How to Avoid Autumn Illnesses, Naturally: Lifestyle Tips and Supplements


After the summer season, autumn is finally here, bringing with it cooler weather, falling leaves, and plenty of pumpkin-spice. But along with these unmistakable signs of the season, you may also be experiencing the first sniffles of fall.

Why the sudden vulnerability to viruses? Research shows that certain pathogens, including those that cause the common cold, thrive in cooler temperatures. (1) Plus, chillier weather often drives us indoors where germs spread rapidly. Autumn also finds many people with less than robust immune systems. Between the kids going back to school and families gearing up for the holidays, packed schedules can lead to too much stress, too little sleep, and less-than-optimal eating habits that can deplete our reserves. (2)(3)

family with dog, running outdoors

Colder weather can create an uptick in colds, flu, and other seasonal illnesses.

Common fall illnesses

The following maladies are more common during the autumn months:

Did you know?
If you’ve got a virus, don’t count on an antibiotic to ease your suffering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and their overuse can contribute to resistance. (4)

Healthy habits to lower your risk

Proactively maintaining a healthy immune system can help protect you against whatever bug happens to be going around. Paired with immune-fortifying supplements, these healthy habits can help fight off even the nastiest germs.

Practice good hygiene

Since most viruses are spread through hand-to-hand contact or by touching germ-filled surfaces like doorknobs, it’s important to wash your hands frequently with good old-fashioned soap and water. (5) Not near water? While not as effective as soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can also help reduce the number of bacteria and viruses you are exposed to. (6)

man and woman working out together

Teaming up with a buddy can help keep your workouts on track for a stronger immune system.

Get some exercise

Studies have found a positive link between moderate, consistent exercise and a strong immune system. According to research published in the journal Neurologic Clinicians, regular moderate to strenuous exercise boosts the circulation of germ-fighting white blood cells and reduces inflammation. (7)(8) Aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days.

And don’t forget the weights. Adding resistance training twice a week not only builds muscle, but it also boosts glutathione levels. Glutathione is an amino acid that supports your defenses by helping immune cells produce compounds that destroy harmful pathogens. (9)

Sleep well

Not getting enough sleep can suppress your immune response and put you at a greater risk of getting sick. Here’s why: people who are sleep deprived develop fewer antibodies and are more prone to chronic inflammation. (10) What’s more, people who sleep less are more likely than well-rested individuals to die from all causes. (11)

Did you know?
If you’ve noticed that you’re more likely to get sick after a stressful event, here’s the reason: chronic stress leads to higher levels of cortisol—a stress hormone that causes immune cells to age faster. (12)

5 supplements to keep you healthy this fall

When it comes to staying healthy, it’s wise to think ahead. Assembling a natural wellness kit now will ensure that your immune system is prepared to ward off colds, flu, and other seasonal maladies.

Combining the following immune-boosting supplements with a healthy lifestyle can give you the protection you need to be as healthy as possible throughout the fall.

Aged garlic extract

While garlic’s power over vampires may be the stuff myths are made of, scientists at the University of Florida have found that aged garlic extract (AGE) can reduce the duration of the common cold or bout with the flu by as much as 61 percent. During their study, 120 cold and flu sufferers also experienced a 21 percent reduction in the number of symptoms and 58 percent fewer missed workdays due to their illness. According to the researchers, this was because AGE boosted the number of T-cells, especially natural killer (NK) cells. (13)

Aged garlic extract in wooden bowl

Aged garlic extract effectively increases key immune cells to vanquish common viral infections.

Epicor

Created via a proprietary fermentation process, Epicor is a yeast-based nutrient comprised of dozens of compounds and metabolites that work together to strengthen the immune system. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that Epicor increases the activation of NK cells within just two hours after taking. (14) Another trial showed that supplementation influenced three key immune pathways, IgA, IgE, and IgG in a group of healthy people. (15) Taken proactively, Epicor may translate to fewer sick days, which is a real boon for those juggling a busy schedule.
Olive leaf extract

Olive leaf has been used medicinally since biblical times. The secret to its healing powers lies in the herb’s natural antioxidants, especially oleuropein—a compound with powerful anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. (16) In a new study that appeared in the journal Nutrients, 32 high school athletes were given either an olive leaf supplement or a placebo. Over the next nine weeks, researchers found that the kids taking the supplement had 28 percent fewer sick days than those taking the placebo. (17)

Pelargonium

Pelargonium is a South African herb packed with antibacterial, antiviral, and expectorant properties. More than 20 clinical studies show that this little-known herb can safely and effectively treat colds and other seasonal illnesses like upper respiratory tract infections thanks to its antimicrobial, antiviral, and immune-modulating properties. (18)

During a 2007 trial of 103 adults suffering from cold symptoms, participants received either pelargonium or a placebo. After 10 days, 79 percent of the pelargonium group was clinically cured, compared to just 31 percent of those taking the placebo. (19) Another study of 217 patients with bronchitis showed that those taking a liquid extract of the herb experienced more symptomatic relief than those taking a dummy extract. (20) Together, these studies suggest that pelargonium may be a smart addition to your seasonal autumn illness kit.

Vitamin D

Often called the “sunshine vitamin,” studies suggest that this important nutrient may help immune cells identify and destroy the bacteria and viruses that make us sick. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children who took 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily were 42 percent less likely to get a common flu virus than kids who took a placebo. (21) Vitamin D may also protect against colds and other respiratory tract infections—and it’s especially effective for those with asthma or chronic bronchitis. (22) Yet, as beneficial as vitamin D is, most Americans don’t get enough, which is why it’s important to add a vitamin D supplement to your daily routine.

The bottom line

Getting ahead of common autumnal illnesses—and being ready if you do get sick—is the key to surviving and thriving during the fall months. And that means proactively adopting behaviors that help to keep you active and well as see you embrace this delightful time of year.

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up to Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!

  1. Foxman EF, Storer JA, Fitzgerald ME, et al. Temperature-dependent innate defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2015;112(3):827-32.
  2. Fares A. Factors influencing the seasonal patterns of infectious diseases. In J Prev Med. 2013;4(2):128-32.
  3. Martinez ME. The calendar of epidemics: Seasonal cycles of infectious diseases. PLoS Pathog. 2018;14(11):e1007327.
  4. Be antibiotics aware: Smart use, best care. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/features/antibioticuse/index.html
  5. Moyad MA, Robinson LE. Lessons learned from the 2007-2008 cold and flu season: What worked and what was worthless. Urol Nurs. 2008;28(2):146-8:145.
  6. Tuladhar E, Hazeleger WC, Koopmans M, et al. Reducing viral contamination from finger pads: Handwashing is more effective than alcohol-based hand disinfectants. J Hosp Infect. 2015;90(3):226-34.
  7. Woods J, Vieira-Potter V, Keylock T. Exercise, inflammation, and innate immunity. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2009;29(2):381-93.
  8. Campbell JP, Turner JE. Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan. Frontiers in Immunology. 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648
  9. Dröge W. Breitkreutz R. Glutathione and immune function. Proc Nutr Soc. 2000;59(4):595-600.
  10. Yang TY, Huang YH, Cai HM, et al. Effects of complete and incomplete sleep deprivation on immune function of mice. I Bao Yu Fen Zi Mian Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2010;26(2):115-7.
  11. Itani O, Jike M, Wantanabe N, et al. Short sleep duration and health outcomes: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression. Sleep Med. 2017;32:246-56.
  12. Morey JN, Boggero IA, Scott AB, et al. Current directions in stress and human immune function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015;5:13-17.
  13. Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Muller CE, et al. Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and yð-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clin Nutr. 2012;31(3):337-44.
  14. Jensen GS, Redman KA, Benson KF, et al. Antioxidant bioavailability and rapid immune-modulating effects after consumption of a single acute dose of a high-metabolite yeast immunogen: Results of a placebo-controlled double-blinded crossover pilot study. J Med Food. 2011;14(9):1002-10.
  15. Jensen GS, Patterson KM, Barnes J, et al. A double-blind placebo-controlled, randomized pilot study: Consumption of a high-metabolite immunogen from yeast culture has beneficial effects on erythrocyte health and mucosal immune protection in healthy subjects. The Open Access Nutr J. 2008;2:68-75.
  16. Omar SH. Oleuropein in olive and its pharmacological effects. Sci Pharm. 2010;78(2):133-54.
  17. Somerville V, Moore R, Braakhuis A. The effect of olive leaf extract on upper respiratory illness in high school athletes: A randomized control trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):pii: E358
  18. Kolodziej H. Antimicrobial, antiviral, and immunomodulatory activity studies of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs® 7630) in the context of health promotion. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2011;4(10):1295-1314.
  19. Lizogub VG, Riley DS, Heger M. Efficacy of a pelargonium sidoides preparation in patients with the common cold: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Explore (NY). 2007;3(6):573-84.
  20. Matthys H, Heger M. Treatment of acute bronchitis with a liquid herbal drug preparation from Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630): a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, multicenter study. Curr Med Res Opin. 2007;23(2):323-31.
  21. Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;91(5):1255-60.
  22. Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Hooper RL, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ. 2017;356:i6583.