Immune Boost: Skip the Cold This Fall

Fall Immune Health

Happy fall everyone! The days are cooler and the brightly coloured leaves are beautiful! Along with these crisp days and pumpkin *everything*, comes the threat of colds, flus and runny noses. Most colds occur during the fall or winter, with the majority occurring between September and March. This sounds like a grim winter awaits, but there is a lot you can do to prevent a cold altogether or at least shorten how long or how severely it affects you

First, I’ll mention that it’s normal and healthy to get sick sometimes. The average adult gets 2-4 colds per year, and kids under 6 years old can get as many as 8! It’s actually a small red flag if a patient says they haven’t had a cold or flu in years since this can indicate that they’re immune system isn’t functioning very well. The symptoms you experience as a cold or flu (fatigue, runny nose, mild fever, etc.) are not directly caused by the bacteria or virus. They’re actually caused by your body’s immune system altering it’s environment to fight off the infection quickly and effectively. While it’s normal to have a few colds per year, you should have complete resolution between bouts. 

Even better than speeding up healing from a cold is preventing one in the first place. The best way to prevent colds and flus this year is to practice good hygiene and boost your immune health

Here are my top tips for staving off colds and flus this year: 

  • Wash your hands often, especially before you eat. This is the best way to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses to yourself and others. If you do get sick, be sure to cover your mouth with a tissue or the crook of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Limiting contact with others while you’re sick also prevents the spread of illness. Encourage others to do the same. 

  • Eat a variety of brightly coloured vegetables and fruits alongside adequate protein. These foods are nutrient rich and provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs to run a strong immune system (especially Vitamin A, C, E, selenium, and zinc). Protein is necessary to build cells around your body - including white blood cells which are a key component of your "immune system army”. 

  • Limit sugar. Sugar (from sweet treats, processed foods, and even tropical fruits) is the food of choice for cold-causing bacteria. It’s also a potent immune system inhibitor. 

  • Get plenty of sleep. Your body requires adequate rest to stay healthy, and even more if you do get sick. If you do get sick, consider missing one or two days of work to rest and get over the sickness instead of “powering through” and suffering a lingering cold. 

  • Include immune-boosting foods in your regular rotation: garlic, mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, reishi), nourishing broths, and warming spices (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric/curcumin)

  • Manage stress as best you can. Stress increases the hormone cortisol which puts the breaks on your immune system’s defences. This is just one more reason to introduce regular self-care and practice setting boundaries - it’s ok to say "no". 

And if you do happen to catch what’s going around, I can help. As a naturopathic doctor, I have a whole toolbox ready to get you over colds and flus faster. Natural treatments are safe and effective, for all members of your family. If you’re concerned your little cold or flu may be turning into something more sinister, book an appointment!


  • Sexton D., and McClain M. (2018). The Common Cold in Adults: Diagnosis and Clinical Features. UpToDate. 

  • Kaminogawa, S. and Nanno, M. (2004). Modulation of Immune Functions by Foods. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 1(3):241-250. 

  • Lindequist, U., Niedermeyer T., and Julich, W. (2005). The Pharmacological Potential of Mushrooms. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2(3):285-299. 

  • Gaby, AR. (2011). Nutritional Medicine. New Hampshire: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.

  • Moyad, M. (2009). Conventional and alternative medical advice for cold and flu prevention recommended and what should be avoided? Urologic Nursing Journal 29(6):455-8.