Immune Boosting Hacks

Before we kick off, I must quickly touch on the whole concept of immune boosting hacks. Look, we all know what we mean when we use this phrase, but technically it’s nonsense. Why? Well, you can’t actually “boost” your immune system for starters. And even if you could, you wouldn’t want to. Let me explain…

The science of immune “boosting”

Immunity is complex and the result of multiple biological, psychological and social determinants. Like everything else in health there’s no magic bullet… no single supplement that will impart a super-human resilience. So take those pills and their marketing claims with a hefty pinch of salt and play the long game instead of looking for quick-fix immune boosting hacks this lurgy season. The immune system is not a binary on/off switch. What we’re really after for health is balance: the ability to generate a robust immune response (increasing inflammation) to fight off an infection where required, coupled with an equally efficient return to baseline once the threat of infection has been addressed. This crucial calming and resolution of inflammation is the key reason we shouldn’t be looking for immune “boosting” hacks.

10 Tips to Support a Healthy Balanced Immune System

Nutritional factors

  1. Look after your gut. Did you know that 70% of your immune system is actually in your gut?! Gut health = immune health! Fermented foods, a probiotic supplement, and mainlining fibre-rich foods (think veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses & wholegrains!) promote a healthy balance & diversity of gut bacteria. A healthy microbiota can reduce inflammation, modulate or immune system & help it identify & fight off harmful ‘invaders’
  2. Omega 3 fats- chronic low-level inflammation suppress or immune system, so making sure we get plenty of these healthy fats – which help with tempering and resolving the inflammatory response and dialling down inflammation – is a smart move. Eating plenty of oily fish (or taking a fish oil/algae supplement) is the only way to ensure enough of the form our immune system can actually use
  3. Vitamin D – is absolutely crucial for immune health. Observational studies show an association between insufficient Vit D & more colds & flu. In the UK, 20% of us are deficient & 50% have insufficient or sub-optimal levels. Do you know yours? Test & supplement to get where you need to be
  4. Use spices – liberally! There’s actually sound scientific backing to many of the ingredients traditional medicine has relied on for millennia…many have anti-bacterial, anti-viral & anti-final effects. A homemade chai latte with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, black pepper & star anise is my go-to on chilly mornings – or a golden turmeric latté. I also loved sliced stewed apples & pears and alllllll the garlic & ginger in cooking
  5. Limit sugar. There’s no getting away from the fact that sugar and white carbs are inflammatory & the key player in lifestyle-related conditions (obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease etc) which are all inflammatory conditions & all impair immunity

Lifestyle factors

  1. Manage stress. The science supports what we know intuitively and from bitter experience: we get sick as soon as we relax after a stressful period. Hello holiday-cold! Chronic stress promotes inflammation, imbalances in immune cell function & can stop us mounting a robust immune response
  2. Rest. See stress point above! And avoid over-exercising too, which can be a big stress on the body and suppress immunity. If you do get sick, time out, sleep and nurture is really the best prescription
  3. Sleep- your mum was right; sleep and immunity are linked. Aside from the usual ‘sleep hygiene’ stuff, the single most powerful thing you can do to sleep better is harness natural daylight. Get up the same time every day, get outside and get that full spectrum sunlight in your eyes to set your body clock. If it’s dingy out, you can use a light box. Rinse & repeat at lunchtime if you can. Come evening, keep lights dim and get the blue light blocking filters on your devices (or better still, grab some blue light blocking glasses). You can try all the immune boosting hacks in the book, but if you aren’t sleeping, that’s a losing battle right there
  4. Hydrate! Anyone else forget to drink water when it’s cold out?! Keeping our mucous membranes moist & lubricated is so important as they’re our first line of defence against viruses
  5. Watch the booze. We not want to hear it, but alcohol makes it harder for the immune system to gear up and defend against viruses. It also negatively affects our gut bugs, increases inflammation and harms our sleep…



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