How can I boost my immune system?

Natural immunity is something we’ve all heard of, and want to know more about. It’s a major buzz-word of the health-awareness movement because it represents an alternative to chemotherapies, radiation and surgery, vaccinations, hospital convalescence, untreatable chronic fatigue or degenerative diseases, and a host of other unpleasant, expensive options on today’s medical industrial menu. This essay will give basic parameters for wellness through immune support, as well as a brief introduction to three special modalities, namely nutritional supplements, botanical medicine and hydrotherapy.

The Basics

  1. Rest
  2. Work balanced by Play
  3. Healthy Diet including plenty of Fresh Water.

Get plenty of rest. Most people need 8 hours of sleep each day. Make it a habit to get to bed 8 hours before your alarm clock is set to go off. That way you’ll at least be more or less horizontal for the full 8 hours… In our culture most people work, work, work, then maybe, if there’s time, do a little play. This is just not right. Think about how it would be to play an hour for every hour you work. Maybe you’d have to give some of that extra income that’s going to pay off credit cards jammed with possessions you may or may not still need or use… Maybe the extra playtime would render you so efficient at your work, because of added mental clarity and a light-hearted, healthy enthusiasm for life, you’d actually earn more per hour and not lose income at all! Indoor play is fine, but outdoor play is excellent.

Deeply absorb the smell of a rising wind. Feast your eyes on a mountaintop panorama. Walk in forests. Remember Nature. Commune with Her…

Get lots of clean water — 64 ounces daily. Carry fresh water in your car and a smaller quantity in your purse or day pack. Stay hydrated. If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Drink lots of water especially when coming down with a cold or infection. It is important to provide the body with clear fluids to flush out the toxins. Dilute fresh vegetable broth, herbal teas or juices are also excellent to ward off flus or fatigue but they cannot replace pure clean water. While Seattle tap water is relatively high quality it is chlorinated and may contain more than desirable levels of heavy metals and microbes. Please consider using a water purification device. Reverse osmosis or distillation under the boiling point are the two best options. Also, please just say no to iced water. It is very hard on our stomach and in fact, sits there drawing in energy until it’s at body temperature. When you’re eating out, remind the wait-person before they bring your water.

Another part of healthy diet is to LIMIT SUGAR INTAKE to less than 50 grams per day. The average American consumes 150 gm/day of simple sugars, and this does include fruit (fructose). Sugar inhibits white blood cell function (which is cleaning up toxins in the blood) by 50% for 2 to 5 hours after consumption. Sugar also competes with Vitamin C to get inside the cells. That means that taking Vitamin C doesn’t help much if you’re also taking sugar.

Protect your natural defense system — starting with the skin. Keep the skin clean and intact as much as possible. Be kind to your mucous membrane tube (mouth to anus), which is the interface with the outside world. Remember that what you put into your mouth turns into your body. Protect your lungs: don’t smoke! Protect your heart by eating a low-fat diet and getting adequate cardio-vascular exercise, such as brisk walking. Protect your emotional and spiritual well-being by taking regular quiet time for yourself, and expressing your needs, your ideas and your dreams!

Nutritional Supplements

By quirk of nomenclature we can actually refer here to the ABC’s of immune enhancement. Let’s start with good old Vitamin C. C is a natural inhibitor of cellular destruction wreaked by foreign antigens, from viruses to particles of undigested food. Vitamin C improves the ability of blood cells to engulf and excrete toxins. The best way to take Vitamin C is in powdered form, which is readily digested and then available for immediate use. Good juiceable food sources of C are dandelion leaves, watercress, nettles, alfalfa, cayenne (as seasoning), kelp, parsley, raspberries, strawberries and papayas. Vitamin C is depleted by antibiotics, aspirin and other pain relievers, coffee, cortisone, smoking anything, stress, DDT, burns and high fevers. The B vitamins help to reduce the load which stress puts on the body, as well as preserving the integrity of the nerves and nervous responses, such as reflex actions. A lack of B vitamins has been repeatedly shown to cause depressed immunity. Food sources of B complex include parsley, comfrey and red clover. Most other B vitamins are also high in alfalfa. B 12 must be supplemented in strict vegetarians. B vitamins are depleted by sleeping pills, insecticides, estrogen (the “Pill”), sugar and alcohol. Vitamin A, which in it’s precursor form is called “beta-carotene,” increases the number of helper-T cells in the blood. Bioflavonoids (which cause the coloration of yellow and orange foods) are an example of beta-carotene and are found in chicory, watercress, garlic, parsley, squash, oranges and yams. Vitamin A is depleted by fluorescent lights, mineral oil, coffee, alcohol, all kinds of drugs, excessive intake of iron and lack of available protein in the body. We don’t need much protein — 5 ounces daily is plenty — but we do need to be able to digest it. Which brings up two “Z” supplements at the other end of the alphabet. These are ZINC, the trace mineral, an important co-factor in most digestive enzymes, and (EN)ZYMES themselves, the delicate dynamos which alone deserve volumes of discussion. If you eat more than you need to in order to feel “satisfied,” or ever notice undigested food particles in your food, consider consulting with a natural health care physician for a good source of PLANT (not animal) enzymes.

Botanical Medicine

My favorites in immune enhancement are a combination of Echinacea angustifolia, Hydrastis canadensis (Golden Seal) and either Galium aparine (Cleavers) if the congestion is in the head, lungs or upper body, or Phytolacca (Poke Weed) if the congestion is in the pelvis, gut or lower body. Echinacea is known to neutralize viruses and activate the body’s “natural killer” cells. Hydrastis is very healing to mucous membranes, which, as stated above, means the entire tube from mouth to anus. Galium promotes lymphatic pumping and draining, particularly of the head, neck and armpit nodes. Phytolacca stimulates the T and B blood cells crucial to immune functioning. WARNING! Phytolacca is toxic at relatively low doses, and may only be administered under the guidance of a physician knowledgeable in plant medicine.


In the 1850s “hydropaths,” or physicians and lay persons trained in the use of water therapies, were the single largest group of health care practitioners besides standard, blood-letting, mercury- administering medical doctors. The water-cure movement, which originated with Father Kneipp in Germany, enjoyed 50 plus years of vogue in the U.S. with many well known advocates from writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Harriet Beecher Stowe, to famous 7th Day Adventists and Abolitionists. One of the central tenets of hydropathy was that the patients become resonsible for their own health care. The hydropath aspired to empower the patient with a recognition of their own wisdom. Cold water was considered the universal elixir for disease… “God accomplishes his most divine work through the simplest agencies.”

Why water? Water is available readily almost everywhere and it is not in any way foreign to our system. Water has chemical, thermal and mechanical properties. It is essentially non-toxic except in places where it doesn’t belong. It is the universal solvent. It can hold heat or pull heat away from the body. Water can be therapeutically applied in the form of bath, spray, whirlpool, vaginal douche, colonic irrigation (also ear and nose lavage), and of course, beverage.

One of the tried and true standbys of Naturopathic Medicine is the use of “constitutional hydrotherapy” which employs alternating hot and cold towels to an affected area of the body. For example, a chest cold will benefit enormously from applying first hot, then ice-cold towels or compresses to the bared chest. The technique calls for 3 minutes of hot followed by 30 seconds to 1 minute of cold. This sequence is repeated at least three times, and always ends with cold. The easiest, preventive, form of hydrotherapy is
to chase your morning hot shower with all cold water for at least 30 seconds and make sure to thoroughly cool the armpits, genitial areas, head, hands and feet. These are centers of lymphatic drainage. To embellish the treatment, firmly tap your upper central chest just under the notch at the base of the throat, to envigorate the thymus gland. This will actually keep you warmer on a winter’s day because of the circulatory stimulation. By the same principle one can achieve excellent results in bringing down a fever, especially in children, by applying frozen cold cotton socks to the feet and covering them with dry wool socks. This will stimulate circulation in the lower extremities by requiring the feet to pull down heat, drawing it away from the head. Put a feverish kid to bed with this double sock routine and their sleep is guaranteed to be more restfull. Be creative! The basic idea of alternating hot (3 minutes) with cold (30 seconds to 1 minute) can work with sauna to cold plunge, 2 hip-bath tubs, running water from 2 faucets on a sprained wrist or ankle, etc.

Experiment with these health tips. You know best what your body really wants. The best way to distinguish a healthy craving from an unhealthy one is how whatever you decided to ingest makes you feel an hour later. Check it out…

One final observation in immune enhancement: Please don’t let other people run your life. Your friends and family may be threatened when you start to make some changes for the better. Food and health are highly emotional issues. Identify your stressors, and get them down to a bare minimum. Let go of people who can’t support your total awakening. Make a committment to know thyself. And, best of all, stay light!


  • All anecdotally supplied, or from personal lecture notes, by Susan Cayleff, PhD, Doug Lewis, ND, Joseph Pizzorno, ND, and Jeffrey Zavik of Immuno Laboratories.