boosting your immunity

Written by Vera Coetsee, Health and Nutrition Coach

29 Dec 2022

The weather has cooled down, and winter is here. During winter, our bodies tend to be more vulnerable to germs, infections, and viruses lingering around, which means most of us might end up sneezing and coughing throughout the season. The cold weather, dry air and seasonal viruses can all put a strain on our immune system, which means your body can do with an extra boost to be able to fight off infections and disease, and it’s a good time to read up on boosting your immunity. Your immune system is made of a complex network of organs, tissues, cells and proteins that work together to protect our body from harmful invaders. So, now is a good time to start incorporating healthy habits that will keep your immunity strong and help you stay healthy during the winter months.

But how do you know if your immune system needs support? Getting recurrent, frequent or lasting infections is a key sign and symptom of an impaired immune system. Other symptoms to look out for include slow wound healing, inflammatory disorders like eczema, allergies, autoimmune disease, feeling fatigued, gut problems, and herpes outbreaks. So if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, make sure to keep reading.

Before we share advice on boosting your immunity this winter, let’s first look at different factors that can weaken your immune system. Insufficient or poor quality sleep weakens the body’s ability to protect and heal itself. This is one of the most common causes of weakened immune system function. Lack of protein either because of a poor diet or poor absorption deprive the immune system of important building blocks which are needed to fight infections. Poor digestion due to not chewing your food properly or due to a lack of stomach acid stresses your gastrointestinal tract which can potentially cause inflammation in the gut and prevent the extraction of essential nutrients from food. Lack of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, enormously hampers the immune system’s ability to function normally. Skin disorders like eczema, stress the immune system and weaken the body’s first level of defence against infection. Stress can cause the release of excess cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. Food and environmental pollutants and toxins greatly strain the body’s detoxification systems and can directly weaken immunity. Infections in general, such as with candida or an acute virus, use immune system resources, which reduces their availability for other threats. Lack of exercise or movement impairs lymphatic drainage and decreases immune cell function. Lastly, a weakened or overworked liver can also directly impair the immune system. So, make sure to eliminate these factors to avoid getting sick this winter.

Now let’s look at what you can do to boost your immunity..

Increase protein intake & antioxidant rich foods

Eating healthy foods are key in boosting your immunity, and it’s no secret that a healthy diet is needed to maintain good health. Protein has always been associated with gaining muscle and sport performance, but did you know that one of its most vital roles is actually for immunity? Protein is the building blocks which our body needs to repair cells and tissues, and is a key factor in formation of antibodies. Research shows that a deficiency in protein can significantly impair immune function and increase our susceptibility to infectious disease. Make sure to add clean protein to each of your meals to get that much needed support this winter.

Antioxidants are molecules which help protect healthy cells in our body from damage caused by free radicals and toxins. To help maintain a healthy immune system, you need a steady intake of antioxidants to help remove toxins from our body. These magic molecules are naturally found in plant-based whole foods, so make sure to stock your cupboards and fridge with immune-friendly fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain plenty of antioxidants and phytonutrients that are essential for immune health. Foods high in antioxidants include citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, apples, dark leafy greens, cabbage and beets. A golden rule to ensure you get your antioxidant fix in is to always eat the rainbow. Try different-coloured fruits and vegetables every day and focus on variety. 

boosting your immunity

Eat more fermented foods

Having a healthy gut is critical for the overall health of the body. In fact, 80% of our immune system is in our gut. This proves that foods that aid digestion and reduce inflammation can help us lead a healthier life. That is why it is important to consume fermented foods on a daily basis. Fermented foods will help feed the healthy bacteria in our intestine and thus enhance the diversity of gut microbes. These gut friendly foods don’t just taste good but can also play an important role in reducing inflammation in the body and keeping you healthy. But what exactly is fermentation? Fermentation is the breakdown of carbs like starch and sugar by bacteria and yeast and an ancient technique of preserving food. Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria so by consuming fermented foods you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of your gut microbiome and digestive system and enhancing the immune system. Fermented foods to add to your diet  include kefir, organic plain yogurt, tempeh, natto, kombucha, miso, kimchi and sauerkraut.


Cut back on sugar

Sugar might taste good but when it comes to our health it’s best to try to avoid it completely. Science shows consuming sugar can lead to several negative effects on our body, and is not friendly to our immune system. When you consume sugar your blood sugar increases. Insulin helps to normalise your blood sugar levels, but with too much sugar consumption our cells become overwhelmed and resistant to insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance – a major complication that impairs the immune system. Sugar can also trigger inflammation in the body, which can make us feel unwell. So ditch the sugar this winter, and make sure to read the labels on packaged foods – added sugar is hidden in most packaged products!


Fill the gaps with supplements

Eating nutritious foods that are loaded with immune boosters can help keep you healthy. But if we are unable to get all our nutrients from food then supplementation is a great strategy to help fill the nutritional gaps. If you are looking for immune support this winter, try adding the following supplements to your daily routine:


Need support with winter illnesses? Make an appointment at our clinic to learn more about how you can boost your immunity.