Winter-Proof Your Wellness: Tips For Immune Resilience

Winter is certainly one of the prettiest seasons, but its frosty landscapes come with specific challenges, especially for our immune system. Beyond the enchanting snowfalls lie factors that can impact our well-being. From the dynamics of indoor gatherings to the scarcity of sunlight, each element plays a role in testing the resilience of our immune defenses.

While we can catch illnesses at anytime of year, winter certainly seems to bring with it more than it’s fair share of sick days. This makes sense when we think about how both the weather and our activities change during the colder months.

Winter-Proof Your Wellness - Tips for Immune Resilience

Closer Contacts

We spend a lot more time indoors and in closer contact with other people when the temperatures dip. The extra social gatherings around the holidays also increases how many different people (and their germs) we are exposed to. This, along with the closer quarters, are prime conditions for illnesses that are transmitted through droplets. Commit to bundling up and getting outside for a dose of fresh air (and maybe a much needed break from those relatives!).

Less Sunlight

Not only are the days shorter in winter but, depending on where you live, freezing temperatures make it a lot less tempting to get outside and enjoy some sunshine. Vitamin D, which our bodies make when we expose our skin to sunlight is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of the immune system (it also plays an important role in keeping our moods bright during the winter months). While it’s difficult to dress warmly AND get enough skin exposure to make the Vitamin D in the winter, there are other ways to support your Vitamin D levels. Introduce foods into your diet that are rich in Vitamin D. Fatty fish, like salmon and mackerel, egg yolks and mushrooms are some options. Taking a vitamin D supplement is often the easiest way to ensure adequate levels (I recommend getting your Vitamin D level tested to see what amount of supplementation is necessary). You can read more about Vitamin D and Vitamin D deficiency here.

But It’s a Dry Cold

Cold winter air holds less moisture than warmer air. Add in the drying effects of the forced air from furnaces and our skin and mucus membranes  pay the price. The membranes that line our nasal passages and respiratory tract are like the first line of immune defense. When we breathe in this drier air and these membranes dry out, they become more susceptible to small tears and cracks, allowing invasion from the viruses and bacteria that are just waiting for a weakened point of entry. A humidifier can help lessen the impact of the drier air. Saline nose sprays or lubricating gels can also provide relief for dry nasal passages.

Maybe Mom Was Right!

Do you remember the massive eye roll you’d shoot your mom when she told you to dress warmly or you’d catch a cold? She may have been on to something! A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that cold air damages the immune response in our noses.1 Even a small decrease in air temperature can kill off up to 50% of the helpful bacteria fighting cells and viruses found in the nasal tract. While this was an in-vitro study and more research is needed to determine if what happened in the petri dish actually happens in your cold nose, listen to your mom and put a scarf on!


You knew I’d sneak nutrition in there! With the cold weather comes the yearning for warm, “stick to your ribs” comfort food. These foods can tend to be high in starches and lacking in the nutrients we need to support our immune system. And let’s not forget all the holiday treats that are never far from reach at this time of year! High in sugar and empty calories, they certainly aren’t doing our immune systems any favors!

The good news is that there are plenty of delicious, seasonal, immune system supporting foods you can incorporate into your diet in the colder months! By choosing to include some of these foods in your meals on a regular basis, you can keep your immune system humming (and still enjoy a holiday treat or two)!

Citrus Fruits: The Vitamin C Powerhouses

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that plays numerous crucial roles in enhancing the immune system. From maintaining our skin and membrane integrity, to supporting the activities of immune cells to enhancing antibody levels, Vitamin C is a vital nutrient for immune health.

Getting more Vitamin C in your diet isn’t hard at all – simply choose from any of the delicious citrus fruits available this time of year – Mandarins, Pomelos, Grapefruits, Limes, Lemons….whatever tickles your fancy. 

Eat them as a snack with some nuts or incorporate them into a winter salad or zippy homemade salad dressing!

Root Veggies

When it comes to veggies – go back to your ROOTS! Sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips – it’s hard to get bored with the variety available!

Not only do these vegetables contain vitamins, like vitamin A and C, and other nutrients that are needed for immune health – they are also a great source of fiber. 

We know that fiber is important for good digestion and gut health, but did you know that roughly 70% our your immune system resides in your gut?

Fiber feeds the “good” bacteria in our intestines and, in turn, these bacteria help our immune system’s T cells develop.2 These beneficial bacteria also produce short chain fatty acids, which nourish the cells of the colon. A stronger gut = a stronger immune system!

Root veggies are tasty and versatile – add them to soups or stews (always a cold weather favorite), roast them in the oven or serve them mashed with a little grass fed butter!

Dark Leafy Greens

Not to sound like a broken record, but consuming a variety vegetables is one of the best things you can do to support your immune health!

Like those root veggies, dark green veggies, like spinach and kale also contain immune loving Vitamins A and C and the oh-so-important fiber. They also contain good amounts of Vitamin K and folate, both of which are important in immune system support. 

Eat them raw in a salad, saute them with garlic (another immune fave) or roast them into delicious, crispy “chips”!

*Note: Another function of Vitamin K is the production of blood clotting factors. If you are on a blood thinner, like warfarin, consult your health care provider before making any changes to the amount of leafy greens you are consuming.

Spice It Up

Winter spices, like ginger, cinnamon and, yes, garlic not only make delicious additions to your winter meals, they may help keep doctor away too!

Studies of the active components of garlic, ginger and cinnamon have shown antibacterial, antiviral and anti fungal effects.3,4,5,6

Hydration Matters

It’s not uncommon to let hydration lag in the colder months. The idea of a quenching glass of water just isn’t as appealing. Combine that with the drying effects of indoor heating and we run the risk of getting dehydrated.

Adequate water is necessary for transporting nutrients (like those needed to support the immune system), removing waste from the body, aiding communication between cells and is important for a well functioning lymphatic system. Along with transporting immune cells throughout the body, a well functioning lymphatic system removes toxins, wastes and pathogens.

A great way to help boost your hydration and fight the chill in the winter is to consume warming beverages, like teas and bone broth. Bone broth is rich in amino acids, which the immune system needs to function properly and produce infection fighting antibodies.  Teas, like the green and black varieties, contain antioxidant polyphenols. Herbal teas lack the caffeine and will be slightly more hydrating than their caffeinated cousins. Try adding slices of ginger or cinnamon to get an extra immune boost!

Bottom Line

When all is said and done, the best way to support your immune system, during winter and year round, is to consume a diet that is primarily whole foods. Not only will you reap the benefits of all the immune supporting nutrients and fiber that occur naturally in these foods, you will be limiting the sugar and processed foods that can work against your “bug” fighting capabilities! 


  1. Huang, D., Taha, M. S., Nocera, A. L., Workman, A. D., Amiji, M. M., & Bleier, B. S. (2023). Cold exposure impairs extracellular vesicle swarm-mediated nasal antiviral immunity. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 151(2), 509–525.e8.
  2. Shim, J. A., Ryu, J. H., Jo, Y., & Hong, C. (2023). The role of gut microbiota in T cell immunity and immune mediated disorders. International journal of biological sciences, 19(4), 1178–1191.
  3. Oriola, A. O., & Oyedeji, A. O. (2022). Plant-Derived Natural Products as Lead Agents against Common Respiratory Diseases. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 27(10), 3054.
  4. Sun, L., Rogiers, G., & Michiels, C. W. (2021). The Natural Antimicrobial trans-Cinnamaldehyde Interferes with UDP-N-Acetylglucosamine Biosynthesis and Cell Wall Homeostasis in Listeria monocytogenes. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 10(7), 1666.
  5. Akullo, J. O., Kiage, B., Nakimbugwe, D., & Kinyuru, J. (2022). Effect of aqueous and organic solvent extraction on in-vitro antimicrobial activity of two varieties of fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) and garlic (Allium sativum). Heliyon, 8(9), e10457.
  6. Bhatwalkar, S. B., Mondal, R., Krishna, S. B. N., Adam, J. K., Govender, P., & Anupam, R. (2021). Antibacterial Properties of Organosulfur Compounds of Garlic (Allium sativum). Frontiers in microbiology, 12, 613077.

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The (Super)Powers of MicroGreens

It’s garden season and nothing is cooler than finally seeing those little shoots start to emerge from the soil. But did you know that these tiny plants are like nutritional powerhouses in miniature form?

The (Super)Powers of Microgreens

What are Microgreens?

Microgreens are immature plants harvested around 1 to 2 weeks after germination. They are usually 1-2 inches long and include the stem and leaves. 

Are Microgreens and Sprouts the Same Thing?

No! While both are little nutritional powerhouses, microgreens are grown in soil (or a growing pad) and the stem and leaves are eaten. The seed is not consumed. Sprouts are grown in water and the stem and seed are consumed.

Types of Microgreens

These are just a few of the variety of microgreens:

  • Radish
  • Broccoli
  • Basil
  • Peashoots
  • Beets

Health Benefits of Microgreens

Bursting with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, microgreens offer a range of health benefits. In fact, they can contain up to 40 times the nutrients of the full grown plant!(1) Let’s take a closer look at what microgreens bring to the plate:

  • Nutrient-Rich: Radish microgreens are packed with essential nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E and minerals including zinc, iron, and magnesium. (1) These gems support energy production, immune function, bone health, and more, helping you reclaim that pep in your step! 💥
  • Digestive Support: Are you dealing with bloating, IBS, or heartburn? Adding microgreens to your meal could help your digestion run more smoothly. They contain enzymes that aid digestion and enhance nutrient absorption and are high in fiber. This fiber is a prebiotic, providing a source of food for the good bacteria in your gut. Imagine that? Relief through REAL FOOD! (2)
  • Inflammation Tamer: Joint pains got you down? Microgreens are rich in antioxidants that help combat inflammation in the body. By including them in your meals, you’re helping support overall joint health.(3) 🕺🌱

How to Incorporate Microgreens into Your Meals

Now that we’ve got the sciency stuff out of the way, let’s look at how to get more of these little delights into our diets!

  • Salads: Upgrade your greens game by adding a generous handful of microgreens to your favorite salads.Their crisp texture, fresh flavor will be a welcome addition! 🥗🌱
  • Sandwiches: Elevate your sandwich by layering on some microgreens for an extra crunch and burst of nutrients. They’re a perfect match for avocado, roasted veggies, or your protein of choice. 🥪✨
  • Smoothies: Power pack your morning routine by tossing a handful of microgreens into your smoothie. You’ll be amazed at how well they blend with fruits and greens, giving your smoothie an extra nutritional punch. 🥤💪
  • Stir-Frys: Throw a handful of microgreens into your stir-fry toward the end of cooking. This will preserve their crispiness and add a burst of freshness to your dish. Your stir-fry game just got a major upgrade! 🍲
  • Soups: Top your bowl of soup with microgreens to not only give it that restaurant-like pizzaz, but an extra helping of good-for-you nutrients.🥣

Growing Radish Microgreens

Even if your thumb is far from green, you can grow radishes (and, therefore, radish microgreens)! Radishes are a fast going crop and one of the quickest ways to get homegrown microgreens into your diet. Within as little as 7 days of planting the seeds, you’ll have adorable little shoots! When they are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin the rows by removing some shoots, leaving about 2 inches between plants. Crowded radishes don’t grow well. You can now add your harvested microgreens to your meal! The remaining shoots will continue to mature into radishes (or, if your goal is to only grow microgreens, you can harvest the lot and start a fresh batch!)

No garden? No worries!

You can easily grow microgreens indoors. Check out THIS article for the How-To.

Incorporating radish microgreens into your diet is a small but powerful step towards nurturing your gut and overall well-being. So, grab a handful of these nutrient-packed greens and let them work their magic!

🌱💚 Unlock Your Body’s Innate Healing Power:

If you’re ready to take charge of your health and make sustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle, I’m here to support you every step of the way. As a functional, nutritional therapy practitioner, I specialize in helping individuals like you find relief from symptoms that have been ruling your life. Contact me HERE.


  1. Zhenlei Xiao, Gene E. Lester, Yaguang Luo, and Qin Wang. (2012). Assessment of Vitamin and Carotenoid Concentrations of Emerging Food Products: Edible Microgreens. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 60 (31), 7644-7651
    DOI: 10.1021/jf300459b
  2. Holscher H. D. (2017). Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota. Gut microbes8(2), 172–184.
  3. M. H. Ahmed et al. (2015). Phenolic Composition, Antioxidant Potential, and in vitro Digestibility of Different Parts of Sprouted Radish (Raphanus sativus L.), Journal of Food Science and Technology, vol. 52, no. 12, pp. 7855–7863.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Nearly 50 percent of people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D. This number is higher amongst those of us who live in more northern climates. Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is actually a steroid hormone that our bodies make in response to ultraviolet light (UVB specifically). 

The UVB rays from sunlight trigger the production of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in our skin. This compound must then go through additional steps in both the liver and kidneys to become the active form of vitamin D3, which is calcitriol. Being able to manufacture our own vitamin D seems like a pretty nifty trick right? Why then are nearly 50 percent of us deficient in vitamin D?

Vitamin D Deficiency - Are YOU at Risk?

First, a little history lesson. Way back in the early 1600’s, the world was undergoing an industrial revolution. People were beginning to live in large cities, with housing being built close together and pollution from coal burning creating a haze in the air. It was around this time that a disease called Rickets began appearing in children. Rickets is a bone deforming disease that we now know is caused by a Vitamin D deficiency. The connection between the lack of sun exposure and Rickets was probably first made in the 1800’s by Polish physician Jedrzej Sniadecki.(1) He noticed that children in populated areas such as Warsaw, receiving little sunlight due to narrow alleyways, pollution and tight living quarters, had a higher incidence of rickets that those living in rural areas outside of Warsaw. In response to this observation, Sniadecki recommended in his book, On the Physical Education of Children (1822), that children “should be carried about in the open air especially in the sun, the direct action of which on our bodies must be regarded as one of the most efficient methods for the prevention and the cure of this disease.”(2)

Although most of Vitamin D’s fame comes from it’s role in aiding in the absorption of calcium and creating healthy bones, it is actually involved in a large number of important functions in our bodies. It plays a role in both immune function and control of inflammation. Therefore, it may be crucial in the management of both autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. It helps to regulate the release of a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is important for both mental health and digestion. It is essential for healing, as it helps control cell growth. Vitamin D’s control over cell proliferation, along with its anti-inflammatory effects may have protective effects against many cancers. Scientists continue to study Vitamin D and its benefits to our health. The role of Vitamin D deficiency in heart disease, mental health, obesity and Parkinson’s disease are just a few of the many areas being studied.

So back to the original question – why are over 50 percent of us deficient in this important nutrient? The obvious answer is that we are not getting enough sunshine! There is a reason it is called the “Sunshine Vitamin”! Along with living at a higher latitude, our jobs and hobbies (I’m looking at you Netflix) are keeping us out of the sunshine. When we do venture out, we slather on the sunscreen, afraid of skin cancer and (yikes!) wrinkles. It is also difficult to get anywhere near enough Vitamin D from the food we eat. It can be found in the oil of fish livers (think cod liver oil) and there is a small amount in egg yolks and fatty fish, like salmon, sardines and mackerel. Plant foods, like mushrooms and leafy greens, contain a very small amount of Vitamin D2. It is thought, however, that this plant derived from of vitamin D doesn’t seem to perform all the functions that animal derived D3 does. Many foods, such as homogenized milk and breakfasts cereals are fortified with Vitamin D. Even if you aren’t avoiding these processed and packaged foods, in order to get your daily requirement of Vitamin D, you would have to consume an unfeasible amount of these foods! 

So Who is at risk?

  • Digestive Issues – Even if we could consume enough vitamin D in our diets, we are assuming that it is all going to be absorbed. The health of your gut is going to influence how much of the vitamin you absorb and, let’s face it, many of us have at least some digestive issues. Issues like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, disorders (or absence) of the gallbladder can all reduce vitamin D absorption. These efficacy of vitamin D supplements are also affected by these digestive issues.
  • Obesity – Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is stored in fat tissue. Obesity means we have more fat in which to store that Vitamin D, making it less easily accessible when needed.
  • Darker skin tones – Higher amounts of the pigment melanin in dark skin tones acts as a natural sunscreen, reducing the amount of Vitamin D produced
  • Increased Age – Lower amounts of the precursor to Vitamin D, skin changes and more time spent indoors increases the risk of deficiency in older individuals
  • Time of year and location – UVB rays are weaker in the northern latitudes, so weak in fact that there are large periods of the year (4 to 6 months) when one just can’t make enough Vitamin D from sun exposure alone. (3)

How do I know if I’m deficient?

The symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are often so subtle that you have no idea you are deficient. I know that I had no clue, until my blood test came back! The effects of vitamin D deficiency are varied and we rarely make the connection between these signals and a lack of vitamin D. They may include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Bone pain
  • Muscle or Joint pain
  • Frequent Illness
  • Low mood or irritability
  • Anxiety

So what can you do?


Ask your physician for a blood test. Vitamin D levels are not something that most physicians will order with your yearly bloodwork. Because there are no overt signs of deficiency, I think it is important to know what you level is – especially if you fall into one of the groups who are more at risk for a deficiency. 

Conventional “normal” ranges can vary depending on the lab conducting the test.  They are also based on the average population which, if we are being honest, is not all that healthy. Generally, the “normal” range will be quite wide (30ng/ml to 100ng/ml). But this normal range doesn’t necessarily reflect what is healthy, only what is common. Functional references ranges are narrower and reflect a level that is optimal to prevent dysfunction and, eventually, disease. A functional optimal range for vitamin D is much narrower, perhaps at 60ng/ml to 80ng/ml. When disease is present, such as with heart disease or cancer, the optimal range may be higher.


Most of us living in northern latitudes are not going to be able to get all the vitamin D we need year round. A high quality supplement can help us keep our levels up throughout the year. 

The amount of vitamin D to supplement will vary depending on your current blood level, health status and sun exposure. As always, it is important to have a discussion with your health care provider to determine an appropriate dose and have your levels monitored periodically. Also, always…ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist before starting any supplementation, in order to rule out drug interactions or contraindications!

As vitamin D is fat soluble, there is a risk (although extremely small) of toxicity, because excess can be stored in the body. It is generally only seen in those who take extremely high doses for long periods of time. 


Overall, sun exposure really is the best source of vitamin D, as we don’t have to rely on adequate digestion for it to reach our bloodstream and get to work! It is a bit of a balancing act, especially if you are like me and go from bright white to lobster red in the blink of an eye. A general rule of thumb is for the time of sun exposure to be 50% of what it would take to cause a mild sunburn (slight pinkness 24 hours later). After this time, slather on the safe sunscreen, cover up or seek shade.(1) For me, that’s probably about 5 minutes in the mid-day summer sun! The more skin that is exposed, the more vitamin D those factories in your skin will produce. I would recommend protecting the face with sunscreen or a hat, as it’s surface area is relatively small and will produce only a small amount of vitamin D and the skin there is more prone to damage from sun exposure.

The other benefit of getting Vitamin D from the sun? Toxicity is not an issue. There are compounds made along with the Vitamin D that will limit any excess production, protecting us from toxicity. The body is a wondrous thing, isn’t it?


  1. Wacker, M., & Holick, M. F. (2013). Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermato-endocrinology5(1), 51–108.
  2. Mozołowski W. Jędrzej Sniadecki (1768-1838) on the Cure of Rickets. Nature. 1939;143:121. doi: 10.1038/143121a0
  3. MF. Vitamin D: importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004; 79:362-71)