How to boost your immunity in 5 simple ways

23 Aug 2021

Your immune system, along with your respiratory and nervous systems are important parts of your body's overall resilience – to managing stress, disease and illness.

We all experience periods where our immune, nervous and respiratory systems become compromised, be that when the mercury plunges and the flu season comes into swing, right through to things like stress, underlying ongoing health issues and fatigue. As a result, you might experience symptoms that suggest your immune system is in need of a boost like skin breakouts, a common cold, or even mouth ulcers.

The good news is that there are simple ways that you can boost and strengthen your immune system so that it can optimally defend against viruses (coronavirus), bacteria, and other pathogens.

We spoke to Nutritionist, Tamara Madden to understand how and why nutrition plays such an important role in supporting our immune system and asked for 5 easy tips that you can follow to boost your body’s resilience.

The body relies on hundreds of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to operate efficiently, with a deficiency in key micronutrients, such as Zinc and Vitamin D, causing a significant impact on your body’s resilience – as without them the immune system cannot function as it is designed to.

Eating a balanced diet with adequate protein, nutrient-dense carbohydrates and healthy fats will support your immune system by supplying the body with key macronutrients. If you combine this macro approach with eating a wide variety of foods, you will supply your body with a greater number of micronutrients. For example, if nuts and seeds are part of your diet, ensure that you eat a wide variety, (not just almonds!) as whilst most nuts and seeds have a similar macronutrient profile, they contain considerably different micronutrients. Pepitas are a great source of zinc, whilst cashews are high in Vitamin K.

Good nutrition is about providing your body with the nourishment it needs, this more broadly also encompasses sleep, rest and relaxation - all of which are vital to a healthy immune system.

5 easy ways you can boost your immunity

Tip 1: Focus on including a wide variety of foods in your daily diet. Think about a variety of protein sources (eg; turkey instead of chicken), different coloured vegetables and fruits (eat a rainbow!) and include different whole grains such as buckwheat, barley, oats, bulgur.

Tip 2: The quality of the food is also vital as this will have a significant influence on the number of micronutrients it will contain. Look for locally grown, in-season produce where possible, rather than large scale imported products. This also helps to support our local economy!

Tip 3: Reduce stress. Often the source of stress cannot be removed, but you can learn to control and adapt your response to the stress. Breathing techniques, mediation and moderate exercise are all excellent ways to help reduce the stress response. High levels of stress impact not only the immune system but overall health and wellbeing.

Tip 4: Enjoy the sunshine - Vitamin D is the number one nutrient to boost immunity. Exposure to direct sunlight for as little as 15 minutes per day can boost your body’s ability to produce Vitamin D.

Tip 5: Adequate sleep, 8 hours is recommended.  Good quality sleep can help to boost the effectiveness of T-cells (specialised immune cells) that reduce your likelihood of getting sick. Lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, has an adverse effect on your immune system.

As you can see from Tamara’s tips above, you can make easy lifestyle and dietary changes today that will boost your immune system. Although none of these suggestions can prevent illness, they may reinforce your body’s defences against illness.