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Boosting your immune system

Over the past 22 months, being periodically locked up and sanitized to within an inch of our lives has no doubt had an impact on our ability to fight off pathogens (viruses, bacteria). We have all heard the reports on why Vitamin D is so important for our immune system. But what other supplements are important? In this blog, we will look at how to strengthen your immune system so you can better fight off infections.


Most of these tips you may already be aware of, but basic things we can change in our daily routine are often the most beneficial!

1. Diet

We have all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat!” This certainly is the case, and simple changes can increase the nutritional value of your diet. Did you know that vitamin C is the most important vitamin to strengthen the lungs? Increasing Vitamin C foods will help encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, peppers, spinach, broccoli & kale. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant which means it helps to detox the body. Reducing your processed food intake (anything frozen or packaged) and upping your fresh fruit and vegetables should benefit your immune system, as fresh whole foods are packed full of vitamins & minerals (unlike processed food which is not as nutrient dense). Simple changes, such as:

  • Using more garlic and herbs such as coriander, ginger and chilli in cooking
  • Drinking warm lemon and ginger water to help the liver flush out toxins
  • Up your high vitamin C fruit & vegetables (oranges, lemons, strawberries, kiwi, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli)
  • Increasing other foods that are natural antibiotics include garlic, ginger, turmeric, echinacea, oregano & clove, so adding these to your food will also help.

ogens (viruses, bacteria). We have all heard the reports on why Vitamin D is so important for our immune system. But what other supplements are important? In this blog, we will look at how to strengthen your immune system so you can better fight off infections.

Most of these tips you may already be aware of, but basic things we can change in our daily routine are often the most beneficial!

Lastly, we would recommend a course of probiotics to strengthen your immune system, especially if you are prone to colds and flus or if you have taken antibiotics in the past year or two. Probiotics are beneficial or good bacteria and One of the ways probiotics promote human health is by inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria. When the gut becomes unbalanced with unhealthy levels of certain bacteria, probiotics can help restore the balance. They’ve been shown to secrete protective substances, which may turn on the immune system and prevent pathogens from taking hold and creating major disease. Some studies that suggest if you take a probiotic while taking antibiotics, you’re less likely to get diarrhea caused by the antibiotic. Probiotics may also reduce the number of colds you’ll have in a year.

Probiotics are commonly used to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms that are not due to acute illness, such as gas, bloating, and constipation. But we need more studies to determine who will get symptom improvement, particularly in older people.

Some probiotics should be taken with care, as they can increase histamine and worsen allergies and sinus issues. They can also upset the bowel if not needed. Brands we find that test well are; BioKult, Optibac and Epigenetics International.

If you would like to see what your immune system needs specifically, or if you are struggling to recover from a virus or infection, contact us here.

If taking medication, it is imperative you check interactions with your pharmacist or GP before taking any herbs or natural supplements. This blog is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. 


3. Make sure you are hydrated

Water plays many important roles in your body, including supporting your immune system. Did you know, up to 60% of your body is actually made up of water!? A fluid in your circulatory system called lymph, which carries important infection-fighting immune cells around your body, is largely made up of water. Being dehydrated slows down the movement of lymph, sometimes leading to an impaired immune system. 

Even if you’re not exercising or sweating, you’re constantly losing water through your breath, as well as through your urine and bowel movements. To help support your immune system, be sure you’re replacing the water you lose with water you can use. Remember caffeine dehydrates or takes water out of the body, so limiting caffeine (tea, coffee, coke) and increasing your water will help. Recommended intake is about 4 pints of water daily for optimum function. Joint pains, headaches, feeling light headed, low energy, constipation, muscle soreness and stiffness and lower back pain can all be signs of chronic dehydration, so get the water in to you!

4. Get plenty of sleep

It sounds like an obvious tip, but there are plenty of important things happening in your body when you’re not awake. For instance, important infection-fighting molecules are created while you sleep. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more prone to getting sick after exposure to viruses, such as those that cause the common cold or flu.

To give your immune system the best chance to fight off infection and illness, it’s important to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Some people can function on less, but over a long period of time, lack of sleep can have consequences for the immune system.

5. Minimize stress

It’s important to understand how stress affects your health; including the impact it has on your immune system. Stress is different for everyone and it’s important we acknowledge when we feel stressed and actively try to de-stress or lower our levels of stress before it causes serious health issues such as high blood pressure, adrenal burn out, heart attack, stroke etc.

During a period of stress, (particularly chronic stress that’s frequent and long-lasting), your body responds by initiating what’s called a stress response. It’s meant to help you handle the stressful situations coming your way. Unfortunately, this response also suppresses your immune system — increasing your chance of infection or illness. If you are under long term stress, a Kinesiologist will be able to test and see what nutrition is needed to support your adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands; what are they!?

They are small little triangular shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys and they produce stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol to help the body get through stressful or emergency situations. They also regulate metabolism (how the body changes nutrients into energy), blood pressure and the immune system. If we are stressed on an ongoing basis, the adrenal glands are over worked and can burn out, leading to a weak immune system, fatigue, headaches and emotional problems.

Finding an outlet to help de-stress our bodies is so important. Whether it’s going for a walk, going to the gym, deep breathing, meditation, EFT tapping, taking a bath, seeing a therapist, going for a massage, grounding yourself by just sitting in the garden, reading, watching tv (not the news!!!) finding a craft such as painting, crochet, woodwork, gardening… Finding what destresses you and making the time for it will benefit your immune system and overall mental and physical health. Turn off the news & social media ! They are huge triggers of stress for people & lead to anxiety!

If you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious, I would highly recommend you try a natural remedy to help you switch off and keep calm. Australian Bush Flowers are excellent, all natural remedies that are made up especially for each person. They are affordable and work quickly to help calm the mind. You can read more about them or order them here

Important supplements for boosting the immune system:

1. Zinc or Zinc Quercetin

Zinc is an important mineral that is needed for over 200 processes within the body. Zinc is anti bacterial, anti viral, anti fungal and so it supports the immune system to fight off any infection. Food sources of zinc include: shellfish, red meat, chickpeas, peas, beans, nuts & seeds & dairy. We often don’t consume enough zinc and in my clinic, I find a lot of clients show to being deficient in zinc.

Quercetin is a plant pigment (flavonoid). It’s found in many plants and foods, such as red wine, onions, green tea, apples and berries. It is a powerful antioxidant that is said to reduce the length of viral infection by preventing viruses from attaching to your cells and multiplying. It is also said to play a role in facilitating zinc transportation across lipid membranes. Epigenetics International produce an excellent combined supplement of Zinc and Quercetin which can be purchased here. We recommend this brand as they contain no binders, no fillers; just the nutrient alone and so they work quickly and are very effective. Epigenetics also sell a number of zinc supplements without quercetin. Other good brands I would recommend are Pharmanord, Viridian, Natures Plus & Terra Nova, all available in your local health store.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection. There are many conflicting reports on what the optimal level of vitamin D should be. If you feel you have a weak immune system, it is advisable to have your vitamin D level checked with a blood test. Note: you need to request your vitamin D level is checked as it is not routinely checked in a full blood count. Blood levels are said to be sufficient at 50 to 70nmol/l. However, there are many reports to suggest 90 to 110nmol/l is the optimal level for a strong immune system. For those with a history of chronic inflammation or pain, functional levels should be even higher. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so caution is needed when supplementing with it as the body stores it. A good place to start is to get your level checked with a blood test. Vitamin D is always best taken as an oil rather than tablet as oil is more easily absorbed. I would recommend Pharmanord Vitamin D pearls; they are in an oil and highly bioavailable. They can be purchased here.

3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is so versatile & beneficial and it could very well be one of the safest and most important vitamins you could take on a daily basis. It is important for so many chemical reactions in the body, that without it, life would not be possible. Energy cant be made in any cell either in the brain or muscles without adequate vitamin C.

Along with increasing your fruit and vegetable content of your diet, it may be a good idea to also take a vitamin C supplement! Vitamin C defends our body against foreign invaders of every type. While vitamin C hasn’t been proven to directly prevent a common cold, it can help shorten the length of a cold and reduce the severity of symptoms. Vitamin C kills both viruses (the flu) and bacteria directly, by aiding in neutralizing the toxins they give off, and also feeding our own antibodies and white blood cells. It has killing power against viruses and supplementing coming in to the winter can ensure your immune system is strong enough to fight colds and flus. Vitamin C is also the most important nutrient to strength the lungs. We would recommend a good soluble vitamin C, preferably one without binders, colours or sweeteners. Epigenetics International have a pure powder form which can be purchased here. Soluble brands that are flavoured are ok to use in the short term, but just be aware of the artificial colours, flavourings and sweeteners that they contain. I would opt for a pure ascorbic acid powder for daily use. Take care when using vitamin C if you are prone to kidney stones as  a significant amount of vitamin C is converted to oxalate in the body. A large amount of oxalate would then be present in the urine where it can combine with calcium to form calcium oxalate stones (kidney stones).

4. B Vitamins

B vitamins also play a role in keeping the immune system strong. Many people get all the vitamin B they need from a varied, healthy diet, but others may benefit from taking a vitamin B-complex supplement, especially if you find you catch colds & flu easily. B vitamins are found in meat (red meat, chicken, fish) dairy (milk, cheese, live natural yoghurt), eggs, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, cabbage, cereals and nuts & seeds.

Vitamins B6, B9 (folate) and B12 in particular are important for the immune system, as they help the body to make new red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body and keep the immune system strong. They help chemical reactions in the immune system, helping it work better.

A good B complex in either capsule or liquid form is what we would recommend; brands of B complex that test well include Viridian, Terra Nova, Floradix and of course, New Vistas Healthcare or Epigenetics International. Steer clear of big tablets as they are not absorbed well and are hard to break down, often containing binders and fillers to ‘bulk up’ the supplement.

Good overall multivitamins we recommend are; Revive Active, Liquid Gold & Floradix, available in the Honey Pot in Athlone, or your nearest health store! Or ‘Whole Health Immune complex’ from New Vistas Healthcare ph: 061334455

5. Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms are powerful edible macroscopic fungi (visible to the naked eye) that are used for their beneficial health properties. They come in capsule, power and tea and are suitable even for those who ‘don’t like mushrooms!!’ Fungi, which include yeasts, molds, and mushrooms, live on the dead matter found in soil or on plants, animals, and other fungi. (4) There are an estimated 14,000 to 22,000 known species of mushrooms worldwide, (14) of which approximately 20 to 30 are cultivated edible species and approximately 15 species are wild-foraged for consumption. (4) These mushrooms may be consumed as functional foods or as dietary supplements. (15)

Mushrooms are a source of many nutrients, including fiberprotein, selenium, and potassium, as well as the vitamins B1, B2, B12, C, D, and E. (20) Additionally, they possess several bioactive components, such as alkaloids, flavonoids, (20) terpenes, phenolic compounds, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and polysaccharides.  (16) Notably, β-glucan, a polysaccharide commonly present in mushrooms, has been studied for its immune-stimulating and prebiotic properties. (10) Overall, a very powerful supplement! There are many many different varieties of medicinal mushroom, but the best for strengthening the immune system are:

1. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)

2. Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)

3. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

4. Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

5. Oyster (Pleurotus)

6. Reishi (Ganoderma lingzhi)

7. Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)

8. Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor)Medicinal mushrooms are available here

6. Probiotics

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