Are you worried about your immune system’s ability to fight off infection?

A healthy immune system is more likely to be able to provide a timely and robust response when exposed to a “bug” (e.g. virus) which in turn reduces your chance of experiencing symptoms and getting sick. The health of your body’s immune system is affected by a number of factors including whether you are getting good quality sleep on a regular basis, your levels of stress, and your dietary intake of immune-boosting foods.

What can I do to boost my immune system?

Get a good night’s sleep most nights

Aim for 7-8 hours uninterrupted. Ideally, you should feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. Getting a good night’s sleep is important to help support a healthy immune system as it is the time that your body rests, repairs and recovers and ample sleep is necessary for a healthy immune response. If you are experiencing poor sleep (whether that’s because you regularly can’t get off to sleep or because you are waking frequently throughout the night and can’t get back off) get this addressed as soon as possible to reduce the adverse effect this may be having on your body’s immune system response. Consult your naturopath for specific strategies and treatments for a good night’s sleep.

Reduce stress

If you feel that you are stressed on a regular basis, take measures to reduce your stress. Persistently high levels of stress can affect your cortisol levels and work to suppress your body’s immune system. Regular exercise, yoga, meditation, visualisation and/or breathing techniques can be useful strategies to reduce stress levels. Talk to your naturopath about specific supplements and/or herbs that may help improve your body’s ability to cope with stress.

Increase your dietary intake of immune-boosting foods

Foods rich in specific immune-boosting nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Betacarotene and Zinc can help provide the building blocks our immune system needs for more efficient function. Focus on eating warm, nourishing foods like soups, broths and slow-cooked foods. Homemade chicken and vegetable soup can help break down mucus that often accompanies an infection. Daily bone broths (see below for a chicken bone broth recipe) are also a great way to get in additional fluids and support your immune system response in the gut. If you are sick, ingesting soups and broths help provide minerals and vitamins to give you strength and support your recovery. Regularly eat foods such as garlic, ginger, thyme, onion, chilli and turmeric to help fight off illness, warm you up and help reduce inflammation.

Drink 2-3 Litres of water a day

Keeping your body’s cells well-hydrated may help improve the uptake of nutrients across the cellular membrane which can help support a healthy immune response. It is also especially important to stay well hydrated during a cold/flu as fluids will be lost from the body through mucus excretion e.g. runny nose, phlegmy cough etc.

Talk to your naturopath about immune boosting herbs and/or supplements

Supplementing with additional immune vitamins/minerals and/or herbs may help provide additional support, especially coming into winter. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that plays a key role in the mobilisation of your immune system defences whilst Zinc helps stimulate your white blood cells to respond to an invader, such as a virus or bacteria. Zinc can be found in meat, eggs, seafood, nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) whilst vitamin C is rich in fruit and vegies.  Echinacea has been shown to support the body’s natural immune response and also reduce the duration of infections. It is important to ensure you are using a high-quality Echinacea as the active constituents of the plant directly affect its efficacy and unfortunately there are a number of poor quality substitutes. Speak to your naturopath about quality Echinacea products, herbs and supplements that may help support your immune system.