28 June 2019

Top 4 ways to boost your immune system

What is something you can do every morning with very little extra effort, but just a whiff of discipline that can significantly boost your immune system? We have been recommending this for around 40 years, but a recent article made it sound like a new discovery so it has prompted this week’s post that is research based - how to use everyday things to best to boost your immune system, but first

                 Thought for the Day

       Though my View is as spacious as the sky,

       My actions and respect for cause and effect 
       Are as fine as grains of flour.


Number 1 top way to boost your immune system - Regular Meditation

No surprises here. Plenty of research indicates meditation’s direct beneficial impact on immune function. However, of even more benefit may be the fact that the more we meditate, the more likely we are to do a whole host of things that are good for us - and have the inner discipline to continue to do them.

From the research : Mindfulness meditation appears to be associated with reductions in pro-inflammatory processes, increases in cell-mediated defence parameters and increases in enzyme activity that guards against cell aging. More research needed…

Black DS. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Jun; 1373(1): 13–24.

Number 2 top way to boost your immune system - Plant based diet

Probably no surprises here either! A great deal of evidence has now built up to support this contention. Here is one of the latest…

From the research : Plant-based sources of protein decrease chronic inflammation, according to this recent study. Researchers tracked protein intakes for 2,061 participants and compared inflammatory biomarkers between total, animal, and plant-based protein sources. Those who replaced animal protein with plant-based protein showed improvements in a particular biomarker associated with overall inflammation and oxidative stress. The authors note that increased plant-based protein may lower the inflammation burden among aging populations.

Hruby A, Jacques PF. Dietary protein and changes in biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort. Curr Dev Nutr. 2019;3:1-9.

Number 3 top way to boost your immune system - Regular moderate exercise

Again most probably know this by now. Strenuous exercise can in fact weaken the immune system - something marathon runners need to really watch.

However, exercise at a level where you can talk while doing it, and feel better after you complete your session and that level of exercise has many positive benefits.

From the research : Moderate exercise seems to have a beneficial effect on the immune function, improving both the humoral and the cellular immune system.

Jeurrisen A teal. The Effects of physical exercise on the immune system. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2003 Jul 12;147(28):1347-51.

Number 4 top way to boost your immune system - Cold showers

This is the one we have recommended for years. Seems the mild stress of the cold shower causes the body to lift its game and ramp up its immune responses.

There is a caution...

Most people have a warm shower first, then shift to cold. However, doing this suddenly has been associated with a mild increase in heart attack risk. Therefore, turn the cold on in a few steps with time to adjust between - then all is good.

From the research : This is an area where the actual research articles are hard to track down, but here is one from a few years back…

Shevchuk NA, Radoja S. Possible stimulation of anti-tumor immunity using repeated cold stress: A hypothesis. Infect Agent Cancer. 2007;2:20.

Speaking personally, I have been having a cold shower every day for around 50 years - plus the others above. In that time have had virtually zero colds and only one bout of the flu and yes, I do not take the flu vaccine. Lucky? Maybe…  But these are 4 top ways proven to boost immune function.

And the side effect? The daily cold shower helps maintain the discipline to do the others - although I do really enjoy the others anyway .


  1. Dear Ian, always love to read your newsletters!
    Fully agree on the health benefits of a cold shower! Already Sebastian Kneipp around 1850 knew of the various benefits of water: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Kneipp

  2. Ian—yes, all sounds good. I have been doing the cold shower again for last year and a half, after dropping it over the last 20 or so. Two winters ago I got my first bad flu for a long time, whilst doing numerous trips back and forth between warm Coffs Harbour and cold Bendigo, looking for a house to buy. staying in motels, frequent flights, I got very run down and quite crook. We accomplished the move but I was buggared for months after arriving in Bendigo.
    I re-adopted all of your above measures + another. Every morning a warm lemon juice with honey and a few drops of oregano oil. Both last winter and this one (so far) no hint of a cold or flu. I've never had a flu vaccination in my life and not about to start now. NOTE: while there is a lack of good evidence I reckon that the oregano oil is a powerful preventive/treatment for colds + flus.

  3. Many thanks Ian. How long do you need to stay in the cold shower for? And is it OK to finish with a hot shower afterwards?

    1. Time for the cold shower seems to be only 30- 60 seconds although if you want to you can stay longer - that is what i do in summer :) Best to finish with the cold - it is invigorating and in winter actually causes a reflex surge in warmth that lasts quite a long time...

  4. Many thanks again Ian. And do you need to put your head in the cold shower to make it effective?

    1. I do. Do not know if there is any research on this :)