Winter Wellness Tips

As we move into the colder months, taking care of ourselves is top of mind. This is especially important right now since we are seeing viral illnesses spiking. 

Instead of living in fear, my philosophy is to do the best I can to prepare my body and build resilience, so that if/when I do get stick, I can bounce back quicker. 

Fearful living can lead to excessive stress which in and of itself can impair our immune system, and being prepared and knowing I am nourishing myself and help reduce any anxiety I have. 

On that note, here are some steps I take when I feel like I might be coming down with something... A note before we start - if you are sick, please speak to your healthcare provider for medical advice - this article provides general education but is not intended to be taken as medical advice or to replace a medical assessment by your doctor. Also, before you undertake any of the following suggestions, please consult with your doctor to ensure it is suitable for you. 

Get your Vitamin D checked

First up, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, now is a good time to get your Vitamin D checked and take advice from your doctor on if/how much Vitamin D to supplement with. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread and can impact our energy levels, immune system, mood, and much more. 

I just started my family and I back on Vitamin D supplements a few weeks ago.


Focus on whole foods, as close to the earth as possible (i.e. more plants), which offer fiber to improve our gut health, vitamins and minerals to nourish our bodies, and antioxidants to help us fight environmental stressors. 

There are many different flavonoids but one of note is quercetin - found in green tea/matcha, apples, onions. It is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and can also help zinc get inside of our cells. 

And if the science bores you, then here are the practical steps of how I am translating what I'm reading in these pre-prints into everyday life: 

  •  I'm eating many citrus fruits, saving the peel (if organic) and using these to make a ginger tea with a sprig of rosemary. A lot of the flavonoids being studied e.g. Naringenin and Hesperidin are found in the citrus peel, so zest these and put them in sauces/salad dressings, or boil them in teas. 
  • I'm continuing my habit of daily matcha and green tea consumption to obtain EGCG and other flavonoids abundant in tea. I drink Pique - because it is tested for heavy metals and pesticides, shade grown in a pristine area of Japan. 
  • Eating garlic, onions, shallots, and leeks daily and liberal use of spices and herbs like turmeric, thyme, oregano, and rosemary in my cooking. Easy ways: pasta sauce, stews, soups, and I literally add 1/4-1/2 tsp of turmeric into everything... (be sure to add some black pepper to boost its bioavailability). If you don't cook much with turmeric, the Pique electric turmeric is a good option - it is fermented for boosted bioavailability without the need for black pepper. 
  • I continue to get rainbow-colored fruits and vegetables into my diet - ALL fruits and vegetables contain beneficial phytonutrients and fiber. And diversity is key.
  • This time of year, one of my favorite ways to get lots of spices in is a good Chai latte. Nothing beats cozying up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of chai in my hand. Here's my recipe if you wanted to try it. 

Some nutrients I want to highlight for immune health:

  • Vitamin A - I get this from my diet through beta carotene-rich foods like pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, goji - also present in animal products like liver but I am plant-based and stick to veggie sources personally. This is not a vitamin I advise supplementing with unless you are being monitored. I have seen Vitamin A and D toxicity a couple of times (very rare, but can happen).
  • Vitamin C - kale, broccoli, kiwi, bell peppers, berries, camu camu. I sometimes also supplement.
  • Vitamin D - in the winter, I have to rely on supplements for this. 
  • Zinc - pumpkin seeds, legumes (also rich in oysters if that takes your fancy) 
  • Selenium - we eat 2-3 brazil nuts per day, it is also present in seafood. 
  • Medicinal mushrooms - I take 1/2 tsp of 5 defenders by Real Mushroom daily for immune support (*discount code 'platefulhealth' for 10% off).

What about Elderberry?

This is hotly debated - it has been shown in studies to shorten the duration of Influenza A and B, but nothing has been demonstrated for Covid yet. 

There were some suggestions in 2020 that elderberry may worsen the 'cytokine storm' caused by Covid because it increases TNFa- a messenger in the innate immune system. Research is evolving all the time, but I’ve not found any substantive research to back this up to date. So, we still take elderberry syrup 2-3 times a week during the fall and winter months because it is full of antioxidants and immune-supporting properties.

Some people with autoimmune diseases don't do well with elderberry, so make sure to always check with your doctor first. 

Most elderberry syrups are made with sugar so check your labels. I like Tasha Rose Remedies, and there are other great ones out there too that do not contain honey if you are vegan. You can also make your own. My friend Purely Parsons sells a kit. (I have a discount code "platefulhealth" for both of these, not affiliated)


Exercise gets our heart pumping, and is not only great for our cardiovascular health, but is also great for our immune health. It can also help support a healthy mood and stress levels. Getting outside and doing moderate exercise for 30 minutes daily - as a recent review has shown that exercise may reduce ARDS’s risk - be sure not to overdo it though as over-exercising may also lower your immune function temporarily. 


Prioritize sleep - sleep is crucial for our immune health and studies have shown that sleep deprivation can reduce the activity of our Natural Killer cells. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant important in maintaining a healthy inflammatory response - and its levels dwindle if you are not prioritizing sleep. You can read my blog article on how to sleep better here for more advice. 

Stress reduction

Chronic stress has been found to dampen our immune system. Not only that, stress can cause inflammation - which may fan the flames of the cytokine storm.

Acute stress is a normal part of life, but once we have dealt with the acute stress, then ideally we calm our nervous system down and return to a parasympathetic dominant state. However, with modern-day living, most people are stuck in a stressed/anxious state.

I know it might seem difficult, but meditation practices, yoga, and journaling can all help. The key here is prioritizing it and carving time out to be accountable to your stress reduction practice, whatever it might look like for you. If you would like to explore more options, read my blog post here on stress reduction techniques here

I know this sounds like a lot, and if it felt overwhelming to you - please remember you do not need to do ALL of these things every single day. We all have different habits and life demands. If you are a shift worker, you may not be able to get the sleep you need - and that's ok. Work on the other stuff that you CAN do something about. If you have young kids, you may not be able to get much exercise in every day - just do the best you can with what you have. 

My job is to provide you with helpful information so you can decide for yourself what resonates and what to prioritize. Just because I listed all the information here does not mean you need to do them all every day (heck, I don't even do that!). Any steps you can take will provide positive benefits. 


Now you might ask... what does Dr.Viv do when she gets sick? 

1. Rest & stay hydrated

Here's a fun fact you may not know.

Remember back to the last time you felt sick... did you feel tired?

This is our body's innate intelligent system at work to help us recover. When a virus invades, our mitochondria kick into 'defense mode' and downregulate energy production - and we start to feel tired. Chemical messengers called cytokines are produced to activate and recruit our immune system to fight invading pathogens. Our body makes us tired so we rest and allow it to kick out the bad guys. 

Listen to your body, and do not push yourself when you are sick. Sleep if you can, and rest. If you don’t have any appetite, skip the food and stay hydrated with plenty of liquids. Broths and lemon/ginger teas can be soothing and nourishing.

In addition, it turns out the sleep hormone melatonin is not just for sleep - it is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. Here's an interesting article you can read on the link between melatonin and Covid19.

2. Food and supplements I incorporate:

  • Homemade remedy for gargling at the first sign of a cold:
    • ½ red onion
    • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar,
    • Pinch of cinnamon
    • 1 cup water

Blend it all up. Strain through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag, and gargle with the remaining liquid - I do not suggest swallowing it as it does not taste good and also may worsen any reflux/gastric issues if you have it. Rinse your mouth out thoroughly after.

(ps. if you have any open wounds/mouth ulcers, this may burn, so be careful)

  • Oscillococcinum - I take this at the first sign of symptoms and regularly until symptoms are gone (I usually only need 1-2 doses). 
  • Garlic - Crush a small piece of garlic, leave it for 5 minutes and then eat it with food or swallow it with some water - if you have acid reflux/stomach ulcers/esophagitis, this one is not ideal for you as it may cause discomfort.
  • Vitamin C - If you have an appetite, try to add more berries, citrus, bell peppers into each meal to up your vitamin C intake. Lemons and citrus are coming into season so get plenty of those. Another great source of vitamin C is Camu Camu and kiwis. I like adding these to our smoothies. At the first sign of illness, I supplement with a liposomal form of vitamin C by Livon or Quicksilver.
  • Zinc - I like getting plenty of zinc from my food: pumpkin seeds, lentils, hemp seeds, legumes that have been soaked and sprouted. Zinc on empty stomach may cause discomfort for some, so take it with a little food. Too much zinc can cause an imbalance of other minerals like copper, so please follow your doctor’s directions. Zinc needs to be inside the cell to work. Flavonoids like quercetin and EGCG can help zinc get inside cells (aka zinc ionophores) - hence why I drink a cup of matcha daily, green tea/match contains BOTH EGCG and quercetin.
  • Vitamin D (platefulhealth 10% off) - Check with your health care practitioner on the correct dosing; I prefer lab testing before supplementing. At the first sign of illness, though, I take a one-off 5000IU dose. 
  • Ginger and Turmeric - Both of these have anti-inflammatory properties -  I will either boil crushed ginger in water and make ginger tea or use the Pique Electric Turmeric which has turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon - a great combo with synergistic effects. I also use Leefy organics - this is an organic turmeric and ginger tincture, and a product I frequently use for inflammation, pain relief, and immune support. ('Platefulhealth for 15% off your first order) - again, check with your doctor as turmeric supplements can interact with your medications and are not suitable for certain groups. 
  • N-Acetyl-cysteine - I take this at the onset and throughout the illness to help support glutathione production. Glutathione may reduce lung inflammation and support lung health. Sometimes I also supplement with Liposomal Glutathione (platefulhealth for 10% off) but I found a product that has some reduced glutathione in it, combined with immune-supporting herbs, that I like (see below under Megaviron).
  • Kimchi has been shown in mice studies to be beneficial in fighting against Influenza A & B. Even if I don’t have an appetite, I will try to eat a couple of pieces - it's made with garlic, ginger, scallion, and daikon and has probiotics, so it's literally a powerhouse! I don't take probiotic pills personally. There may be a place for targeted probiotics supplements to help with specific symptoms like diarrhea or bloating, but don't think of them as something that'll improve my gut microbiome diversity. in fact, it may do the opposite. A probiotic supplement may contain 1-10 species of bacteria whereas a piece of kimchi can contain upwards of hundreds so I prefer to use fermented foods for my probiotic 'dose'. If I do use probiotics, this is the brand I use.  
  • Sauna - I like getting into my sauna at home at the first sign of an illness e.g. sore throat, to raise my core body temperature - obviously, don’t do this if you are already running a fever or if you have medical conditions that preclude you from safely using the sauna, or if you are breastfeeding/pregnant. Be sure to stay hydrated if you do use the sauna, and replace your electrolytes. P.S. my favorite wooden sauna (mention Platefulhealth when enquiring to get a deeper discount) and portable sauna 
  • Avoid refined sugar - studies have shown that sugar can inhibit white blood cells, the soldiers in our immune system. 

Some useful tools to have at home include a Pulse oximeter and a thermometer so you can do some self-monitoring and communicate this to your doctor. It's worth getting these now in case you need them later.