Lifestyle Tips for Immune Support
Through adapting and implementing some lifestyle and dietary changes we can help to support and improve our immune function all year round, feel more energetic and experience better health and wellness.
The Gut-Immune Connection
Our microbiome, which consists of both good and bad bacteria, gastrointestinal tract and immune system all work together to support optimal health.1 Our gastrointestinal tract makes up a large part of our immune system, with between 70–80% of all immune cells being present in the gut, highlighting the importance of supporting optimal gut function for improved immune function.2
When we have an excess of bad bacteria, termed dysbiosis, it can result in increased inflammation locally and systemically. This can lead to immune dysregulation, which may put us at risk for increased colds, flus, and infections.3
Probiotics for Immune Health
Beneficial bacteria have been shown to support and regulate immune function, reduce inflammation, improve digestion, improve nutrient absorption, and support mood.3,4, Certain probiotic strains have been shown to stimulate the systemic immune response, through increasing specific immune proteins used to attack and fight off pathogenic bacteria and viruses.5 Research has also revealed that probiotics have been shown to reduce the incidence of the common cold and the number of days with cold symptoms.3
We can help to support our beneficial bacteria population through ensuring we eat a wholefoods diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, and seeds and nourishing probiotic foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, Greek yoghurt and kefir, and supplementing with a probiotic.
Prebiotics for Immune Health
Prebiotics are non-digestible starches that our gut bacteria use as fuel. These starches improve the diversity of our good bacteria and increase enzymes utilised in gut health and immune function.4,6
Some prebiotic foods include; Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulb, green peas, chickpeas, lentils and red kidney beans, just to name a few! Aim to incorporate some of these into your daily diet for gut and immune health.
Spend Time in the Sunshine
All too frequently we are stuck inside because of our work schedules and family commitments, so we rarely get to see the sun.
Spending adequate time in the sunshine, following sun safe exposure, can help to support optimal vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is required for healthy immune functioning. It can help to regulate immune responses and boost immune cell production of microbe-fighting proteins.7,
Importantly, adequate vitamin D levels are associated with fewer respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold.7,8
Stress that lasts days or weeks or even years can create high levels of circulating inflammatory cells which can lead to a dysregulated immune system. Stress can also negatively impact the production of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, which may increase your susceptibility to invading pathogens, like the common cold.9
Identifying what causes you stress and which management techniques work for you is key to support immune function.
Some stress management techniques include meditation, journalling, breathing exercises, listening to music, and spending time in nature.
We’ve all heard it before, but there is no doubt that exercise can be a valuable tool to help support immune function and total health. Research shows us that exercise helps to promote blood circulation and improve the movement of lymphatic fluid. Lymphatic fluid helps to move immune cells throughout the body and remove waste products. This improved movement can help to improve our resistance to invading pathogens, reducing the incidence of infections and support healthy immune function.10
Aim for around 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least five times a week.
Immune Tips Review
- Support gut and immune health with beneficial prebiotics and probiotics.
- Eat a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, and seeds and fermented probiotic rich foods.
- Spending time outdoors getting safe sun exposure to boost vitamin D levels.
- Aim to reduce stress to support optimal immune function
- Get some regular exercise to boost immune function and total wellness.
- Wiertsema SP, van Bergenhenegouwen J, Garssen J, Knippels LM. The interplay between the gut microbiome and the immune system in the context of infectious diseases throughout life and the role of nutrition in optimizing treatment strategies. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 9;13(3):886.
- Valdes AM, Walter J, Segal E, Spector TD. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. Bmj. 2018 Jun 13;361.
- Yan F, Polk DB. Probiotics and immune health. Current opinion in gastroenterology. 2011 Oct;27(6):496.
- Liu L, Zhu G. Gut–brain axis and mood disorder. Frontiers in psychiatry. 2018 May 29;9:223.
- Maldonado Galdeano C, Cazorla SI, Lemme Dumit JM, Vélez E, Perdigón G. Beneficial effects of probiotic consumption on the immune system. Ann Nutr Metab. 2019 Feb 1;74(2):115–24.
- Aranow C. Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of investigative medicine. 2011 Aug;59(6):881-6.
- Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Archives of internal medicine. 2009 Feb 23;169(4):384-90.
- Morey JN, Boggero IA, Scott AB, Segerstrom SC. Current directions in stress and human immune function. Current opinion in psychology. 2015 Oct 1;5:13-7.
- Tatlici A, Çakmakçi O. Exercise and lymphatic system. Turkish Journal of Sport and Exercise. 2021;23(2):150-4.