Supporting your immune system

By Gwen Bastian-Enright, MSc, dipNT, mNTOI

Many people have been sick this winter, with a variety of different viruses doing the rounds. As many of you know, viruses cannot be treated by antibiotics, so the usual advice is to treat the symptoms (e.g. cough, sore throat and temperature) instead. But what if you supported your immune system so that the next time you come in contact with such a virus, your body can respond most optimally? Your body is amazing and within it lies your defence – the immune system, with its army of soldiers ready to fight off any foreign attack! What many people are unaware of is that the gut bacteria are a very important part of this army, and that the microbiota is involved in regulating our immune system (Wu and Wu, 2012).

In fact, 70% of our immune system is in the gut (Vighi et al., 2008). It stands to reason then that gut health is very important for your immune health – which is why numerous studies are investigating the use of probiotics in supporting your immune system. Individual strains such as Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei have shown improved symptoms of the common cold, with some studies showing reduction of upper respiratory tract infections in children when they were given probiotics taking these strains (Allan and Arroll, 2014).

Other important factors to consider with the immune system are nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin A, B12 and zinc, which are all important for the immune system to function at its best. Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory action as well as changing the gut microbiota and unfortunately is commonly deficient in Ireland due to our lack of sunshine for one. Supplemental zinc has some good research to suggest it has positive effects in adults in particular, shortening the course of colds significantly (Allan and Arroll, 2014), and let’s not forget vitamin C of course! A deficiency in vitamin C impairs immunity and can lead to higher susceptibility to infections while taking vitamin C supplements may be useful to prevent and treat respiratory infections (Carr and Maggini, 2017).

Finally, you may consider some botanicals such as echinacea and elderberry, both of which have long been linked to immune support. A meta-analysis of 14 studies actually suggests that echinacea can reduce the chances of catching a cold by 58% (Axe, 2018)!

Elderberry may also be very beneficial, with some studies suggesting it may clear up flu like symptoms up to 4 days faster than those who didn’t take an elderberry syrup (Cleveland Clinic, 2018).

In the shop we have some great products including all of the above, so come in for a chat and let us advise you!