If the cold and flu season wasn’t rough enough, the holiday season is also officially upon us. Staying healthy and sane can be a struggle for the best of us. We asked our providers to share their top immune health recommendations to help you thrive this holiday season.

At the very first signs of illness, our owner, Julie Starkel, MBA, MS, RDN recommends leaning on powerful micronutrients, Vitamins A & D. “Anytime I start to feel something coming on, I take a high dose vitamin A (100,000U) for 3 days, and high dose vitamin D (~10,000IUs),” shares Julie. She recommends tapering down over 2 weeks to help fight off sickness and get you back to feeling better. This is part of Starkel Nutrition’s antiviral protocol and is available in our Immune Supporting Kit. Vitamins A and D are both fat soluble, so they often work best when taken with a fat-containing meal to help boost absorption. Vitamin A is anti-inflammatory, helps to maintain a healthy skin barrier and mucous membranes, and plays regulatory roles in cellular immune responses and processes. Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection.

Our naturopathic physician, Dr Lea McKinstry, ND cannot recommend the importance of sleep enough. “The relationship between sleep and immunity is intricate and bidirectional,” states Dr. McKinstry. “On one hand, a strong immune system contributes to better sleep quality, while on the other, adequate and quality sleep enhances the effectiveness of the immune response. During sleep, the body undergoes crucial processes that help regulate and support the immune system, such as the production of cytokines, which are essential for immune function. Create a sleep-boosting environment by limiting screen time, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.”

Creating a Sleep-Boosting Environment:

  • Limit Screen Time: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with the production of melatonin. Establish a pre-sleep routine that includes reducing screen time at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps regulate your body’s internal clock. Consistency reinforces your circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep quality over time.
  • Create a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual: Engage in activities that help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. This could include reading a book, practicing deep breathing exercises, or listening to calming music.

Chelsea Hemmenway, MS, CN – who specializes in family nutrition, fertility and pregnancy, is on a similar wavelength as Dr. McKinstry. I’m an advocate for prioritizing rest first and foremost for immune health. When our schedules are overpacked, especially as we lead into the busy holiday season, rest can often fall to the bottom of the list,” observes Chelsea. “Creating space in your day to do something that fills your cup (even if just for 5 minutes) can make a big difference in stress levels and have a positive impact on immune health” She also loves echinacea for an immune boost! It’s gentle, safe during pregnancy, and can be helpful for shortening the duration of colds.

Emina Suta, MS, RDN – who specializes in longevity and healthy aging, recommends black elderberry syrup. “You can make your own syrup!” comments Emina. “Add 1 oz. dried black elderberry to 2 cups filtered water, simmer until ½ the liquid is evaporated, strain out the berries, add 1 cup raw honey and store in the fridge. It will keep for several weeks if kept refrigerated. It’s even safe for kids.” Research studies indicate that it may shorten the duration of flu symptoms (one study showed up to a 50% improvement in symptoms), and can really soothe an irritated throat due to persistent coughing. The benefits seem to be greatest when started within 24 to 48 hours after symptoms begin. If making your own syrup isn’t for you, Gaia Herbs makes a great Black Elderberry syrup product available for purchase from our FullScript dispensary.

Emmilia Smith, MS, RDN who specializes in chronic inflammatory & metabolic disorders recommends increasing your dose of Vitamin C this time of year to support her clients’ immune health. Vitamin C is a key antioxidant, protecting cells throughout the body from free radical damage, mentions Emmilia.”It also plays an integral role in the production of cellular energy, in addition to helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, preventing LDL oxidation, promoting wound healing, and maintaining healthy immune function.” Vitamin C can also be found in citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and even cauliflower.

Maddie Hays, MS, CN  who specializes in sports nutrition as well as decoding GI symptoms and food sensitivities, emphasizes the benefits of infrared (IR) sauna sessions on immune health. “I swear 15-20 minute IR sauna sessions shortened the nasty cold I had last winter,” claims Maddie. When your immune system detects a virus, one of the most important functions of your immune system is to raise your core body temperature. Viruses struggle to survive and are more easily fought off when body temps are higher. Think of an IR sauna as a fever simulator – it emulates your body’s response to viruses by temporarily raising your core temperature, making it easier for your body to fight off the illness. This process kick-starts a ramp up white blood cell production, your body’s first line of defense in fighting a virus. It can also just be a nice relaxing way to slow down, and take some time for yourself, which we often do not get enough of during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Riana Giusti, MS, CN – who specializes in mental health nutrition and cognitive health, touts the benefits of antioxidant-rich teas like green and oolong tea. “Personally, I find green tea more cooling, so I opt for a cup of oolong this time of year,“ shares Riana. “I love the subtle earthy, smoky flavor and the low-caffeine content doesn’t give me the jitters during my workday. Highly caffeinated drinks can also exacerbate anxiety for some, which is the last thing we need more of during this season.” The polyphenols in oolong and green tea have been well-researched for their neurocognitive and anti-cancer benefits, and they also are highly effective at reducing inflammation and keeping our immune system supported and in check to help us fight off viruses and infections. With tea being lower in caffeine, this also means the diuretic effect is minimal. On the whole, tea (iced or hot) gives your body much more water than it causes your body to lose, making a great strategy to also help you stay hydrated any time of year.  If you’d prefer to opt for an herbal and completely caffeine-free option, chamomile tea is a great alternative. It provides just as many research-backed immune benefits–plus it may help support your sleep if you drink a cup in the evening after dinner to help you unwind and prepare for a restful night of sleep.

Check out our Immune Boosting Kits to help you stay well this season. Whether you have upcoming travel plans, were recently around sick family members, or just want to stock up for prevention’s sake, they can be a great option and help you get back to doing what you love! 

Looking for more recommendations and personalized ideas to help you feel your best this holiday season? Book an appointment with one of our providers today!

Interested in learning more? Schedule an appointment with us to get support on your journey to holistic and kind health.

Written by Riana Giusti, MS, CN