OPINION: Boost your immune system through healthy foods, supplements

By Betty Runkle, naturopathic practitioner

Most people think the best way to boost the immune system during the cold and winter season is to stock up on Vitamin C.  Vitamin C does have an impact on immune support nutritionally, but it might surprise you to know that the best sources for Vitamin C can be found in the food you eat. 

Certain fruits and vegetables are extremely high sources of Vitamin C, and because the whole plant is consumed, these nutritious items are more absorbable and provide quicker, more efficient immune support than taking a supplement.  Some wonderful food sources of Vitamin C are red bell peppers, which contains 211 percent of the RDA for Vitamin C.1 Other sources include Guava, Papaya, Green Bell Peppers, Spinach, Broccoli, Oranges and the list goes on.  In fact, Vitamin C is found in most all leafy green vegetables, in all citrus fruits and in many herbs. 

If facing anemia, it is important to know that adding this amazing antioxidant can help the body absorb iron more efficiently when added to foods containing iron.  So, squeeze a lemon over your spinach or salad and enjoy a zesty flavoring while doing the body a favor.

Many of us are hard-pressed to get enough fruits and vegetables in our diet in these busy times, so supplementation is a huge convenience and often necessary to build the vitamin and mineral stores in the body required to support a healthy immune system.  

The best way to find the “right” amount of Vitamin C as a supplement for your body is to take until “bowel tolerance” – that is until the stool is slightly loose, then reduce slightly until stool is firm again.  (This method is what is referred to as a titration to bowel tolerance.) 

In addition, eating foods high in calcium, especially those leafy green vegetables, really help the immune system target its efforts in destroying unwanted pathogens and fighting off invaders by boosting the production of phagocytes.

When leafy greens (spinach, bok choy, broccoli, various forms of sea vegetables etc.) are not readily available, supplementation with Calcium Lactate will allow the body’s immune system to be more astute and active regarding cleaning up pathogens by boosting phagocytes.  Phagocytes are those special immune cells in the body that engulf and consume pathogens and other small cells. Flax Seed, which is an excellent source of Vitamin F, should also be consumed or taken by supplement when taking Calcium Lactate. The addition of Vitamin F is important to transport the calcium lactate from the blood into the tissue.

Herbs and Botanicals are fast becoming a favorite way to include immune boosting tools into the daily routine.  Combinations containing a special, elite class of herbs called Adaptogens, is highly beneficial in supporting fast action by the immune system.  Adaptogenic herbs include Ashwaghanda, Astragalus, Rhodiola, Jiogulan, Panax Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Schisandra, and Maral Root, just to name a few.

We can’t leave out medicinal mushrooms such as Chaga, Maitake, Shiitake and Reishi, among the many others, when we discuss immune function of the body, because they are too important. Mushrooms are immune potentiators and are a wonderful and tasteful way of including healthy immune boosting benefits. Mushrooms are so easy to include into the diet because they now are readily available as teas, tinctures, sprays, capsules, powders and even included in several brands of coffees.

I have included my special ORIGINAL IMMUNE FIX SOUP recipe. This is a great warm, nutrient rich hot soup that is both soothing and immune boosting when colds and flus are creeping in.  A warm cup of soup every few hours can really make a difference in the recovery time and overall comfort level when the immune system is challenged.


1-2 cups onions (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (chopped)

1 cup Bone Broth

1 cup water

2 astragalus root

2 cups Maitake mushrooms (or 1 cup Organic Maitake powder)

2 cups celery

2 cups carrots

1 tsp thyme

½ tsp rosemary

1 tsp oregano

1 ½ tsp red pepper or red pepper flakes (to suit taste)

1 tsp chopped basil

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp white pepper (if available)

½ tsp Himalayan pink salt (to taste)

Shiritaki noodles (optional)

Saute’ onions, garlic, celery and other vegetables in a small amount ghee or coconut oil. Take care not to overheat. Add in bone broth to deglaze pan and let simmer. Add herbs and other spices and add water to consistency preferred. Let simmer until vegetables are tender.  (Optional: blend while hot to make a smooth, soothing sipping soup.)

In “Healing Can Be Easy,” my co-author and I dive in deep to discuss supplements to specifically target immune function.  Along with that hearty list of supplements, we also include nutritional sources of immune supporting foods and a dietary protocol from “The Misner Plan /Healing Begins in the Kitchen” that is quite helpful when attempting to overcome immune challenges.   A copy of these books can be purchased at www.thehealthfixstore.com or on Amazon. 

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.


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