Boost Your Immune System and Avoid the Flu This Season

Friday Oct 19 | BY |
| Comments (1)

Want to avoid feeling like this? Boost your immune system!

Across the northern hemisphere the temperature is cooling, and viral activity is increasing. Influenza viruses like clouds and cooler weather. Winter drives people indoors, and kids are back in school. Where people and school children gather, influenza spreads. Flu season lasts from November to April, and peaks in February and March.

Autumn is the time to upgrade your immunity. Here are some tips to help you stay ahead of colds and flu.

Optimize Your Thymus Gland
The thymus gland, situated in the middle of the chest, oversees the differentiation of T Lymphocytes. T-cells (“T” is for Thymus) are a type of lymphocyte—those immune cells that defend us against viral infection and cancer.
There are of two main types of T-cells:

  1. Helper (CD4) cells, which support the immune response
  2. Cytotoxic (CD8) cells, which are cytotoxic “killing” cells that destroy viruses and cancer
    Therefore, the thymus gland is central to educating immune cells.

A strong and adaptive immune system depends on an optimally functioning thymus gland.

Natural killer cells (or NK cells) are another type of cytotoxic lymphocyte. CD56, or “NK” cells, play a role similar to that of CD8 cells. NK cells provide rapid responses to virally infected cells and tumor formation. When a viral infection occurs, NK cells act about 3 days after infection.

Zinc is the key nutrient for thymus health. To rejuvenate the thymus gland, consume foods high in zinc or take zinc supplements. Copper toxicity can increase your risk of zinc deficiency. An inexpensive hair analysis or a red blood cell copper test can tell you if your have too much copper in your system. Also, if your copper level is too low, zinc metabolism can be compromised. So even if you get enough in your diet, you may need to supplement. Zinc picolinate 15 to 30 mg daily is the preferred supplement form. At the first sign of viral infection, increase to 60-90 mg daily.

Foods High in Zinc

  • Oyster
  • Shellfish
  • Crab-meat
  • Lobster
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Pork

Plant Foods High in Zinc

  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat bran
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Potato

Support T-Cells
Strong, active T-cells, and the right ratio of CD4 to CD8 cells, are essential for immune health. Boost T-cells with dairy-derived nutraceuticals: colostrum, lactoferrin, and transfer factor. Non-dairy sources are made from Saccharomyces cerevisae, a common yeast, and include beta glucan and EpiCor, a fermentate that makes it more bioactive.

In scientific studies, EpiCor showed a rapid increase in immune activation and a significant increase in serum antioxidant protection. Beta glucan is a biological defense modifier that boosts and modulates the immune response. The recommended dosage for beta glucan or Epicor is 500 mg once daily taken with a meal. At the first sign of infection, up the dosage to 500 mg three times daily.

Benefits of EpiCor

  • Natural Killer (NK) activation
  • Improved CD4 to CD8 ratio
  • Shorter cold and flu duration of symptoms
  • ORAC (antioxidant) value higher than cranberries, blueberries, acai, red wine, or pomegranate

Food Sources for Beta Glucan

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Barley, Oats, Rye, and Wheat

Build Up Your Viral Immunity

Viral immunity is the immune system’s ability to detect, respond to, defend against, neutralize, inhibit replication, and prevent the spread of viruses in the body. What you eat plays a role in viral immunity. Don’t overeat. Avoid processed, high fat, sugary foods. Drink alcohol in moderation, and when sick, don’t drink alcohol. Consume enough protein, calories, and go high on phytonutrients. Keep hydrated.

Supplements help boost immunity. Zinc is essential and beta glucan or EpiCor are the first steps for a healthy immune system. Other supplements, like vitamins C and D play important roles in immune health. Without sufficient intake of vitamin D3, NK cells are not able to react to and fight off infections in the body. T cells rely on vitamin D3 to activate otherwise they remain dormant, or “naïve” to viral threats when the vitamin is lacking in the blood. Women’s immune systems require more vitamin D3 than men’s.

Immune Boosting Supplements

  • Beta Glucan
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • EpiCor
  • Medicinal Mushrooms
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D3
  • Zinc

Immune Supporting Herbal Teas

Medicinal herbs play important immune-boosting roles. In plants, nature created powerful therapeutic compounds that boost viral immunity and lower inflammation—which can be a serious and sometimes life threatening reaction of the immune system to infection. Astragalus is good for general immune building, especially for older people. Cat’s claw reduces inflammation. Echinacea boosts immune cells and fights viruses. Elderberry is effective against influenza viruses. It contains a novel type-2 ribosome-inactivating protein that inhibits viral replication. The European berry and North American wild elder flowers are both first line herbal teas to beat the flu.

  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
  • Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
  • Echinacea (Echincea angustifolia)
  • Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Learn More
Much of the material in this blog is taken from my book, Beating the Flu. You can find a copy on my website.

Other sources of interest:

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

Visit Dr. Williams’ Website:

And Follow on Facebook:



Comments are closed for this post.

  1. OM says:

    What can people who have auto-immune illnesses, such as Hashimoto’s, do to improve their immunity without causing an increase in the auto-immune symptoms? Can a person with auto-immune illness benefit from herbs like Astragalus, Cat’s Claw, Echinacea and Elderberry?

    Comments are closed for this post.