Candid shot of a young woman outdoors in autumn.

Autumn Immunity Tips

Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S.
This content originally appeared on 

As we head into fall, our focus shifts to protecting our immunity as cold and flu season nears, focusing on your diet and how you can use nutritious foods to nourish yourself at this time is vital. We break down what to add to your diet and lifestyle in this transitionary season.

Autumn signals a time of change – in weather, daylight, and temperatures. Days are shorter and the nights are cooler. As the colors of summer are stripped from the trees and quietly transformed to deep, rich hues, you are reminded that winter is nearing, and you need to prepare.

It’s the ideal time to begin to slow down, storing your energy for the upcoming cold months and take time to enjoy as much natural sunlight as you can before the darker days of winter arrive.

Emotionally, you learn to let go and open yourself up to change as you pause to reflect inward. Physically, you need to take special care of the two vital organs of this season, the lungs and large intestines.

Lung Health - Your First Line of Defense Against Respiratory Issues

Your lungs – along with the bronchial tubes, throat, sinuses, and nose – are a major detox pathway. They are your first line of defense against unhealthy air; they hold the key to respiration. Your lungs act as the go-between for the internal and external environment, inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide through their pulmonary capillaries. As the only internal organ to interact with the outside environment, your lungs are vulnerable to dryness and certain weather conditions. So, it’s always best to protect them from cold and damp weather by keeping your chest, neck, head, and feet warm.

Every function of your body relies for existence on the oxygen intake of the lungs, In fact, each cell performs as a miniature lung by taking in oxygen from the bloodstream and eliminating carbon dioxide, which is then carried back to the lungs. That’s why it is so essential for your lungs to have good quality air that is clean, moist, warm, and rich in oxygen. When your lungs aren’t functioning properly, your body accumulates heat, propelling other health issues into motion, resulting in poor circulation, night sweats, excessive perspiration, fatigue, and listlessness. Estimates indicate that 92 million of us nationwide (that is more than 1 out of 3) already struggle with at least one of the more common chronic respiratory diseases: sinusitis, allergies, bronchitis, and asthma.

A Healthy Gut Equals Healthy Immune System

Equally important to your health and detox process are your large intestines, which also need your special attention during autumn. Lying along the outer edge of the abdomen, your large intestine is divided into three parts: a caecum, where your appendix is attached; colons – ascending, transverse, descending, and sigmoid; and the rectum. This five-foot, often-overworked organ absorbs water and finishes nutrient absorption so its blood vessels can transport it to the liver for further metabolism. The main function of your colon is to gather your body’s putrefied toxins and eliminate them via peristalsis so the entire system can work without undue stress.

Your gut is like a fortress, maintaining a protective environment where food can be broken down and fed to voracious cells waiting for much-needed nutrients. Its thin mucous membrane absorbs vital nutrients and expels toxins. In a healthy gastrointestinal tract, there are literally trillions of bacteria – good and bad ones. As long as they stay in balance, things are fine. So, to keep your detoxification pathways healthy and your healthy bacteria count high, it is imperative to follow a diet designed for autumn detox, which will help you to cleanse your system by expelling toxins from the large intestine, thereby helping to prevent autointoxication.

Foods to Ward Off Virus & Respiratory Issues

Fenugreek tea is the autumn herbal tea of choice because it is so effective as a lubricant; it softens and dissolves mucus in the lungs and moistens the intestinal tract to prevent constipation. Other lung-protecting herbs include usnea, which the Native Americans fondly named “the Lungs of the Earth,” because it works against “bad” bacteria like staphylococcus, streptococcus, pneumococcal pneumonia, and mycobacterium tuberculosis; osha, which is a powerful aid for bronchial irritations and has immune-stimulating properties; mullein, which has long been associated with alleviating pulmonary problems because it is an expectorant; and lobelia, a strong bronchial dilator and antispasmodic useful for overall lung congestion and asthma.

Autumn spices include warming cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and anise, which not only are deliciously aromatic but also help to prevent indigestion, gas, and cold hands and feet. Anise is a lung remedy as well, known to help bronchial disorders and asthma. Your autumn tea, herbs, and spices all help to support intestinal and respiratory function and to alleviate dampness.

The harvest season is the time to decrease your intake of cooling summer foods and to add more cooked and warming foods (like velvety okra and crunchy snow peas) into your eating plan in preparation for winter. It is also the season to reduce your fruit intake from three portions to two because fruits are especially cooling to the body. We need more warmth now.

Now is the time to enjoy more bull-bodied, richer foods like nuts and seeds, eating them as snacks or adding them to stir-fries and stews. Enjoy heartier, more sustaining foods that will be warming and help protect you from cooler, and often damper weather. For autumn detox, consume foods like sauerkraut, which protects the GI tract. Also, make this special Apple Cider Vinegar Healing Tonic to enjoy morning and evening throughout the autumn season:

Apple Cider Vinegar Healing Tonic

  • 8 ounces of filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon organic, unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of GI, lung and liver supporting Daily Greens
  • A pinch of Ceylon cinnamon

Mix ingredients together and enjoy these benefits:

  • Balances the body’s pH
  • Provides easily available potassium so helpful to mineral balance and balanced detoxification
  • A natural antiseptic for overall health, including respiratory health
  • Provides overall digestive support

Other Nutritional Tips

  • Use organic beef and chicken bone broth for special dishes that require liquids for basting or sautéing.
  • Increase your menu options and choose from a large variety of fiber-rich harvest vegetables as colorful as the autumn leaves.