How to most effectively support your immune system

Posted by Carlos Mandeiro on

Our body faces a variety of threats daily, including bacteria, viruses and parasites. To deal with them, it relies on the immune system, an incredibly complex and powerful structures of the body. It identifies potentially harmful bodies and distinguishes them from the body’s own healthy tissue and then fights them.

There are two well-known paths in helping our immune system fight a disease:

1) Try to overcome the invading organism
2) Strengthen our body to raise our defences

Most of us rely on a mix of the two strategies to get and remain healthy.
The first point involves medication. While it is a very effective to get rid of whatever infection is present, drugs also come with their bag of troubles and side-effects. By their very nature they’re often poisonous to our body, and can cause more harm than good if used on the long-term, particularly when over-used. They also can damage the healthy tissues of the body while resulting in drug-resistant strains of bacteria.

The second point is all about prevention. The immune system shouldn’t be underestimated and can do marvels by itself. For instance, it is able to produce more than a million specific antibodies (our little soldiers) in a single minute, to recognise and disarm a billion different antigens (the invaders). Taking care of your immunity and supporting it in vulnerable times is thus a very logical and critical step.

It is what makes the difference between a minor affliction lasting for less than a day (thanks to the fast reply of your immune system) and a debilitating stomach bug that goes on for a week or more.

“Supporting”, not “boosting”

Many blog articles are all about “boosting the immunity”, which sounds pretty impactful and eye-catching. Boosting the immunity is however a poor choice of words in my opinion, as the only way to enhance the immune system is through exposing it to new threats. First, vaccinations are the only evidence-based intervention which can “boost” our immune system.

More importantly however, boosting your immune system would not be desirable effect to begin with as it would actually make you feel pretty unwell. A very active immune system wouldn’t be good news for you, as you would feel ill continuously, even in the absence of threats!
This is why the emphasis should be on “supporting” our immune system and its normalized function, not “boosting” it.

Take care of your diet

Our motto is that achieving a well-balanced diet and maintaining a lifestyle of healthy behaviours is the biggest thing to focus on for your physical well-being.

The immune system function is highly dependent on what you fuel it with. To be able to do its job optimally it needs a balanced intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients:

Vitamins: the most important for immunity are vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, C and E. A balanced intake of vitamins is crucial for the immune system to play its role!
• Minerals: similarly to vitamins, a deficit in minerals, especially in iron, zinc and magnesium, will suppress the immune system as they are vital for a rapid production of new immune cells
• Antioxidants: found in some vitamins, like vitamin A and vitamin C, but also in Omega 3. They allow to disarm the harmful oxidising chemicals (known as free radicals) that invaders use to fight off our immune cells. Simply said, it weakens the enemy.

The gut’s health has been shown to be highly linked with immunity. The internal balance of friendly bacteria acts as a barrier. It consumes the food that would otherwise feed harmful pathogens, and blocks receptors sites where those would cause infection. Even more importantly, it produces substances that stop harmful bacteria from growing.

Pre- and probiotics are a great way to support gut’s health. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can have the ability to change the gut microbiome to one more desirable state, whereas prebiotics may be an excellent source of fuel to this microbiome. Taking probiotics as a supplement may be highly beneficial to your gut’s health while increasing your intake of plant-based foods is a sure way to up your prebiotic intake.
Last but not least: hydrate!

Improve your digestion

The digestive tract is one of the main entry points for bacteria and viruses. In the digestive tract lies the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), one of the most important part of our immune system. This tissue allows completely digested food particles to pass through the gut wall but prevents pathogens from passing through. If the gut wall lining is compromised, for example from underlying health issues such as ‘leaky gut’ or food intolerance, invaders can start to get through. Ensuring you have strong mucous membranes in the gut is thus the first line of defence against pathogens.


Exercise, in the right amounts, can be an excellent way to strengthen our immune system. It is a great way to promote lymphatic drainage, which is key to a well-functioning transport system for our immunity cells (it is the reason why lymph nodes get swollen during an infection: it’s the proof they’re doing their job!). As the lymphatic system does not have any kind of pump (like the blood system has), muscle movement is key for a good circulation of the lymph.

Exercise also implies better sleep, and better sleep implies better immunity, as infection-fighting molecules are created while you sleep. Be sure to get enough of it!

Last word: beware to avoid over-training, as it can actually have the adverse effect of weakening your immunity. Because of this we recommend to avoid high-intensity exercise when you’re feeling under the weather or vulnerable, and to opt for calm activities like tai-chi or yoga.

A word on happiness and state of mind

Not surprisingly, low psychological states such as stress and depression have been shown to weaken the immune system. Learning to manage stress, meditation, and relaxation are effective methods to support the immune system in their own way.

Happiness has been linked in a current study to immune system function, as happy participants proved to be healthier. It is however complex to take out the impact of the fact that happy people tend to make better lifestyle choices. One thing that is clear though, is that it’s nice to be nice. Enacting random acts of kindness will always make you, and someone else feel good. And it might even help fight off a cold too.


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