8 Ways to Optimize Immune Health Naturally

By Julie Rowin, MD

Dr. Rowin is board certified in Neurology, Neuromuscular Medicine and Integrative Medicine.  She is a member of Conquer MG’s Medical Advisory Board. This article is reprinted with her permission from her website. Click here to see other self-care blog posts.  


When my patients ask me what they can do to naturally optimize their immune health, this is what I tell them:

  1. 1. Eat the Rainbow

Eat 9-12 servings of plant foods daily of all colors (purple, red, green, yellow, white, and ORANGE!). The phytonutrients/vitamins and minerals in these colors are each essential to your immune health.  Particularly important for immune health are the orange colored vegetables and fruits, such as carrots, whole oranges (not juice as it has too much sugar), bell peppers, and sweet potatoes, yams and turmeric root. Make it your goal to get the full seven colors every day with a variety of foods. See this link for Rainbow Recipes to get you started.

2. Get your Vitamin D

Optimize vitamin D levels through sun exposure, eating edible wild mushrooms (mushrooms must be exposed to sunlight or UV light in order to produce nutritionally significant amounts of vit D), and/or supplement with 800-2,000IU daily of Vitamin D3).  In my experience, most adults need to supplement.

3. Get Omega-3s Fatty Acids

You can do this by eating fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring three times per week.  If you are not eating fish three times per week, take a clean fish oil or vegan algae omega supplement. Nordic Naturals is a good brand.  If you are on blood thinning medications, talk to your doctor before starting fish oil.

Learn About Eating Safe Fish

  1. Curcumin is an extract of turmeric root

    4. Consider Taking a Curcumin Supplement

  2. Curcumin, an extract of turmeric root, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent which has anti-viral properties.  Supplement with 1,000-2,000 mg in divided doses daily, particularly if you have autoimmune disease.  I like to use Meriva, found in Curcumasorb by Pure Encapsulations, or curcumin with bioperine; each provide for enhanced bioavailability.  Curcumin is well-tolerated, but may have anti-platelet effects, so talk to your doctor if you are on aspirin or other blood thinning medications before starting this supplement.
  1. 5. Improve Your Body’s Ability to Eliminate Toxins

Toxins inhibit the body’s natural immunity.  Daily exercise, drinking plenty of water and eating sulfur containing foods like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), eggs, and green leafy vegetables will help detoxification pathways and toxin elimination.

  1. 6. Eat Your Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods Every Day

Your gut health is a vital key to your immune health.

Learn More About Eating Probiotic & Prebiotic Foods

  1. 7. Zinc & Vitamin C

Supplementing with Zinc 15-30mg daily and Vitamin C 1,000mg daily may also be helpful to lessen the severity of viral infections.  Remember that vitamins and supplements can help fill in gaps, but are not a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle.

  1. 8. Practice Active Recovery

  2. The link between stress and immunity is strong.  Resting through active means such as breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, yoga, guided imagery or visualization is probably the most important way to support a healthy immune system along with regular exercise.   See Get Unstuck and my other radical self-care blog posts. Consider downloading an app like ‘Headspace’ or ‘Ten Percent Happier’ to get you started with meditation.

Remember all health plans are individualized, so speak personally with your doctor before starting any new supplements.