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Three Ways to Supercharge Your Immunity for Winter

Winter can be a tricky time to avoid all those bugs going round, so here are some suggestions to keep you healthy, and maybe lose some weight too.

Patrick Holford

The season is in transition from summer to winter and so is your body and your immune system. You body has two primary settings – growth and repair. Grow in the summer, repair in the winter. At its extreme this is the same cycle as ‘feast’ and ‘famine’.

Feast is based on a carbohydrate-based diet since all those summer fruits, grains and vegetables are more carb based. Famine is based on burning fat – both that from animals and, if starving, body fat.

We are both lucky, in the western world, to never face famine, and unlucky because this endless supply of carbs all year round is a main driver of Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

How to repair your immune system

By either fasting, or switching to a week running on fats and ketones, you trigger a repair process that rejuvenates your cells. Your cells are endless making things, generating and distributing energy, and being made and all this activity creates as much waste and junk within cells. An efficient garbage removal system for each of our billions of cells is essential for our hearts, lungs, kidneys etc to continue functioning properly.

The one we have – known as autophagy – (literally self-eating) – not only hoovers up dead and damaged proteins around the cell but can also dispose of much larger units such as burnt out power plants (mitochondria). All this is then tipped into a pit packed with destructive enzymes which dismantles it to provide fresh energy supplies along with the raw materials to create new proteins.

When you start a high fat ketogenic diet the sharp drop in carbohydrates that happens right away triggers the starvation response which, besides bringing down levels of glucose and insulin, sends out a message that hard times are coming, and recycling and repair is the order of the day.

Variation, not moderation, is the key to health. We are evolutionarily designed to oscillate between periods of relative ‘feast or famine’ which sets up a healthy cycle of growth and repair, helping to supercharge your immunity. This is achieved by switching from a slow carb diet to a high fat diet, supported by intermittent fasting.


That’s why your first winter booster is to go ketogenic for 7 days either by fasting, or eating no carbs and lots of fat, or a combination of both intermittent fasting and no carbs. You need 16 hours without food to help trigger autophagy and kick-start switch to ketosis.

This is not as arduous as it sounds. For example, if you eat dinner at 6pm and, the next day, have my ‘Hybrid Latté (see recipe at the end) for breakfast, which is extremely satisfying, then lunch at 12 you’ve effectively achieved a 16 hour ‘fast’.

You don’t need to do this every day but read on to discover two other ways to boost your immunity.


It is no surprise that all those berries that burst forth at the end of summer are vitamin C laden. So should you be. Since vitamin C is in and out of the body in under 6 hours it is best to take 1 gram, twice a day. If you’re older and/or have a compromised immune system you could double this, but don’t take more than gives you too loose bowels.

You can also give your immune system a big boost with two weeks of very high dose vitamin C. This is often extremely helpful for those with immune-related disorders, including auto-immune diseases which are very much on the increase. Sometimes people with auto-immune diseases taking, or being offered ‘ immune suppressant drugs, express concern that if vitamin C ‘boosts’ the immune system surely it would be counter-productive. Think of it like this. In an auto-immune disease your internal police force have become belligerent, overactive, on red alert, and keep arresting the wrong people, thus attacking your own cells.

Vitamin C is like a super-efficient police academy which trains your police force (your immune system) to calm down and do the right thing. Thus, nutrients such as vitamin C, but also zinc and berry extracts (black elderberry being the best) help.

If, for two weeks, you take as much as you can without loose bowels, it really tunes up immunity. For some people this is 10 or 20 grams a day. You might not want to be swallowing this many pills so I use my High Strength ImmuneC® powder, which is alkaline balanced, and provides zinc, magnesium and black elderberry. Practically, you add eg 2 teaspoons (9grams) into a bottle of water and drink throughout the day. if you don’t get loose bowels up the amount. If you do, lower it. This is also a great strategy if you get the first signs of an infection, or suffer from inflammation to maximally support your immune system.


Your body is programmed to store vitamin D during the late summer, early autumn months. So, do get outdoors as much as you can, exposing as much skin as you can, be it rolled up sleeves, shorts, face and neck. If you know your vitamin D level I’d recommend getting it up to 75nmol/l to 100nmol. The higher level is especially important if you’re dealing with any immune-related disease – from auto-immune disease to cancer.

In practical terms, if you don’t know your level and just want a boost, get a bottle of Biomulsion D (25mcg per drop) and take three drops a week throughout the winter. If you take my multivitamin you’re getting 15mcg a day, so this will boost your equivalent daily amount to 25mcg. Do this now for two months. Vitamin D stores so that will see you through the worst of the winter.


During this keto week your focus is going to be on keeping carbs to a minimum and eating a high fat diet, with sufficient protein. Just as in the low carb phase half of your food plate will be vegetables and fruit, but strictly limiting fruit to berries and the occasional plum, and roughly a quarter of what’s on your plate will be predominantly protein foods.

While you could, technically, just eat meat or fish and vegetables you are either going to end up having more protein than is good for you or hungry.

So you want to consciously increase you fat intake. That means eating lots of avocadoes, going heavy with the oil-based salad dressings, putting oil, such as tahini, on vegetables, sautéing spinach with coconut oil, ghee or butter eating oily fish, fatty meats, cheeses, nuts and nut butters and probably making a shake or two. For example you make a High Fat Latte (see recipe at the end). I recommend one ‘keto’ shake a day.

This made fly in the face of your deeply ingrained fat and calorie phobias but you will find you feel easily satisfied. You will not be hungry.

High Fat Food Plate

One of the best ways to get into ketosis quickly is intermittent fasting – not eating for 13 to 16 hours a day. For example, on day 1, assuming you had dinner yesterday at 6pm, start your day with a black coffee or with a dash of full fat milk or cream or a blob of coconut butter or tablespoon of C8 oil. If you don’t like the taste of coconut the C8 oil is neutral but you can just have it on its own and enjoy your black coffee.

Then have breakfast at 10am and dinner at 6pm. That way you’ll have had 16 hours fasting. You could even push this a bit further by having our Hybrid Latte (see recipe at the end) at 10am as your breakfast, then lunch at 1pm, or whenever you get hungry. The Hybrid Latte is virtually carb-free, with lots of MCTs so you’ll be really encouraging going into ketosis and effectively ‘carb fasted’ for over 18 hours.

Not bad for day 1. If you do this for the first two or three days this will help you get into ketosis quickly, then go to 13 hours fasting – for example breakfast at 9am, dinner at 8am.

If your goal is to lose weight and burn off your body fat you need to be eating just as much as you need to so you’re not hungry, and no more, limiting your carb intake to 15 GLs a day (equivalent to 30 grams of net carbs). Please see any of my Low GL books – for example the Low GL Cookbook or Bible or use the online GL counter

By limiting your GLs per day to 15GLs you’re ensuring, not only that you are eating low carb, but also slow carbs. On average, this will deliver less glucose/insulin increase than 30 grams of ‘average’ carbs so it’s a bit stricter.

There’s something else you can do to lower the GL of what you eat, and that is to always eat carbs WITH protein and fat. So, for example, having two scrambled eggs with avocado and an oatcake will effectively lower the GL of the meal by about 20%. So that 6 GLs oatcake becomes 5 GLs.

There’s one other GL lowering trick – glucomannan fibre. If you have a gram of glucomannan fibre (half a teaspoon or two capsules) at the start of a meal, always with a large glass of water, that also lowers the GL of the meal by about 20%. So that oatcake now counts for 4 GLs. Glucomannan is available at Carbslow (

Hybrid Latté

This energising and satisfying shake is the fastest way to go into ketosis. You can have it with or without coffee or caffeine. For all its downsides coffee does, however, help speed up entry into a ketogenic diet.

1 cup (240ml) of low carb almond milk (unsweetened)
½ cup of filtered coffee or run through (less caffeine, more antioxidants)
1 heaped tablespoons of either almond butter, peanut butter (best if one of each – almond has half the carbs)
1 tablespoon of walnuts, pecans or peanuts (nuts and nut butters = 75g)
1 tablespoon of MCT or C8 oil
1 rounded teaspoon of cacao powder carb 3g; 1GL; fat 0
½ teaspoon of cinnamon (good for blood sugar)

Note:Leave out the coffee for caffeine-free and add more almond milk and add a cup of ice cubes for an Iced Latté3 FUs, 2GLs/8g carbs

Helpful information:

The best way to stay healthy in the winter is to boost your immune system, take regular exercise and have a healthy diet. Fasting and a Keto diet may not be for you, but there are some handy hints to help you stay at your best.

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