Your body’s immune system is your first line of defence. Just like a surveillance system that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, your immune system is constantly monitoring and protecting your state of internal and external health. It can be a real challenge to stay healthy during the colder months when you’re surrounded by sick family and friends, or even just commuting to work on public transport.
The importance of the immune systemThe immune system protects and defends your body from potentially harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and other substances that appear foreign or harmful. Building and maintaining a healthy immune system is essential to protect you against winter infections, so you can stay fit and well. A healthy immune system is quickly able to detect and destroy these harmful substances, reducing the risk of colds, flu and upper respiratory tract infections. An unhealthy immune system is not able to fight off infections, making you more vulnerable to illness.
How can I support a healthy immune system?There are a number of steps that you can take to support your immune health and reduce your risk of getting a cold or flu this winter. A simple, comprehensive plan involving herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, healthy lifestyle choices, stress management, exercise and diet play important roles in immune health.
Herbal medicines & nutritional supplementsEchinacea Echinacea helps to enhance, balance and stimulate your immune system and can even strengthen the immune system in healthy people. Echinacea also contains antiviral properties and helps prevent the spread of bacteria to reduce the symptoms and duration of colds and flu when taken at the onset of symptoms. Olive leaf Olive leaf is ideal for immune support and contains broad spectrum antimicrobial activity, effective against viruses and bacteria. You can take Olive leaf in a lower dose throughout the cold and flu season for prevention or in a higher dose at the onset, and through the duration of, cold and flu symptoms and fever. Medicinal mushrooms Medicinal mushrooms have a long traditional use in Chinese medicine to help maintain a healthy immune system, strengthening your body’s defences and helping to relieve symptoms of colds and mild upper respiratory tract infections. Zinc Zinc is an essential trace element that plays an important role in the immune response. Zinc deficiency is quite common in teenagers, the elderly, vegetarians and in pregnant and breastfeeding women. A zinc deficiency results in a compromised immune system, increasing the susceptibility to bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Inadequate zinc intake over a 30 day period can lead to a 30%-80% reduction in immune protection. Vitamin C Vitamin C enhances and balances the immune system and is also valuable for providing relief of cold and flu symptoms. Low levels of vitamin C have been linked to an increased susceptibility to infection. Look for an ascorbate form of vitamin C to help reduce any digestive irritation. Vitamin D3 Sufficient vitamin D levels are required for a healthy immune system and general wellbeing. Vitamin D also enhances the activity and response of white blood cells during an infection. A significant number of Australians are considered deficient in vitamin D due to inadequate sun exposure and dietary intake. This is particularly true during the winter months when we have shorter days and exposure to sunlight.
Immune boosting lifestyle choices
- Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Include Shitake and Reishi mushrooms plus garlic and onions in your diet
- Consume good quality proteins
- Reduce simple sugars and refined foods
- Regular exercise
- Drink plenty of water
- Get out into the sun to boost your vitamin D levels
- Manage your stress levels
- Plenty of good quality sleep
- Reduce Stress: it depresses immune function
- Be happy and laugh!
- Echinacea 4000 Complex
- Olive Leaf 5000
- Mushroom 5 Complex
- Zinc Forte + C or Ultra Zinc +
- Vitamin D3 1000
- Braun, L & Cohen, M, 2010, Herbs & Natural Supplements: an evidence-based guide, pp. 710-717, Elsevier, Australia.
- Pizzorno, JE & Murray, MT, 2006, Textbook of Natural Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, St Louis, Missouri.
- Nutrient References for Australian & New Zealand, Australian Government of Health & Ageing.
- Upton, R, 1999, Monograph: Echinacea purpurea – aerial parts, Australian Herbal Pharmacopeia.