From supplements to diet tips, gut health to garlic, antioxidants to alcohol—this is Vogue’s guide on how to support your immune system to help fight off infection
While we tend to think of the colder months as the time when the immune system can be hit hard, the truth is this can happen at any point during the year. It all comes down to the state of your body—stress, tiredness and nutrition all play a part—which determines whether you succumb to viruses and how often.
Your immune system is a complex matrix of cells and systems that work cohesively to protect against illness. It’s the body’s natural defence system against pathogens (bacteria, viruses and microorganisms that cause disease), and it also promotes effective cellular repair. The key players in the immune system are infection-fighting white blood cells, lymphocytes, which travel around the body through the bloodstream and lymphatic vessels, that are stored in the lymphoid organs—which include adenoids (at the back of the nasal passage), blood vessels, bone marrow, lymph nodes, the spleen, small intestine, thymus and tonsils.To support your immune system – in order to fight off those insistent bugs that do the rounds every season, before reaching for the antibiotics—there are some things you can do. Here are Vogue’s top seven tips to boost your immunity.
While vitamin C is high on the list when it comes to staving off colds and viruses, antioxidants in general offer huge support to the immune system, reducing cell death and promoting the development of white blood cells, which are key to destroying harmful bacteria. Antioxidants also play a key role in repairing damaged DNA and boosting the body’s ability to repair itself. Free radicals essentially prompt an inflammatory response in the cells, while antioxidants work to neutralise them and reduce this response. Food is the best possible source of antioxidants, so add some of the following to your shopping list: berries, dark chocolate, artichoke, coffee, kidney beans, green tea, apples, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables and oily fish.
An ancient remedy for illness that is still proven to have multiple health benefits, garlic has long been considered a superfood. The active compound found in garlic, allicin, has antibacterial properties that can help to prevent illness and infection. The benefits of garlic are ultimately in its anti-inflammatory properties, which help to keep the immune system working at its best. A study by the Journal of Immunology Research found that allicin has a direct effect on boosting white blood cell count too, which fight free radicals and harmful bacteria. The best way to take garlic is to include it in your cooking, or in supplementary form.
Over 70 per cent of the body’s immune cells are located in the gut walls, which explains why good gut health is key to healthy bodily function. The digestive system plays an important role in metabolising the body’s toxins, as part of our natural detoxifying system. An increase in fibre and roughage will help to keep moving any toxins through the gut swiftly. The fibre in particular has a direct impact on improving microbiomes located within the digestive walls. It’s also worth introducing a good quality pre- and probiotic supplement into the diet.