Prep for winter with your personal immunity toolkit.


My Immunity Toolkit

Remember when the biggest concern of the winter season was simply avoiding the annual cold or flu making the rounds? I miss those days! But even with covid mutations to contend with, my strategy for staying healthy during the cold-weather months is the same as always, and it begins with a supercharged immune system. 

For me, winter wellness is all about fueling my body with vitamin-infused whole foods, getting quality rest and daily exercise, and including a few simple, natural supplements for an extra virus-deflecting boost. And it just so happens that those key components are also the building blocks of a healthy immune system.

If you’re already practicing self-care by eating plenty of plants and getting that all-important exercise, you’re halfway there. To take your wellness goals to the next level, borrow these tips from my immunity toolkit and live your best, healthiest life all year round.

Vitamin therapy
Countless studies have shown that consuming vitamin C reduces the duration and severity of colds, and as if by some divine miracle, it just so happens that some of the most vitamin C packed fruits and vegetables are in peak season in the Northern Hemisphere right when we need them most. My favorites are Sumo oranges, which I not only juice straight into my morning smoothies, but eat as a snack throughout the day. Other citrus fruits—lemons, grapefruit, and tiny kumquats—are also C powerhouses, but to mix it up, I find ways to work persimmons and pomegranates into my fruit rotation. And surprise! Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are also excellent sources of vitamin C. Integrate these into your winter menus and reap all the delicious benefits! 

Feel the heat
Hot yoga classes are nourishing to my body and soul this time of year, and the sweathouse effect makes me feel like I’m shedding toxins and generating the kind of internal and external heat that works to repel seasonal bugs. Boosting your immunity doesn’t mean you have to become a yogi, but finding ways of exercising that get your heartrate up, build heat, and that you enjoy is a key component to a strong immune system. When we exercise, anti-inflammatory cytokines are released and white blood cell production increases, which revs up our ability to fend off viruses. Plus, exercise releases endorphins and makes us feel great. If hot yoga isn’t your thing, try brisk morning walks, swimming laps in a heated pool, or riding your bike in the great outdoors.

Nighttime reboot
I’ve written a lot about sleep and how vital it is to my everyday wellness, and never has a good night’s sleep been more important than when you’re trying to create a healthy environment for your immune system to flourish. I was surprised to learn that people who sleep less have a higher risk of heart attacks, cancer, and strokes than those who get a full eight hours every night. Or that a sleep-deprived body is more likely to succumb to an illness after exposure to a virus. Learning the facts helped me prioritize sleep in ways I hadn’t before, and a nighttime routine makes all the difference. I leave my phone and laptop in another room (blue light can interrupt our circadian rhythms, negatively affecting our ability to sleep), sip soothing herbal teas, and relax my body in preparation for sleep with a hot shower. Each of these small steps is a building block to great night’s sleep. Truly a game changer!

Supplemental support
Many people think of essential oils as natural perfumes or room deodorizers, and it’s true—they are that–—but many of these potent plant oils also possess chemical properties that are anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial, too. They also have the special ability of stimulating our lymphatic systems, which is why they are a critical component of my immunity toolkit. When added to an atomizer, eucalyptus oil helps destroy airborne viruses. And putting just a few drops of peppermint oil on a washcloth while you’re in the shower and inhaling deeply can help clear congested lungs and support a healthy lymphatic system. And these days, I never go anywhere without a small spray bottle filled with a disinfecting blend of tea tree and lavender oils suspended in a witch hazel-aloe vera blend. And thanks to their lovely aromas, I get a little mood boost every time I use them, too.

Mental wellness
Possibly the most important immune-boosting tool in my arsenal is maintaining a positive attitude and not letting the little things in life get to me. Research on the mind-body wellness connection is vast, with study after study pointing to the benefits of positive thinking on our everyday health. When I find myself getting anxious about an upcoming speaking engagement, for example, I put reframing into action, reminding myself that I’ve been given an amazing platform to share my knowledge with other people. Or if I’m stuck in traffic and feeling pressed for time, I tell myself how lucky I am to have a car, that I have the physical ability to drive, and that I even have an podcast to listen to while I wait. Even the simple act of smiling during stressful situations helps lower blood pressure and heart rate!

It’s empowering to discover that so much of our own health and wellness is in our own hands. The trick is committing to using them and creating rituals that support our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Because when you have that as a foundation, a strong immune system follows. How amazing is that?