In my 24 years of life, I’ve been sick a lot. A lot, meaning about once per month, for the past 6-8 years of my life. As you can imagine, I got sick of this pretty quickly (pun intended), but didn’t know what to do about it.

My childhood was marked by frequent trips to the doctor for strep throat and ear infections. My adolescence was characterized by migraines and short bouts of colds or the flu. My college years consisted of the swelling of the lymph nodes around my throat, with no other symptoms, at least once if not twice per month. I would be prescribed anti-inflammatory steroids just to finish a pack and have the swelling and the pain return. This would eventually lead me to have my tonsils taken out at the age of 21.

Since my tonsillectomy, I haven’t had an issue with my lymph nodes, thank goodness, but I still found myself coming down with random illnesses pretty often, to the point where last year I took so many antibiotics that I ended up with a stomach ulcer. Cue me panicking and the end of me using antibiotics for fear of ever experiencing a stomach ulcer ever again.

Since I now refuse to take medicine unless absolutely necessary, I have become a self-proclaimed expert at naturally supplementing my immune system (with the help of my lovely Czech doctors) with things that I know for a fact will not hurt me.

Now, our bodies are all different and you might need a little more or a little less than I do, but my friends tend to come to me for advice on this pretty frequently. Obviously none of these problems have been life-threatening or put me in grave danger, but chronic issues like these can seriously interfere with your quality of life, so if you have the power to do something about it, then why not try?

Lemon water should be your best friend.

Citrus has incredible healing properties. It’s high in vitamin C and other antioxidants and therefore is a great infection fighter, whether it’s bacteria or a virus. I personally like to start my day with a glass of lukewarm water with a slice of lemon squeezed and dropped into it. It’s a good way to alkalize your body and kick start your day. Lemons have more benefits than just helping your immune system. And if you’re feeling motivated, drink at least one more glass of lemon water throughout the day, as it’ll work to fight off anything you may have been exposed to and decrease your chances of actually getting sick.

Eat as clean as possible.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. But take small steps at first. Put as many fresh fruits and veggies into your diet as you can. The water in them will help flush out toxins while many fruits and veggies have their own unique infection fighting properties. Cut sugary drinks out of your diet as much as possible, as sugar only feeds the bacteria you might be exposed to. If you eat meat, try to keep track of where it comes from so you’re not getting anything funky.

Take an all-natural supplement.

I’m lucky because the doctor that I see here in Prague is focused on a holistic healing experience and likes to try natural remedies before throwing chemicals at me.

One thing I’ve adopted into my daily routine is an all-natural immunity supplement designed for long-term use. In Czech, it’s called “hliva” and most American doctors admittedly will not know what this is.

Basically it’s a capsule filled with oyster mushroom and buckthorn oil. You could technically just eat these foods every day in a meal and not need to take the supplement, but this is the easier way to do it.

Another recommendation from my doctor is to take a teaspoon of honey with some turmeric powder in it twice a day. And there are loads of other natural supplements that can help your immune system depending on what your body needs more of.

Try doing some research online and looking into what might fit your specific needs. You might even just find an herbal tea, like sage, to fit your daily needs. 

When in doubt, take vitamin C.

If I’ve run out of my immunity supplement, this is usually what I do, especially if I’ve started to feel under the weather at all. A quick packet of vitamin C before I go to sleep usually does the trick to help me kick whatever started brewing.

Have a few hot salted baked potatoes.

This is a tip from a friend of mine in nursing school. When I had the start of a cold and even my uvula at the back of my throat was swollen, she swore by hot salted baked potatoes. I ate them as she instructed for lunch and dinner and the swelling went down surprisingly fast.

This is because the carbs and the salt starved out the bacteria that was catching in the back of my throat –– and so this also worked to prevent me from actually getting very sick. She also advised me to stay away from dairy and sugary food, as these feed the bacteria you’ve been exposed to.

These are the five main tricks I use to supplement my immune system and keep myself feeling fresh without taking medicine or putting other harsh chemicals into my body. Hopefully these work for you like they have for me. Or, if you have suggestions to add to the list, I’m always looking for ways to keep improving!