winter immune system blog image of a man sneezing

With cold and flu season now upon us our thoughts turn to how to stay well from here till Spring.  Our bodies are constantly being exposed to infectious agents and yet much of the time we are able to resist these due to our immune system. This immune system is our own personal army with different areas of expertise, but it is also a complex system engaging other areas of the body such as the endocrine (hormone) and digestive systems in order to be regulated and operating optimally.  This relationship with other parts of the body is why we may be more prone to colds when we are run down or conversely you may power through the flu season with a stressful job not catching a cold only to have a holiday at the end and fall foul to a nasty bug!

Our immune system can be boosted considerably both before and during infection in order to fight off viruses and bacteria.

Here are the basics

  1. Vitamin D
  2. Sleep
  3. Zinc
  4. Vitamin C
  5. Good Blood flow
  6. Herbal Support

A bit more about these specifically below. I will mention that even with the best efforts occasionally you may get a cold or laid up sick with a bug. When they hit you need to rest and get support for your body and allow recovery.  Remember, antibiotics are no good for anything other than a bacterial infection and with antibiotic resistance on the rise doctors are rightly loathe to hand them out for anything other than the most serious infections. At the clinic we have herbal formulas for colds, coughs and sore throats for both adults and children. You can call us to see if we have something for you on 0403 273 008.

So what about the important stuff above. Why do you need them and how do you get them?

Vitamin D is absolutely essential to a healthy immune system. Living in Sydney you’d think with all this sun it wouldn’t be a problem to get sufficient vitamin D into our bodies. However, it’s not the sun that gives us vitamin D but the sun rays’ that help convert molecules on our skin to the vitamin D we can use. There are many pieces to this process but in short you need the sun, cholesterol (yep!) and magnesium to make vitamin D.  Now, before you pull out the chip fryer and say ‘ the health expert says I need more cholesterol’ I’d like to point out that you probably have more than enough cholesterol from a very clean and green diet. In the West we don’t generally have a cholesterol deficiency problem !! but you may need to up your magnesium which is an important mineral needed in the conversion process and because many of us stay out of the sun very possibly need to up your vitamin D levels with supplements. A supplement providing 2000-4000 IUI a day is good prevention this time of year. We find the pills do not deliver vitamin D as quick as an oral spray. Two pumps into the inside of the cheek and it’s done rather than 6-8 pills a day.  Ask us about our nanocelle D3 spray by emailing us on

Sleep I hear you ask? Oh yes, sleep is the only time that the body really goes into repair. Let me give you a quick analogy. For those that drive imagine, if every year you put your car in for a check at the mechanics but want it back in an hour . So, while he gets the essentials done he’ll miss out on the smaller jobs. Over time, the car, while it still runs to the shops it’s no longer smooth, and it starts making noises and eventually you don’t feel it will do the trip to the blue mountains and back. Well that is exactly what happens to the body if you don’t get enough sleep. You get the basic essentials done but everything else gets left and the longer you miss out on sleep the worse the body feels, looks and operates. If you aren’t getting enough sleep (7-8 hours adults and 9-12 for children including teens!) then now is the time to address that problem. If you think your sleep depravation is not down to watching late Netflix but more related to emotional or unknown reasons then it would be good to chat to either Sally or Heidi at the clinic to see how to address this. It may be a nutritional deficiency but may be from stress or anxiety in which case we may suggest a course of acupuncture.

Zinc and Vitamin C: These anti-oxidants are the powerhouses of immune health.  Zinc we suggest 10g for adults, teenagers about 20g a day and children about 5g a day. Not all zinc powders are the same so check the absorption level. For vitamin C, if you are eating citrus fruit or drinking orange juice regularly you should have your dietary requirement. It’s when you catch a cold or virus that you can up your dose. You can go to 2000mg a day for a short while but long periods of high dosage will cause diarrhea and possibly organ damage so don’t stay on those levels.

Blood flow: you need to get those nutrients to the right place so blood flow is important. Regular exercise and movement is key when you are well. Walking daily with stretching is great for the days you don’t want to go to the gym. Remember when you are ill to give your body a rest. If its exerting energy on physical exercise it’s taking away from the recovery which will take longer.

Herbal support: You can do this with pills, powders, teas and broths before and during cold season. My absolute favourite herbs for boosting immunity before getting a cold are Huang qi (astralagus) and Ling Zhi (Reishi). I have reish tea most mornings during autumn and winter and, my chicken broth tends to contain a bag of herbs which include astralagus and reishi as well as some other immune enhancing properties. I then add the resulting broth to everything that I cook.  It makes NO difference to the taste but adds in really immune boosting properties. If you’d like reishi tea, mushroom powder or a bag of herbs for your soups or broths chicken we sell it in the clinic.  * Stop taking both astralagus and astralagus in the acute phase of a cold…other herbs are needed then.

On that last note, now is a great time to ditch the salads and move to warm soups and stews. Dig out the slow cooker and make your life easy by throwing everything in a pot and coming back 8 hours later to dinner.  To celebrate winter solstice, I also make a mulled wine in the slow cooker which I throw in all our Kidney Yang tonics. It’s gained the nickname ‘libido love tonic’ . If you need the recipe then email me on as I’m not sure its right for this blog! !

In the meantime I’ve put a a nice winter breakfast recipe below

Take care and stay healthy..

Immune boosting Tea – Peppermint tea and mix in a ¼ tsp of reishi powder. Available at the clinic.


Immune boosting breakfast – Ingredients for 1 serve

15g Astragalus root (Huang Qi)
2 cups water
1/2 cup rolled oats
A small handful of coarsely chopped walnut pieces
30g Goji berries (Gou Qi Zi)
A pinch celtic sea salt
Honey or Maple Syrup to sweeten


  1. Place the astragalus root and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar, for about 20 minutes. You should end up with about 1 cup of astragalus ‘tea’.
  2. Remove the astragalus root from the liquid with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add the rolled oats, walnuts, goji berries, and salt to the liquid and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked to the desired consistency.
  4. Serve warm, drizzled with a small amount of honey, if desired.

You can prepare the astragalus tea the night before if you prefer and then soak your oats, salt and goji berries over night in it. Add the walnuts in the morning and then briefly cook your porridge.

Book now or call to 0403 273008 to find out how we can help you.