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Fight Cold and Flu Season

Natural Ways to Strengthen the Immune System

Q: I tend to get a lot of colds with a sore throat in the fall and winter. Is there anything I can do to keep from getting sick so much or at least speed up the recovery? - Aldo, Woodbridge


A: Every year in the colder Canadian months, the question of how to have a stronger immune system and get fewer colds comes up.  There are many daily habits common to the North American culture that can weaken an immune system, like excess sugar intake, inadequate sleep, stress, excessive alcohol intake etc. Small lifestyle adjustments during fall and winter can make a big impact on surviving cold and flu season. A few key tips are:

  • Try and stick to a regular sleep cycle as much as possible

  • Eat plenty of colourful vegetables and fruits

  • Avoid/minimize junk food intake

  • Stay well hydrated. Herbal teas count towards water intake if a hot beverage is preferred.

  • Exercise, move, break a sweat regularly

  • Take natural products and supplements to enhance your immune function. Astragalus, olive leaf and manuka honey are some of my favourites.


Astragalus has been one of the most widely used herbs in Asian medicine for over 2,000 years.  It’s most commonly known for its ability to enhance immune function. It helps by strengthening the activity of immune cells, resulting in a more effective bodily response to infections.  Unlike many other immune herbs, astragalus is unique in that it can be taken for extended periods of time without showing a decrease in the response of the immune system.  In addition to strengthening the immune response, it also boasts antiviral properties as well as anti-aging properties. This herb is a stand out for boosting the vitality of the immune system as a preventative measure throughout cold and flu season.  


Olive leaf extract’s main active component is oleuropein, a powerful antioxidant, and adequate antioxidant activity is a critical component for optimal immune and cellular function. Olive leaf also exhibits exceptional antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic activity to help combat infections.  In addition to this, it has been found to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, which further helps protect the body from harmful microbes.


Manuka honey is a unique form of honey. Its nutritional content is said to be four times more potent than typical raw honey, which is already a rich source of amino acids, B vitamins and minerals.  It also has a significantly higher level of enzymes than standard honey, which contributes to its superior health-promoting antibacterial properties. Studies have found that its antibacterial activity may help stop the growth of sore-throat causing bacteria, such as Strep. During cold and flu season, manuka honey is an exceptional ally to help heal sinusitis, colds and sore throats, but it is also useful for gastrointestinal bacterial overgrowth, acne, staph infections, cuts, burns, ulcers and allergies. Look for the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) on labels as it acts as a global standard to identify and guarantee the medicinal enzymatic quality of manuka honey.


Dr. Michelle Pobega, ND, runs a naturopathic practice near the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto. Stay connected with her at, Facebook and Twitter @MPobegaND