How to boost your immune system
There are a number of things you can do to help support the function of your immune system.
Vaccinations are a good way to reduce your chances of getting really sick from specific illnesses. They involve giving you the antigens or weakened pathogens that cause certain illnesses, so that your body can recognise them and build immunity to them. But some vaccines can cause issues for some people who have more serious immunodeficiencies. As a result, you should always talk to your clinician before getting certain vaccines if you’re immunocompromised.
Aside from vaccines, your whole body - including your immune system - is most likely to function at its best when you take steps to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible. So, for example, your immune system will have the best possible chance of fighting off illnesses and infections if you make sure you:
- get enough sleep
- eat a healthy diet with enough nutrients in it
- avoid stress where possible, or try techniques to help you manage stress - like yoga or meditation
- exercise regularly
- consider taking vitamin or mineral supplements
So, in essence, you can’t really ‘boost’ your immune system (sorry). The best way to maintain a healthy immune system is to make healthy choices for you. It’s as simple as that. A holistic approach to your health, which includes taking supplements when you think they might be needed, will always be your best bet.
What about foods for immunity?
It’s always a good idea to have a diet consisting of a range of vitamins and minerals in order to keep your body as healthy as possible.
Vitamin C, which you can find a lot of in most citrus fruits as well as some fruits and vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries and tomatoes, has been shown to help support your body’s immune system to function properly.
As well as foods high in vitamin C, it’s also a good idea to try to eat a lot of foods high in vitamin E. These include nuts, such as peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds, as well as vegetable oils and green vegetables like spinach and broccoli. Vitamin E has also been shown to support your body’s immune system, as well as being an antioxidant like vitamin C.
Some research has also shown that probiotics found in some yoghurts can help to boost your immune system.
The best diet will be one that consists of a varied balance of fruits, vegetables and proteins to make sure you get a range of nutrients and vitamins. And it’s also important to remember that you can’t rely on nutrients or diet alone in order to maintain a healthy immune system or fight off infections or diseases. Your immune system’s health is dependent on a range of factors like sleep, stress and exercise, as well as immunisations and hygiene.
Vitamins and supplements for your immune system
Sometimes getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to support your immune system from diet alone can be hard. Or, in the winter months for instance, you might not get enough vitamin D from sunlight. This is when immune boosting supplements can come in. Vitamins for immunity can include: echinacea tablets, vitamin C or D tablets and zinc supplements.
- Echinacea is a plant native to the United States, and it has been shown to help with illnesses such as the common cold. There are also suggestions that it can improve the function of your immune system by activating your natural killer cells.
- Vitamin C can be found naturally in many foods, but you’ll likely need to take in more of it if you smoke or don’t eat a varied diet. Vitamin C deficiency, also called scurvy, is extremely rare now, but used to be far more common, especially at sea, where diverse nutrients were harder to come by in your diet.
- Your body often naturally gets vitamin D from sunlight. But during the winter months where the weather may be poor and the days are short, it can be quite common for people to not get as much as they need to keep their immune system healthy. As well as keeping your immune system healthy, vitamin D helps to maintain the health of your bones and helps to prevent osteoporosis.
- Zinc has also been shown to support a wide range of functions to support your immune system, and to help your enzymes work at their best. Too much zinc, though, has been shown to actually impair your immune function, so it’s important that you get the right amount.