10 Tips for Supporting Your Immune System

If you’re looking for some easy ways to support your immune system, and the immune systems of your loved ones, well, we’ve got you covered!

Tip 1: Find new ways to up your daily fruit and veggie intake

10 serves of fruit and veg daily is the new ‘5+ a day’ for robust health. Seasonal produce is jam-packed with essential nutrients that support your immune system, like vitamins A, C, E, zinc, and selenium.

A breakfast smoothie full of fruit and veg, or a frittata or omelette with added veggies makes a great start to the day. Soups are an easy way to get more vegetables into your diet. And try substituting grains and pasta for vegetables in evening meals – such as cauliflower ‘rice’ in place of actual rice or couscous; or spiralised vegetables in place of noodles or spaghetti.

Tip 2: Immunity’s dynamic duo

Zinc and vitamin C are a powerful antioxidant duo that together, perform many immune-supporting functions.  Vitamin C is necessary for immune-fighting white blood cells, and zinc is an immune-system essential involved in all areas of the immune response. Both provide antioxidant protection against free radical damage than can otherwise increase susceptibility to illness and infection.

Humans can’t make vitamin C, unlike most animals, so we need to get it from our diets every day.  Zinc deficiency is also fairly common due to mineral-depleted soils, and kids are at increased risk of being low in zinc. 

Tip 3: Keep hydrated

Tip 3: Keep hydrated

Water supports your immune system by moving nutrients and immune cells around the body, flushing toxins and waste, which in turn keeps immune performance high.  It keeps our mucous membranes hydrated which is an important first line of defence for trapping pathogens. Fevers can dehydrate the body when we’re unwell which makes topping up with water especially important during periods of illness.

Tip 4: Chicken soup to the rescue!

An easy way to combine fluid and veggies is in the form of chicken soup, a favourite for many when under the weather. Chicken soup does more than just provide comfort and nourishing warmth when we aren’t feeling well. As well as hydrating us, and the steam helping open and clear the airways, it typically contains a raft of immune-loving ingredients. Amino acids from chicken protein are used in the making of immune antibodies, and vegetables provide nutrients that keep the immune system strong.  

Tip 5: Don’t forget the sunshine vitamin

Tip 5: Don’t forget the sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is essential for a properly functioning immune system.  We can make our own vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun but that can be tricky in summer when we are protecting ourselves from being burnt, and not really feasible in winter when we’re all covered up!

Mushrooms can be a great way of getting extra vitamin D from the diet. They make vitamin D in their skin just like us! Even 30 minutes in the sun, gill side up, will help increase their vitamin D content. 

Tip 6: Get stress-busting

Nothing will deplete your immune reserves faster than stress.  The stress hormone cortisol, while being anti-inflammatory, actually decreases the amount of immune-fighting white blood cells in the body. This can pave the way for illness and infection. B vitamins can help support the body’s response to stress as well as supporting the immune system to ward off illness.

Tip 7: Love your gut

If you didn’t know it already, your gut health is critical to your overall health and that includes a healthy immune response.  Around 70% of our immune tissue resides in the gut. Plus, it’s also home to trillions of beneficial bacteria that also do their bit to keep us well.

Keeping your gut and microbial friends healthy is fundamental to overall wellbeing. Popping a probiotic supplement and eating prebiotic foods (fibre) are two easy ways to keep your gut bugs in a healthy balance.

Tip 8: Sleep, glorious sleep...

Burning the candle at both ends and skimping on sleep is a sure-fire way to lower your immune systems health.  Not only does not getting enough sleep lower your immune systems response, but it also slows your recovery too.

During sleep, when the body is at rest, the body’s repair processes are kicked into high gear. The immune system produces and releases infection-fighting antibodies and chemical messengers when we’re sleeping that help to orchestrate our immune response. Extra magnesium can be useful here as it not only supports restful sleep, it also helps support healthy immune system function.

Tip 9: Garlic, because it doesn’t just keep vampires away!

Garlic is one of the best known and most widely used immune-supporting medicinal herbs in the world. It is also one of the most well-researched plants on the planet that has been shown to reduce the risk of getting sick, as well as the duration and severity of illness when you are sick.

Garlic’s immune-supporting properties are thought to be due to its many sulphur-based compounds. These vital compounds help boost the infection-fighting effect of some types of white blood cells and help your body absorb immune-strengthening zinc.

Tip 10: Clean those mitts

Tip 10: Clean those mitts

Last, but by no means least, is the importance of basic hygiene. Something as simple as washing your hands and keeping them clean can cut down the spread of germs dramatically.  Research has shown that handwashing can prevent around 30% of diarrhoea-related illnesses and approximately 20% of respiratory illnesses. And when you consider that surfaces can often harbour nasty germs for hours, it’s important that routine handwashing becomes a staple of your daily routine in addition to the mandatories of before eating, after toileting and before, during and after food preparation.   

Thanks to Kelly for these handy hints. If you’re looking for more information on supporting your immunity, check out our immunity hub or just search ‘immunity’ up top.