Top 10 Ways to Boost the Immune System Naturally

by Melanie Christner Healthy Living, Natural RemediesComments: 32

boost the immune system

By Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP of Honest Body

Dear Mom,

Have you ever questioned your sanity as you nurse your child through another round of a miserable sore throat, hacking cough, or ear infection? As you swish out the throw-up bowl for another round? As you schedule another doctor’s appointment?

Some of life’s parenting questions are easy.

“Mommy, is lake spelled with a ‘c’ or a ‘k’?”

“Mama, what season comes after winter?”

Some questions are not as simple or straightforward … like how to keep your sanity and maintain a better-than-miserable experience for your child during cold/flu season.

Enter the practical and timeless wisdom of the GAPS Diet …


Robust health…

These are on my list of favorite words (and what I aim for with my family and practice).

Today I’ll be examining the first of the top 10 ways to boost the immune system. These are taken from the book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. And they are simple ways to have robust health.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with her work, Dr. Natasha is a neurologist with a masters in nutrition from the UK, who created a dietary protocol for healing autism, as well as other neurological, chronic and autoimmune issues. She has helped patients around the world and has trained other practitioners to do so as well. The GAPS Diet helps by healing and sealing the gut lining, reducing toxic burden on the immune system, and replenishing beneficial microbes. For more on GAPS you can visit

This list of immune system boosters influence immunity for the better. They are not just for the winter season either…they influence the intricacies of the body in ways that only whole foods and natural practices can…working with our bodies and not against.

So … numero uno … drumroll please.

(Keep it light, health talk can get too serious!)

Boost the Immune System #1 : Fresh animal fats (from meats and dairy), and cholesterol rich foods (especially raw egg yolk)


When I first began my journey into real foods and dietary healing, the most surprising aspect was the concept of animal fats and cholesterol as healthy and healing. Intuitively though, my cells were doing a happy dance (yay!).

Why animal fats and cholesterol?

Cholesterol is one of the most essential substances to the function of the human body!

– The brain and nervous system is the most hungry for it. Our brain cells and memory depend on it.

– The second system most hungry for cholesterol is our endocrine system.

– The hormones, built with cholesterol by our endocrine glands, are responsible for important activities, such as:

  • Reproduction and sexual health
  • Emotions
  • Behavior
  • Bone, brain, and muscle formation
  • Energy production
  • Metabolism

Cholesterol is essential for our immune system to function!

The human organism is composed of 100+ trillion cells

Immune cells are “star” cells…

  • Lymphocytes
  • Helper T cells
  • Natural killer cells
  • The “phils”, neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils
  • Macrophages
  • Mast cells
  • Etc…

Immune cells depend on cholesterol to fight infections and repair themselves after defending and fighting for us. Animal and human studies have shown that folks with high levels of cholesterol have a higher protection against infection. They are four times less likely to get AIDS, they are less likely to pick up every cold, and they recover much quicker when they do get sick.

Those with low cholesterol are more likely to get sick, stay sick longer, and have more of a chance of an infection morphing into a dangerous and even deadly one.

Cholesterol is important in cell to cell communication. Since immune cells communicate with each other throughout the body it is important to have well-made cell membranes that have good cell receptor sites and messaging capabilities.

Diets high in poor quality fat, i.e. vegetable oils like canola oil, corn oil, cooking sprays, margarines, hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and trans fats, cause inflammation and lead to immune abnormalities.

Without cholesterol and saturated fats in its membrane, the immune cell cannot fulfill its tiny little destiny.

The ability of white blood cells to recognize and destroy foreign invaders such as viruses, fungi, and bacteria, is restricted without sufficient saturated fatty acids in them.

Saturated fats and cholesterol are what give every cell membrane their structure and stability.

Cholesterol is such an important part of physiology that the body has very tightly regulated mechanisms to keep blood cholesterol at a certain level. We give our bodies a hand if we consume foods rich in cholesterol.

Which foods are richest in cholesterol?

  1. Caviar (a whopping 588mg of cholesterol per 100g…baby making food)
  2. Cod liver oil (570mg of cholesterol per 100g)
  3. Fresh egg yolk (424mg per 100g)
  4. Butter (218mg per 100g)
  5. Coldwater fish and shellfish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, and shrimp, ranging from 173mg to 81mg per 100g)
  6. Lard (94mg per 100g, with other animal fats following, such as beef tallow, chicken, duck, goose fat)

Summation – with cholesterol and saturated fats, you too can fulfill your destiny :)

A few facts on fats and cholesterol with regard to immunity:

  • Caprylic acid (a fatty acid found in butter and other animal fats) is a powerful antiviral nutrient
  • Monolaurin, extract of lauric acid (fatty acid found in coconut and breastmilk) is also a potent antiviral
  • Old medical literature shows that infections like tuberculosis used to be treated with raw cream and raw egg yolk (high in cholesterol)
  • Native Americans and other peoples used bear fat as medicine (and for a lil’ baby making, if necessary)
  • Vitamin D (a dietary source high in D is fermented cod liver oil) is a steroid hormone and powerful immune and gene regulator. Apart from dietary sources, Vitamin D actually starts with cholesterol in your skin and, with the sun’s obliging kiss, undergoes several changes…first in the skin, then the liver, and finally the kidneys, before it is in the active form that regulates calcium metabolism and absorption, and strengthens immunity

Where can I get these healthy fats to boost the immune system?

The best way to get animal fats and good quality eggs (that are pastured) is to get to know your local grass-based farmer. You can also find help from a local chapter of the Weston Price Foundation. Animal fats such as tallow, lard and poultry fats are not always readily available, but if you befriend your local farmers they can usually help you find them. There are also online sources for healthy fats.


  • Cod liver oil – I recommend fermented cod liver oil rendered the traditional way with no heat to denature nutrients and delicate omega-3 fats.
  • Caviar
  • Egg yolks – Ask around to find your nearest grass-based farmer or backyard enthusiast.
  • Coldwater fish and shellfish – wild caught.
  • Lard and other animal fats.

How we incorporate fats and cholesterol into our family’s diet

As a mother of four children I am keen on having healthy kiddos! Some ways in which we incorporate healthy fats and cholesterol to boost the immune system are:

  • Liberal butter usage on grain free muffins (I make my own raw butter or use Organic Valley’s pastured butter)
  • Raw pastured eggs in smoothies, Russian custards, my homemade mayonnaise, and sometimes in soups
  • Shrimp weekly, sauteed in butter of course!
  • Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil daily – at least 1 tsp for the kids and 2 tsp for mom and dad
  • We saute’ plenty of vegetables in lard, butter, coconut oil, etc. and we add these fats liberally into any soup we make

Incorporate healthy fats and cholesterol into your family’s diet and those “mama nurse” moments will become fewer and farther apart (your cells will also do a happy dance).

Your turn. I would love to hear how you incorporate fats into your family’s diet! Please let me know in the comments below, or visit me at my website Honest Body.

About the Author

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Melanie delights in helping people apply healing protocols to everyday life, while eating really great food … and becoming friends with their bodies again.

She writes at As a mom of four children herself, she works with moms and their kiddos to help them feel their best and to have all the life and energy they were meant to have.

Melanie is an NTP, Certified GAPS Practitioner, and Healing Foods Specialist in Vermont. For fun she creates in her kitchen, Nordic skis, or swims in the Green Mountain rivers with her family.

Connect with her on: FacebookTwitter, Pinterest


More Information

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How to Boost Immunity with Greens

The Best Vegetables for Boosting Immunity

Juicing 101: Why Do it, the Best Juicers, Recipes to Try

Comments (32)

  • cécile

    If I may add a good natural way : avoiding drugs (medicines) and using essential oils…:)

    December 15th, 2014 5:24 pm Reply
  • legna


    which brand of caviar do you use? a link please thanks

    February 16th, 2014 10:07 am Reply
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  • Carol


    I was wondering if there is a “write up” on each of the “immune boosters” in this list? I have only been able to find #1, about animal fats and cholesterol rich foods. It would be nice to have information and recommendations on each point listed as to how to incorporate these suggestions into one’s life as you have done with #1. I have been recommending things to friends and although I am quite well read, it can be difficult to express and share this with others. Thanks for all you do!

    January 30th, 2014 1:49 pm Reply
  • Kirk

    You also neglect to mention LIVER! I eat a fair amount of grass-fed beef liver and it looks like it should rank at number 3-1/2 as its cholesterol content is in the range of 241-300mg / 100g (depending on the source).


    January 22nd, 2014 9:37 pm Reply
  • Naomi

    @Deb: “This is a anti-vax site. They don’t want to hear that here. Funny, the blog says their friends and family are sick with the flu. I guess all their healthy eating and no flu shots kept them from getting it. Oh wait…”

    To what blog are you referring? Nowhere in this blog did anyone say their friends and family are sick with flu. So what would your point be in this false statement?

    January 22nd, 2014 10:31 am Reply
  • Peggy C

    And oh yes, as someone else pointed out, saturated fats are best, mono are okay, nut and seed oils, not so much, especially seed oils. Seed oils are full of highly unstable, easily oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids, definitely not what you want for a healthy immune system.

    January 21st, 2014 6:44 pm Reply
  • DAB

    Why don’t you just come out and say it (about fats): all polyunsaturated fats are easily oxidized and that’s BAD for you. Monosaturated fats are not great either, they just oxidize slower than polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats do not oxidize for years and years at room temperature – if they do, they’re not pure.

    But in the next immunity section I see the emphasis is on cold pressing, not saturation. Is this why you can recommend nut and seed oils (which have high proportions of unsaturated fats)? I hope you’ll at least mention which of these seed oils are GMO and to be avoided.

    Unsaturated oils also are susceptible to being glycated, which creates Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). These nonfunctional molecules accumulate, cannot be reversed, are hard for the body to dispose of and contribute to many undesirable conditions. We hear about AGEs from excess sugars/simple carbs consumption, but AGES can be made with lipids and proteins.

    What about discussing the differences between long chain and medium/short chain fatty acids??? Meat fats are composed of long chain fatty acids whereas tropical fruit oils (palm and coconut) are not, so they’re metabolized much differently and do not set the stage for inflammation and many other problems. For example, long chain fatty acids contribute to body fat accumulation when one’s needs are satisfied, but short chain lipids do not. This is just one of the many health differences.

    All my studies of fats show these are very key health differences, but they are rarely discussed in articles about them. Many articles go half way there at best, then leave the door open for consumption of oils with significant proportions of unsaturated fats. Perhaps the writers know better but don’t know how to counter the prevalent nonsensical “artery clogging fat” lingo (originated by American seed oil marketing), or yield to the relative abundance of vegetable oils, supermarket scarcity of tropical fruit oils or tag-along benefits of some oils (like the fiber in flax seeds).

    There are only a few fats in my kitchen: cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil, palm fruit oil, butter (or ghee) and olive oil. The latter is not used for high temp cooking and mostly goes into salad dressings. And I strictly trim fat off all meats, before and after (if necessary or away from home) cooking (at low temps).

    If you want to keep your endocrine system (or many other parts of the body) healthy, that should not be at the expense of consuming unsaturated or long chain fats. It is not necessary to be consuming these to be healthy, actually the opposite is more the case.

    January 21st, 2014 2:10 pm Reply
    • Peggy C

      DAB, If I’m not mistaken, AGE are combinations of proteins and glucose, not fats and glucose. Not defending PUFA–even cold pressed, they are not good as once in the body at body temperature, they are easily oxidized, generating free radicals, causing inflammation, and so on. But unless I’ve got my Biochemistry wrong, AGE are not made from fats of any sort.

      January 21st, 2014 6:49 pm Reply
    • kirk

      Yet no healthy traditional society ever ate lean meat.

      January 22nd, 2014 9:32 pm Reply
  • Sara

    Hello, thanks for the useful article. I am curious about your recommendation for cod liver oil dosage.
    Green Pastures says one dose is 2 ml.
    Just curious why you recommend 1 tsp for kids and 2 for adults? Are there more specific parameters for children of different ages? For example, would I give my 2 year old the same dose as a 10 year old?

    January 21st, 2014 1:46 pm Reply
  • Peggy C

    These are all good, but there’s another way as well: get your kid vaxed against the flu. The flu can be deadly. This year, especially, it’s killing youngsters. The flu vaccination is very effective and almost never causes anything more than a slightly sore arm for a day (much easier to deal with in your child than all the symptoms and possible complications of the flu. Wish they’d recommended annual flu shots when my kids were growing up. We all get it now. Just saying….

    January 21st, 2014 12:52 pm Reply
  • Naomi Snider

    I was looking through the list of ten to see if you mention Thymus tapping. Do you have any input about this?

    January 21st, 2014 12:13 pm Reply
  • Suzanne

    Sorry, but with the oil spill in the gulf and the Fukushima disaster being so badly under reported, I will not eat any seafood nor will I ever again. Nuclear half life lasts longer than mine. I am surprised to see bloggers still recommending seafood to be honest.
    We will only eat fish caught out of the pristine creekwaters near our home, mostly trout. We live in very rural eastern US than hasn’t been ruined by fracking yet.

    January 21st, 2014 11:42 am Reply
  • Aliyanna

    This brings us a struggle that many of us are now having….esp those of us who have extra special kids.
    What can we do when we are allergic to beef , eggs and milk. We don’t do gluten either. We do coconut in place of dairy but still different.
    What can we do to norish our families with these limitations.

    January 2nd, 2014 12:58 pm Reply
    • Maggie

      I am with you Aliyanna. In addition, what if we can’t get quality sources of fish and meat? What do you recommend then Melanie?
      I live in Canada and getting Green Pastures is basically out of the question. It’s equally impossible to get anything other than grass fed beef and my 7 year old son is intolerant to that and dairy. I am grateful that people are sharing their knowledge about paleo-inspired living, but I am frustrated because I find it so hard to get the quality products – and I find many people are eating paleo anyway, this is a dangerous game with toxins and antibiotics.
      Thanks in advance.

      January 21st, 2014 1:35 pm Reply
      • Stacey

        Hi Maggie!

        I see you posted some time ago, but just wanted to share some info for others who might be reading from Canada.

        Regarding your concerns about finding high-quality pastured meats in Canada – there are lots of us out there, but we can be hard to find! We are a tiny pasture-based farm outside of Vancouver raising pastured heirloom pork, pastured duck, chicken and eggs as well as plenty of veg. We sell direct from the farm, and we always sell out. You won’t find us at the grocery store or farmer’s market.

        There are a few places to find pasture based products – is a good place to start, but so is your local farm and garden section of Craigslist! I know that sounds bizarre, but I have bought everything from beef to honey farmer-direct for very good prices. Don’t be shy about posting a “Wanted” ad for your groceries, either, whether that be on craigslist or on the wall of your local coop. There is a whole sub-culture of grass farmers out there and we are happy to help.

        December 17th, 2014 11:23 am Reply
  • Courtney

    I have subscribed 😉

    December 15th, 2013 7:26 pm Reply
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  • Erin

    My son got mono at college, his first year away from home. I had not yet discovered traditional cooking, but we were pretty close, lots of eggs, always real butter, my husband grew up cooking w bacon fat, so we use that, and always plenty of meat, stews, sausage, and had been using cod liver oil (carlsons). So my son had been use to a rich, healthy diet. I think his mono was related to the sudden change in diet at the school dorm with so much processed food and polyunsaturated oils. He recovered well enough, but it was a bump in the road. Now, I’ve heard about meningitis breakouts at Princeton. I wonder if it could be connected to the poor quality food.

    December 11th, 2013 11:30 am Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      There are so many unintended consequences resulting from a poor diet, and fueling our energy and our cellular repair with junk. I think your hunch is on track.

      Thank you for the comment, Erin.

      December 11th, 2013 12:51 pm Reply
    • Susan

      Erin- I can SO relate! My daughter just finished her first semester of college, too, and is really feeling the difference between eating real food at home, to the processed food they serve in cafeterias. She really tries to consume the best foods she can in the cafeteria, but it is difficult to do. She shops at the local health food store and buys yogurt, grass fed butter, raw milk and kombucha, but even consuming those didn’t keep her from getting a bug in November. (I cured her 2 week cough in 2 days with fire cider when she came home for Christmas break!)

      She and I spent a lot of time looking at other strategies she can take to keep herself strong while she was home for the holidays, and even though she is taking probiotics, taking cod liver oil, and other supplements I sent with her, her biggest downfall, we discovered, is sleep. She prefers 9 hours, but living in a dorm she is only getting about 6, and sometimes less. Between the crap in the cafeteria and the lack of sleep, these kids are fighting a very big battle! (Which explains why she slept on and off for 3 days when she came home!!)

      January 21st, 2014 2:52 pm Reply
  • Pafnucy

    The food richest in cholesterol is brain. E.g. 100 grams of beef brain contains 3010 mg of cholesterol. Moreover, it also contains great amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids: 1225 mg/100 g. The proportion of Omega3 to Omega 6 equals 30:1.

    December 10th, 2013 2:24 pm Reply
    • Cassandra Brecht

      That’s interesting, and it makes sense. I guess the tough part would be finding brain from a trusted source. The ranchers at my farmers’ markets don’t sell it, but they might, I suppose, if they had any demand.

      December 10th, 2013 9:49 pm Reply
    • Carrie

      I got some brain with my half beef we recently got. How do you prepare it?

      December 11th, 2013 12:35 am Reply
      • Pafnucy

        I’m still struggling to purchase it, but i heard people who prepare it with scrambled eggs. First you should parboil it (put in boiling water for a while), then remove the “outer skin”, cut to pieces and just fry on the pan with butter. Then you just add the eggs, scramble them, add salt, favourite spices. I’m curious how does it taste, but people who tried it claim it is truely delicious. I have to try it myself.
        There is some nutrition data about brain:
        It seems to be rich source of selenium and B12.

        December 11th, 2013 9:52 am Reply
        • Magda

          I have tried brain that way and it was delicious! I actually didn’t know I was eating brain at the time – I just saw someone chopping some meat on a cutting board, then cooking it with scrambled eggs. Since we were at a pig killing, I assume it might have been bits of meat and fat you just couldn’t use anywhere else and they didn’t want it to go to waste (it did look raw, not cooked, until it was put in the pan). I honestly couldn’t tell it was brain – it just tasted like scrambled eggs with bits of meat and seasonings.

          December 11th, 2013 12:48 pm Reply
    • Melanie Christner, NTP, CHFS, CGP

      Hi Pafnucy,

      That is a really interesting point, thanks for bringing it up. Brain is not exactly on the American menu yet. It is only in more recent years that we do not put every part of the animal to good use.

      Thank you.

      December 11th, 2013 12:49 pm Reply
    • Jujis

      Wow where I come from (curacao) goat’s brains and liver is a traditional dish. I have always hated it but with this new found knowledge I’m going to give it another try!

      December 15th, 2013 1:36 pm Reply

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