Our top 10 tips to support your immune system

The immune system is the body’s defence against invading pathogens and bacteria. It is not based on one organ or system. It is made up of a network of organs, cells, tissues and fluids, spread out all over the body, which work together to protect the body from diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.

Did you know 70-80% of the immune system is in the gut? The immune system is vital in destroying bacteria before they reach the gut. Immune cells patrol all areas of the body, defend against invaders and also provide information for the rest of the body to help it maintain balance. Children are born with their innate immune system which they get from their mum and they develop their innate immune system as they grow and develop. As they get sick for the first time with each particular virus or bacteria their immune system remembers it and sets up a defence system so that the next time, they come in contact with the same virus they don’t get sick.

Our top tips to boost your immune system

Certain nutrient and lifestyle factors can impact your immune system. The food you eat, your gut health, medication, supplements, exercise and your mood all play a part in your immune health.  

1. Vitamin C

Known for its powerful antioxidant properties, vitamin C is a key player in supporting a robust immune system. It helps stimulate the production and function of immune cells, making it a vital nutrient all year round. It is especially important when we have colds and flu or other illness, for wound healing and at key times like during the school or college year. Include vitamin C-rich foods like bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, citrus fruits, and berries in your diet. Supplementing with vitamin C can provide an extra immune boost. We recommend 1-2g (1000mg – 2000mg) per day.

2. Zinc

Often overlooked but zinc is a vitally important mineral and is essential for a healthy immune system. It supports the production of antibodies to fight infections. Include zinc rich foods like nuts, seeds, grass-fed meat and whole grains in your diet. Zinc and vitamin C are a good combination for colds, flu and wound healing.

3. Vitamin D

Often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because we can obtain it from the sun in the Summer months. Research continues to show how vital this vitamin is in reducing the risk of respiratory infections, maintaining bone, muscle and cognitive health. It is difficult to obtain adequate amounts unless we get sun most days in the Summer and our bodies struggle to convert it as we age. We also need to be conscious of the risks of skin cancer from sun exposure.  While foods like fatty fish and plants contain vitamin D our bodies find it hard to use this form of Vitamin D, therefore Vitamin D supplements are recommended in the Winter months for everyone, including children and all year round for certain people. It is a good idea to get your vitamin D level tested in Spring or Autumn.

4. Probiotics

Gut health is very important for a healthy immune system. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that we need to maintain a healthy gut environment. Consider a probiotic especially if you have been ill or have taken an antibiotic recently. Kids usually benefit from taking a probiotic when they go back to school in September and again after Christmas. People with certain conditions may benefit from a long-term probiotic.

5. Multivitamins

With our busy lives, it is difficult to get all the nutrients we need from our diet every day. A multivitamin can fill that gap and give you peace of mind. A high-quality multivitamin provides a comprehensive range of vitamins and minerals that work synergistically – that is important because some nutrients enhance the absorption and effectiveness of others. They simplify your routine, so you don’t have to think of taking two or three different supplements. We have several to choose from.

6. A Diverse Diet

Try to get as many different coloured vegetables and fruit into your diet every week. Think about this when you are food shopping. Kids might like to get involved by drawing a graph with the days of the week and different colours to represent vegetable colours. They can tick off as they eat the different coloured foods throughout the week, for example, carrots (orange colour), blueberries (purple) etc. You don’t need to squash every colour in every day, just get a good range over the week. Eating fermented food like raw sauerkraut and probiotic yogurt regularly is beneficial for gut health.

7. Hydration

Drinking enough water is important for overall health including the immune system. Drinking water throughout the day helps us eliminate harmful bugs and regulate our temperature, blood sugar and blood pressure.  

8. Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for the body to repair and regenerate. If we don’t get enough rest and sleep our body will have difficulty with its vital functions and our immune system will suffer. If your sleep pattern isn’t the best, check out our blog on sleep.

9. Stress

Chronic stress can really impact our immune system, leaving us prone to colds, flu and infections. Prolonged low mood also has an impact on our immune system. Different things work for different people for example meditation, getting out in nature, listening to uplifting music or podcasts and appropriate supplements. A day away from your normal routine can be helpful for that ‘stuck in a rut’ feeling. Talk to your doctor or a qualified counsellor if you suffer from prolonged low mood or anxiety.

10. Exercise

Regular exercise has a positive effect on our overall health and moderate exercise has been shown to benefit the immune system. Think about walking, cycling or joining an exercise class.

The immune system is complex and is influenced by various factors. No one single thing can guarantee immunity, e.g. even if we have a great diet but our stress level is through the roof our immunity will suffer. Call in and get advice on the best supplements to support your immune system. Always consult your Doctor about sudden onset or prolonged pain or illness.

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BT61 7BH
Northern Ireland

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