How To Boost Your Immunity, According To Experts

By Felicity Carter

5 months ago

The ultimate guide


Not feeling like the healthiest version of yourself? Winter certainly tests the immune system and its ability to ward off and cope with viruses, bacteria and toxins – cue the dreaded common cold and winter flu that always seem to do the rounds at this time of year – so how can you boost your immunity and ensure that your body is in optimum condition to fight off germs? From nutrition and holistic treatments to sleep and supplements, here’s how to improve your body’s natural defenses according to experts.

A Guide To Boosting Your Immunity

Optimise Your Lifestyle

Mason jar of green juice with green apples and kale in the background.

Unsplash

Dubbed ‘queen of the reset’, Rosemary Ferguson is a leading nutritionist and functional medicine practitioner. She states that ‘maintaining a balanced immune system is crucial for overall health, rather than striving for an “boosted” state. Overstimulation of the immune system can lead to autoimmunity, where the body mistakenly attacks its own cells. A balanced immune system, on the other hand, effectively defends against pathogens while preventing overreaction.’

So how can you optimise your lifestyle to ensure you’re making the healthiest choices? Rosemary shares some key ways to support your immune system below:

  • Diversify your diet: ‘Eat a wide variety of healthy foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients support immune function without overstimulating it.’ For those looking for a new year overhaul, plenty of companies deliver nutritionally complete meals.
  • Prioritise sleep: ‘Quality sleep is essential for immune health. Lack of sleep can disrupt immune regulation, leading to imbalances.’
  • Manage stress: ‘Chronic stress can weaken the immune response. Mindfulness practices, like meditation and yoga, can help regulate the body’s stress response. It’s also true that laughter can be the best medicine, reducing stress and giving an immediate lift to your mood and immune system.’ Rosemary suggests adding mindful breathing too: ‘Practice deep breathing exercises to help reduce stress, which is important for maintaining immune balance.’ To get you in the habit, try apps like mindfulness.com which offer guided meditations covering sleep and anxiety, to name a few.
  • Focus on gut health: ‘A significant portion of the immune system resides in the gut. Maintaining gut health through probiotics and a diet rich in fibre supports a balanced immune response.’ There are various powders on the market, such as the Advanced Biotic Formula by Ross J Barr, who offers a whole host of health-supporting supplements. On the topic of supplements, Dr. Vicente Mera at SHA Wellness Clinic states: ‘Some studies suggest certain supplements may help strengthen the body’s overall immune response, such as Vitamins C and D, zinc, and garlic. So, incorporating these into your diet could result in health benefits.’
  • Hydrate: ‘Adequate hydration is essential for all bodily functions, including the immune system. Drinking plenty of water helps the body’s natural detoxification processes.’
  • Take cold showers: ‘Brief exposure to cold water can increase circulation and potentially give your immune system a quick boost.’
  • Implement a bedtime routine: ‘Establish a calming bedtime routine, perhaps including reading or listening to soothing music, to ensure quality rest,’ says Rosemary. This is seconded by James Heagney, Club Director at the luxury health and fitness club KX in Chelsea, who argues that ‘Sleep is critical: adequate sleep across the spectrum of sleep stages assists in sensitising your body’s immune receptiveness which builds immunity and total body resilience.’

Indulge In Immunity-Focused Treatments

Taking a ‘therapy as remedy’ approach, Isabella Valente of British wellness brand Ilapothecary suggests trying an immunity-focused massage such as their SOS Immune System Support. This customised massage features steam inhalation, sinus decongestion, lymphatic drainage and a nervous system rebalance to combat viral illnesses and support the immune system. Their Kensington flagship also offers holistic practices such as cupping therapy, which is used to increase the blood flow to skin and muscles, drain fluids and stimulate the peripheral nervous system, while also modulating the immune system.

You can head to Harvey Nichols for a whole-body cryotherapy by 111CRYO that’s designed to mimic the effects of extreme cold on the body’s natural regenerative systems, thanks to the release of endorphins which reduce cortisol levels. IV wellness brand REVIV also offers IV infusion therapies and booster shots to replenish hydration and restore vitamin and nutrient levels in the body.

Along with cold exposure, steam and heat are thought to help with boosting immunity, too: not only do they improve the blood circulation, but they also reduce stress, clear congestion and support the immune system. Heagney of KX says, ‘Saunas use elevated heat shock proteins which boost your immune system and aid cellular repair whereas cold water therapy is immuno-protective due to the acute elevation of the stress hormone, cortisol.’ 

If you’re looking for a wellness staycation, meanwhile, The Londoner has launched its Stay & Rejuvenate wellness package in collaboration with resident nutritional therapist and certified functional medicine practitioner Elena Rolt. Guests can enjoy the spa (complete with a sauna and steam room) as well as tucking into nourishing dishes at the hotel’s Refuel Bar, which uses ingredients that promote gut integrity and immune function.

Focus On Exercise

Couple jogging on a misty autumn day

Unsplash

Regular exercise is a great way to boost immunity — try walking, or even better, brisk walking, which is thought to promote a healthy immune system. This is seconded by Mikey Smith at Third Space: ‘Walking at a brisk pace can significantly benefit the immune system by promoting good circulation,’ he notes, ‘allowing immune cells to move more efficiently through the body. Regular walking can also help reduce inflammation and help regulate the immune system, contributing to better defense against infections and potential illnesses. Other benefits (other than increasing total step count) are the alleviation of stress, which is another factor that can positively affect immune function. Lastly, focusing on deep breathing and being ‘present’ whilst walking can help the efficiency of your immune system functionality.’

Rosemary adds: ‘Moderate, regular exercise helps regulate the immune system, while excessive or intense exercise may lead to immune suppression. A balanced approach to physical activity is key.’ Dr. Mera also suggests taking up swimming and cycling to ‘reduce inflammation and help the immune system cells to regularly regenerate.’

An easy win, of course, is getting outside to soak up the sun. Dr Paul Jenkins, Echelon Health’s Chairman and Medical Director, advises ‘getting outside whenever the sun shines. Sun exposure boosts Vitamin D3 levels but also serotonin and helps immune function as well as making us feel much better,’ so exercising whilst it’s sunny ticks two things off the list. He suggests a minimum of three 30-45 minute periods of moderate cardiovascular activity per week.