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Learn about immunity, how the immune system works, and what can be done naturally to enhance your body's defence against pathogens and promote overall well-being. We cover supplement recommendations, as well as diet and lifestyle suggestions.

What defines immunity?

Immunity is our defence against harmful threats to the body such as disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites. The ‘immune system’ refers to the systems in the body that are working together to recognise and eliminate these pathogens.

The immune system has an important role in distinguishing between the body's own cells and "non-self", which usually referring to foreign materials causing disease. As a result, it creates a response that is suitable to protect the body from infection and disease[i]. In autoimmune conditions, this function of the immune system can malfunction. See our article on autoimmunity here.

Good immunity is reached through the functioning of various components of the immune system. Firstly, we have physical barriers (including the skin), then specialised cells (such as white blood cells), antibodies and other immune response pathways[ii]. These pathways involve both innate immunity (nonspecific and immediate) and adaptive immunity, which is a specific response made in response to a particular threat - and developed over time as a result of exposure[iii].

How can we support immunity?

A healthy and properly functioning immune system is crucial for maintaining overall health and preventing illness.

Supporting your immune system is crucial for overall health and well-being. By adopting a healthy lifestyle and managing stress, you can help to strengthen your body's natural defence mechanisms[iv]. As well, incorporating immune-boosting nutrients into your diet can provide further support for optimal immune function[v].

Why is immunity important?

Preventing disease: A strong immune system helps protect the body against pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites[vi].

Recovering faster: When infections or illnesses do occur, a robust immune system enables the body to mount a swift and effective response[vii].

Overall health benefits: Immunity plays a vital role in maintaining overall health. It helps in the detection and removal of abnormal or malfunctioning cells[viii].

Wellbeing in the long term: A healthy immune system not only protects against immediate threats but also contributes to long-term wellbeing[ix].

Why is nutritional therapy important for building and maintaining immunity?

Nutritional therapy is not only about supporting immunity but also about promoting overall health. A well-nourished body is better equipped to fight off infections and disease.

Nutrient support: Proper nutrition provides the body with nutrients necessary for the best immune function[x]. These nutrients help regulate immune responses, support the production of immune cells and antibodies and improve the body's ability to fight off infections and diseases[xi].

Inflammation management: Chronic inflammation can impair immune function. A well-balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole foods, and healthy fats, can all help reduce inflammation and support a healthy immune system[xii].

Gut health: The gut microbiome, the microorganisms in the digestive tract[xiii], plays a significant role in immune function. Nutritional therapy focuses on promoting a healthy gut by including probiotics, prebiotics and fibre-rich foods - which can enhance the gut microbiome's diversity and strengthen immune responses[xiv][xv].

See our related articles: Fungal Infection / Viral Infection / Parasitic Infection / Skin infections / Colds / Flu / Chest Infection / Travel / Candida

Supplement recommendations for immunity

YourGut Defence: YourGut Defence is an expert blend containing 15 of the most heavily researched immune-supportive ingredients including probiotics, reishi, NAC, zinc, vitamin D, elderberry, and propolis. Ideal for those looking to boost the immune system and support gut health. Yourgut Defence

Vitamin C: is essential for immune support. It’s perhaps the most obvious choice due to being so famous in the context of immunity. So how does it actually work? It acts as an antioxidant, protects immune cells, enhances their function, promotes collagen synthesis, and supports antibody production[xvi][xvii]. Pure Encapsulations Buffered Ascorbic Acid Powder / Viridian Viridikid Vitamin C drops

Allicin Immune / Allicin Max: Allicin is a compound found in garlic that has been associated with potential immune-boosting properties[xviii].

Health Factory Nano Platinum: Platinum provides immune support. ‘Nano’ means small, the Health Factory Nano Platinum contains nanoclusters of this rare, precious metal, for great assimilation into the body[xix].

Medicinal mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms contain beta glucans, a type of polysaccharide found in the cell walls of these mushrooms and known for their immune boosting effects. Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is a medicinal mushroom known for its potential immune-boosting effects Its bioactive compounds can modulate immune function, enhance the activity of immune cells and reduce inflammation - Reishi-Cordyceps Mushroom Complex – Organic. The new Mico-Five has a high ratio of immunomodulating compounds from Chaga, added to those of Reishi, Maitake, Shiitake and Sun Mushroom - Hifas da Terra Mico Five.

Kiki Health Ionic Zinc Liquid Concentrate: Zinc is involved in the development and functioning of immune cells, including neutrophils, natural killer cells, and T cells. It helps regulate immune responses, promotes the production of antibodies, and supports the activity of various immune signalling molecules[xx].

Viridian Vitamin D2 400IU: Vitamin D helps control how immune cells (like T cells and macrophages) work. It also helps make special proteins that fight against harmful germs and keep us healthy[xxi].

Probiotics: Probiotics maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, supporting a strong immune system. They stimulate immune cells and regulate immune molecules, keeping the immune response against pathogens strong[xxii]. Viridian Synerbio Daily Probiotic / Viridian Synerbio Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG

Dietary suggestions for immunity

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables: These provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support immune function, through their antioxidant content. Aim for a colourful assortment of fruits and vegetables every day to ensure intake of a wide range of nutrients[xxiii].

Include lean protein sources: Protein is vital for immune health and plays a crucial role in immune health. It is involved in the production of antibodies, which help identify and neutralise harmful pathogens. Great protein sources include meat, fish, legumes, and tofu – they provide the necessary building blocks for immune cells[xxiv].

Healthy fats: Include sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. These provide omega-3 fatty acids and other beneficial compounds that help regulate inflammation and support immune function[xxv].

Whole foods: Choose whole foods like root vegetables, quinoa, oats, and other slow release carbs over refined grains. These foods are rich in fibre and nutrients that support overall health and provide sustained energy[xxvi].

Limit refined sugars: Likewise, excessive consumption of added sugars and processed foods may negatively impact immune function. Opt for whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible, as listed above[xxvii].

Lifestyle suggestions for immunity

Engage in regular exercise: Regular exercise helps improve circulation, reduce stress, and enhance immune system activity[xxviii].

Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep is essential for immune system regulation and repair[xxix].

Manage stress: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system. Practice stress-management techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga or engaging in hobbies that help you relax and unwind[xxx].

Maintain hydration: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated. Hydration is important for optimal immune system function and overall health[xxxi].

Stop smoking and avoid excessive alcohol consumption: Smoking and excessive alcohol intake can impair immune function[xxxii].

Functional testing options for immunity

The Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) test: measures stress hormone levels, like cortisol, in the body. It helps in gaining an understanding of how stress may be affecting the immune system. Chronic stress can harm the immune system, and cortisol plays a role in this. By evaluating cortisol levels through the ASI, we can see how stress may be impacting immunity and identify potential adrenal fatigue, which can affect immune health[xxxiii].

Intestinal Permeability Profile: this is a great accessible option to check in on the health of the gut lining. The gut lining acts as a physical barrier, preventing harmful substances from entering the bloodstream, and interacts with the gut microbiome to regulate immune responses[xxxiv].

Food Sensitivity Test / Coeliac & Gluten Sensitivity Panel: Food sensitivity testing is often used to identify specific foods that may trigger an immune response in individuals. While food sensitivities can cause immune reactions.

Complete Thyroid Panel: Thyroid function can have an impact on immune function. This test analyses serum levels of TSH, total T4, free T4, free T3, anti-TG antibodies, and anti-TPO antibodies, complete with reverse T3 to assess central and peripheral thyroid function, as well as thyroid auto-immunity[xxxv].

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Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.