How 10 Health Experts Keep Their Immune System Strong

Looking after your immune system has never been more important – especially with cold and flu season right around the corner. To find out how best to support immunity throughout autumn and winter, we asked ten big names in the health world to share their go-to supplements, store cupboard essentials and lifestyle hacks.
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Aliza Marogy, registered nutritional therapist & founder of Inessa

“The healing effect of chicken soup isn’t just an old wives’ tale – it has been studied and shown to speed recovery from coughs and colds. Not only is it full of vitamin-packed vegetables, but chicken is high in protein and contains amino acids for us to make antibodies and T-cells (crucial for immunity), and the warm broth can loosen mucus and ease congestion. Add lots of garlic, ginger and turmeric to reap their benefits, too. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown in countless studies to support the immune system, while garlic is renowned for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. If you plan on adding your garlic to a soup or stew, make sure you mince the cloves and allow the garlic to stand for 15 minutes before cooking – this allows time for the allicin, the active ingredient in garlic, to form, providing you with more benefits. And when it comes to supplements, consider elderberry extract, which knocks a cold on its head, as well as formulas that contain medicinal mushrooms such as reishi and chaga.”

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Claire Paphitis, The Ayurveda Coach

“According to Ayurveda, all disease stems from a poor agni or ‘digestive fire’, so making sure my digestion is in check is always my priority. I do this by keeping foods fresh, warm and cooked, as this makes digestion less taxing on the body. Cooking with plenty of fresh herbs and spices can also help, not only for their taste but also for their medicinal properties – you’ll always find fresh root ginger in my house. I eat Chyawanprash (an Ayurvedic herbal jam) daily, either stirring into some warm milk or spread on toast. It’s packed with nutrient-rich herbs and minerals, such as amla (Indian gooseberry), which has been shown to improve vitality and build immunity.”

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Denise Leicester, founder of ila

“Stress, lack of sleep, excessive drinking and toxin exposure have all been shown to lower the immune system, so try where possible to remove these and instead look to nourish the nervous system. Take time for self-care – take a hot bath in the evening (with a sprinkle of ila’s Bath Salts for Cleansing) and get into the habit of making a herbal night-time drink. My go-to infusion is liquorice, lemon verbena, rosebud and lavender, and even better if you can use herbs from your garden. Local honey can also be beneficial for the immune system, but make sure the honey is local to you for the best immune benefits. Staying hydrated is also essential – right now, I’m infusing my water with sage, mint and fennel.”

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Dr Federica Amati, chief nutrition scientist for Indi

“A healthy microbiome plays a significant role in immunity, so it’s important to eat probiotic-rich, fermented foods on a daily basis, as well as take a fibre-rich probiotic supplement. Build your plate with colourful plants at every meal to maximise antioxidants and fibre. This could be fruits, nuts and seeds with full-fat, natural live yogurt for breakfast; spinach, lentil and pepper shakshuka for lunch; and aubergine, chickpea and rocket pasta for supper. Make sure you get plenty of sleep – even if this means taking daytime naps – as this is when your gut microbes perform crucial ‘maintenance’ work; and move purposefully every day for at least 20 minutes, ideally in a green space, no matter how small. At the first sign of a sniffle, I always make a bowl of blueberries, kefir and walnuts, and drink plenty of green tea. I also find doing a healing meditation that focuses on supporting the immune system works wonders.”

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Eve Kalinik, nutritional therapist 

“When I’m feeling run down, nothing beats a bowl of live, full-fat organic natural yoghurt with stewed apples, a combination which is packed with beneficial bacteria to support the gut, where 80% of the immune system lives. Apples are rich in an antioxidant called quercetin, and are a good source of pectin fibre, which is great for the gut. A drizzle of good-quality, local honey will also provide antimicrobial properties while a sprinkle of cinnamon has further antioxidant benefits. I also take 30mg of zinc at the first signs of a sniffle as this can minimise symptoms, and make sure I get to bed an hour earlier. Improving both the quality and quantity of sleep is one of the most powerful immune-supportive hacks.”

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Gabriela Peacock, nutritionist & founder of GP Nutrition

“Antioxidants play an important role in immunity, so ensure you are eating plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables – phytochemicals, anthocyanins, resveratrol and quercetin are particularly powerful. If in doubt, these can be taken as a supplement. Mixed berries are a great way to get antioxidants into the diet – try blending them with live yoghurt and freezing in ice lolly moulds. Also increase your intake of oily fish, which is a great source of vitamin D, one of the immune system’s champion fighters. I aim to eat three to four portions of oily fish per week, and if I don’t make this quota, I’ll supplement with omega-3 fish oils.”

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Jenna Hope, registered nutrition consultant

“I take a food-first approach when it comes to supporting the immune system, which ensures I’m stocking up on all the necessary nutrients. Getting your five-a-day may seem basic, but it’s the best way to boost your vitamin C intake, while snacking on nuts is a fantastic way to increase levels of copper, zinc and other nutrients. For example, Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium, which helps nourish the immune system – just two Brazil nuts per day will give you all the selenium you need. As autumn approaches, supplementing with vitamin D is also crucial, while consuming plenty of fermented food – think kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut – will also help. Getting outside every day is also a fundamental part of my daily routine as studies show fresh air and exercise can support immunity.”

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Kim Pearson, nutritionist

“I take vitamin D and Your Zooki’s vitamin C year-round to support optimal immunity, and when I feel I am coming down with something I swear by UnBEElievable Health’s Bee Prepared Max Strength. I also take cold showers, which have a variety of health benefits, including supporting immune system health. Research shows that cold showers increase the amount of white blood cells in the body and one study found that people who took cold showers took fewer sick days from work.”

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Marilia Chamon, nutritional therapist

“Eating a plant-oriented diet is one of the best things you can do for your immune system. This will ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need for a well-functioning body, especially when it comes to vitamins A, C, D and zinc. If in doubt, get a blood test to check for nutrient deficiencies. However, none of this is of use if you aren’t getting adequate rest. Sleep plays such a huge role in regulating immune function and reduces inflammation, too. If I feel like I am coming down with a cold, prioritising sleep is my number one, as is upping my intake of vitamins C, D and zinc.”

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Sasha Parkin, nutritional therapist at Wild Nutrition

“Most of us know movement is important, but what fewer people know is that if the body is stressed, exercise like weightlifting and HIIT can cause more stress, leaving you further run down and putting you more at risk of getting ill and a slower recovery from colds and viruses. If this sounds like you, gentler exercise such as Pilates and yoga may be a better fit. Also consider cutting back on carbohydrates as carb-heavy meals spike blood sugar, and start what we call a blood sugar rollercoaster, which impacts the immune system. Protein, on the other hand, balances this blood sugar spike whilst also playing a critical role in immunity.”

 

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