to prevent infections, reduce pain and swelling, and promote healing of the damaged skin. How toxic is your body? You can take either take 1-2 teaspoon of turmeric per day by adding it to your various dishes or take a 500 grams supplement, it is best to consume in a fat-soluble base, as it facilitates the absorption. To heal skin infection, you can apply turmeric topically direct on the skin by making a turmeric paste with water or honey.

Lemon Juice

Foods to Boost Your Immune SystemLemon juice has “Flavonoids” compounds with potent antibiotic effects. Besides having antibacterial and antiviral properties lemon juice is also high in vitamin C, which helps in boosting body’s immunity and aid in fighting infections. Lemon juice is also an excellent detoxifying agent for your body as it creates alkaline environment inside and helps in flushing out any external pathogens from your body. Try to add lemon to your daily diet to fight off colds, flus, and recurrent ear infections naturally. You can take up to 120 ml of lemon juice daily in diluted form. Either make lemonade ortry your own salad dressing by mixing lemon juice with olive or flax oil, fresh crushed garlic and pepper.


Raw honey is known for its antibacterial effects. It has a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria[vii], which produce innumerable active antimicrobial compounds. Honey is commonly used to cure digestive problems (diarrhea and upset stomach), cough, cold, flu, sore throat and respiratory infections. Drink tea or warm lemon water mixed with honey to soothe a sore throat. Honey is also an effective cough suppressant, take 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime to reduce night time coughing and improve your sleep. Raw honey is known for its antibacterial effects. It has a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria.[/tweetthis] Honey can also be applied topically on cuts, burns, insect bites, fungal infections, yeast infections and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, as its layer makes a protective barrier to ward off infection and supplies nutrients required for tissue regeneration and promotes healing. Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Grapefruit Seed Extract

It is truly a broad-spectrum natural antibiotic, capable of killing a wide variety of pathogens i.e. parasites, protozoa, bacteria, yeast and some viruses. Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is nontoxic and can be administered for up to several months to eliminate stubborn infections. GSE preparations can be used both internally and externally. Externally it is ften used as a disinfectant to reduce infection in wounds. Internally you can use 3 times per day a total of 1500 mg GSE per day to aid chronic infections. Fresh vanilla can also be a powerful immune booster!


Elderberries contain anti-inflammatory bio-flavonoids that have antiviral properties and used for viral infections, cough, cold, flu and other skin conditions. Animal studies have shown the flowers to have anti-inflammatory properties.[viii]  The leaves of elderberries are used to make poultice for relieving pain and promote healing of injuries. You can take elderberry bark or root, and boil it with water to make tea, or buy elderberry tinctures and capsules to take orally. Elderberries can also be used as food in the dried form i.e. elderberry wine, pie, and lemonade are some popular ways to get therapeutic benefits of this plant.

Herbal Remedies for a Stronger Immune System

Some of the less common herbal remedies to help fight off infections naturally are:
  • Yerba mansa recommended for cold, flu, and other infections. You can make a tasty herbal tea out of it.
  • Andrographis has powerful antibacterial properties, which helps in protecting against most pathogens but leave good germs intact in your system. You can take andrographis extract pills to treat digestive problems, fight influenza and upper-respiratory infections.
  • Pau D’Arco, the bark of this tree is used to help fever and inflammation. It is rich in lapachol and beta-lapachone compounds, which have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
  • Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic remedy to ease symptoms of the flu.
  • Yin Chiao is a Chinese herbal remedy for reducing the efffects cold and flu.
  • Pumpkin Seeds have anti-parasitic benefits. Eat a handful of raw seeds for cleansing your body of parasites or parasitic infections.
  • Echinacea tea is used for boosting immunity so that your body can fight off infections naturally and halt future illness too.
  • Fermented yeast helps strengthen your immune system. It is nutritionally rich and found very effective in fighting cold and flu.
Besides eating wholesome, healthy food to help your body fight off infections avoid sugar, alcohol and fried foods, as these suppress your immune system and make it harder for your body to do its job. Also lead an active and healthy lifestyle i.e. exercise regularly, take 7-8 hours of sleep, and manage your stress levels to strengthen your immune system and prevent infections naturally.

Replace Illness with Wellness

Just like darkness is the absence of light, disease is the absence of wellness.  Wellness is a state of optimal functioning of body, mind and spirit.  A well person may have 90% wellness and 10% illness.  A sick person may have 10% wellness and 90% illness.  A body region cannot be well and ill at the same time.  Therefore, curing illness is a matter of replacing it with wellness.  The same unhealthy lifestyle may create heart disease in 30% of the people, cancer in 25%, arthritis in 10%, and mental illness in 5%.  In a very important step toward removing illness, simply allow wellness to infiltrate the body and mind.

Natural Foods to Enhance Immune System

Enhanced by: Reduced by:
Vitamins: A,C,E,B-6 Toxic Metals: Cd,Pb,Hg
Minerals: Zn, Cr, Se VOC: PCB, benzene
Quasi-vitamins: CoQ, EPA, GLA Sugar: glycemix index
Herbals: astragalus, Cat’s Claw, Pau D’arco Omega 3:6 ratio, 1:1, 1:16
Foods: yogurt, cartilage, garlic, enzymes, green leafy, fish oil, colostrum Stress: depression
Positive emotions: love
There is now more widespread acceptance of alternative medicine and alternative therapies. But, we still need to exercise caution when choosing the right therapy for a specific ailment.  Always visit your medical practitioner before undertaking medical treatment. Those seeking alternatives therapies need to be aware there is no miracle, and many of these options require changes in diet and lifestyle, and the reversal in illness does not happen overnight. But following a more natural and holistic approach will often produce long term health benefits.
[i] A L D’Souza
[ii] Better Health Victorian Government of Australia
[iii] Web Md
[iv] McCormick Faculty of Nursing, Payap University, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
[v] Robeiro Rde A, Fuiza de Melo MM, DeBarros F. Gomes C, Trolin G. Acute ntihypertensive effect in conscious rats produced by some medicinal plants used in the state of Sao Paula. J. Enthnopharmacol
[vi] University of Maryland Medical Center
[vii] Lactic acid bacterial symbionts in honeybees – an unknown key to honey’s antimicrobial and therapeutic activities. International Wound Journal.  Tobias C Olofsson
[viii] Mascolo N, Autore G, Capasso G, et al. Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory activity. Phytother Res 1987;1:28-31.

Dr. Patrick Quillin

Dr. Patrick Quillin, PhD,RD,CNS is an internationally recognized expert in the area of nutrition and health. He has 30 years experience as a clinical nutritionist, of which 10 years were spent as the Vice President for a leading cancer hospital system where he worked with thousands of cancer patients in a hospital setting. He is a Best Selling Author with 18 books which have sold over 2,000,000 copies and also a Keynote Speaker.