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First line of defence

More expert tips for keeping your immune system healthy

Harness the power of herbs

“When it comes to supporting your immune system, echinacea and thyme are two brilliant herbs that go a long way,” says Dr Marion Gluck, founder of The Marion Gluck Clinic and specialist in hormonal and female health ( “Echinacea is the prime remedy when it comes to help your body fighting both bacterial and viral infections. Research has shown that Echinacea extracts can activate immune cells called macrophages as well as modulate expression of inflammatory molecules called cytokines. Thyme is known for its strong anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties due to the presence of the volatile oils, thymol and carvacrol. It is a great aid in fighting infections, particularly those of the respiratory tract system, such as bronchitis and tonsillitis.”

Keep physically active

“Aim to be physically active every day for 30 to 60 minutes,” says Rohini Bajekal, a nutritionist from Plant Based Health Professionals ( “Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure and insulin resistance, helps maintain healthy body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases including communicable diseases such as viral and bacterial infections. Adults need at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week plus muscle strengthening activities on two days each week.”

Try some medicinal mushrooms

“When taken on a regular basis, medicinal mushrooms can prime the immune system to better fight off any bacteria or viruses encountered (and may reduce the likelihood or frequency of getting a cold),” says Hania Opienski, a naturopath and mycotherapy specialist advisor for Hifas da Terra ( “Research has found that a combination of beta-glucans (one of mushroom's most health protecting compounds) from a range of mushroom varieties has a greater effect on modulating the immune system than beta-glucans from one mushroom strain alone, so a blend is ideal for optimal support.”

Look after your gut

“Did you know that 70 per cent of the immune system is in the gut?” says Daisy York, nutritionist and co-founder of wellbeing platform “Immune cells in the gut are constantly monitoring their environment for triggers that may require action. Gut microbes are critical to sustaining a healthful gut environment.

Nourishing not only your body, but the beneficial gut bacteria is important to remember. Consuming a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables, including pulses, wholegrains and remembering to exercise will all be promoting gut health and supporting the immune system.”

“Your first line of defence is your skin,” says medical herbalist Pamela Spence, ( “Breaks in your skin can allow microbes to enter which is why it’s so important to protect it year-round and attend quickly to cuts, bites and grazes.”

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