If this year has taught us anything, it’s that viruses and sickness can spread rapidly and that different groups of people in society are vulnerable. Many things that strain your body and damage your health so it’s important for you to keep a healthy immune system all year round, particularly in the cooler months. Injuries, cancer, infections, and viruses are only some of the things that can harm your health when our immune system is not fit to defend itself. You can boost your immune system with food and supplements.
On the internet, there are dozens of supplement companies and celebrity influencers saturating the market with products claiming to “boost the immune system”. These products could potentially cause you more harm than good so its worth understanding how your immune system works. Knowledge is power and can help you find ways to boost your immunity and improve your health every day.
How does your immune system work?
The immune system is a complex system that defends our body against infection and is made up of the tonsils, thymus, lymph nodes and vessels, bone marrow, and the spleen. It is comprised of antibodies, white blood cells, and other chemicals and proteins which attack pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.
Your immune system starts developing and building defenses from birth and throughout childhood. A healthy immune system will help prevent severe and life-threatening diseases throughout your life. The immune system keeps a record of every microbe it has ever defeated which means it can recognize and destroy the microbe if it enters your body again.
How can you boost your immunity?
There are many foods and supplements that promote immunity, however, it’s important to be fully aware of what you are putting in your body.
It goes without saying – vaccinations are the most effective way to boost your immune system. It is important to get the annual flu vaccine along with other immunizations to fight other diseases and viruses.
There are a few supplements and foods that can help you boost immunity, however, it is important to consult your GP or healthcare professional for personal advice.
Supplements and foods to consider
- Vitamin D: The best source of vitamin D is through your diet. Foods that contain vitamin D include salmon, herring and mackerel, and eggs.
- Zinc: You can get zinc from many foods such as lentils, turkey, and pumpkin seeds however a supplement can help boost your zinc levels.
- Probiotics: Probiotics help strengthen your gut health which is important when it comes to boosting your immune system.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is in a range of foods and is known for fighting the common cold and flu.
Foods that promote a healthy immune system
- Citrus fruits: Fruits high in vitamin C increase the production of white blood cells which are the key to fighting infections.
- Capsicum (red bell peppers): These also contain vitamin C and can help boost your immune system.
- Broccoli: This vegetable is filled with vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber and other antioxidants.
- Ginger: Ginger can help decrease inflammation which can help reduce a sore throat.
- Spinach: Spinach is rich in vitamin C and also contains plenty of antioxidants that can boost our immune systems.
- Almonds & sunflower seeds: These nuts and seeds contain Vitamin E which is important in regulating and maintaining immune system function.
- Poultry: Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is high in vitamin B-6 which plays an important role in many of the chemical reactions that happen in the body.
How to keep your immune system going?
Besides supplements and diet, there are changes you can make to your lifestyle to help support health and immunity.
Being fit and healthy is really important in helping your immune system to run at its peak performance. You’ll be less likely to become ill because of the everyday germs you encounter in your day to day life and, when you do get ill, your recovery time will be less than someone who is overweight or unfit.
As you can imagine, dumbbells and other gym equipment are covered in germs. General hygiene is the most effective way to instantly fight these germs. Make it a habit to wash your hands with warm soapy water after using gym equipment or when exercising outside.
Stress can have negative effects on your mind and body that can ultimately put a strain on our immune system. Find ways to reduce stress and feelings of anxiety and depression, such as spending time with family, exercising, or reading a book.
Getting adequate sleep is also a crucial part of supporting health and immunity. Aim for seven hours or more of sleep every night. Struggling to get quality sleep? Try taking a 30-minute nap during the day to boost your energy levels.
About the Author
Dr. Ryan Harvey, a General Practitioner joined the House Call Doctor team in 2015 and is now the service’s Clinical Director. He recently opened On Point Skin Cancer Clinic with the focus on providing professional, timely, affordable skin cancer treatment. Additionally, Dr. Harvey has traveled extensively, administering medical care to children in remote overseas communities.