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Ways to optimise immune function

Published: August 7, 2020

There have been a lot of claims recently about how to “boost” your immune system. If your immune system is functionally optimally, you can’t really “boost” it; all you can do is ensure the measures you are taking will preserve your immune function and not hinder it.

Here are some tips to take to preserve your immune function:

Tip 1:  ensure that you are getting enough sleep. For adults this is likely to be in the realm of 7-8 hours of high quality, restful sleep per night; for kids this is likely to be around 12 hours per night and for teenagers roughly 8-10 hours per night. Lack of sleep increases the likelihood of getting sick and also affects how quickly recovery occurs if you do get sick.

Tip 2: consume adequate high-quality protein! Our immune cells rely on protein to function, as well as to initiate repair, so aim to be having a minimum of 1g/kg of body weight per day.

Tip 3: consume enough vitamins and minerals to support immune function. Critical to immune function are nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. We will start with Vitamin A, which is critical for keeping the skin and tissues of the mouth, intestines, stomach and respiratory system healthy. It also helps to regulate immune function. Foods such as carrots, red capsicums, sweet potatoes, broccoli, apricots and eggs provide a healthy dose of Vitamin A. Just be mindful if you are pregnant not to eat too much Vitamin A as it can lead to congenital birth defects.

  • Vitamin C, which supports the immune system through the production of antibodies. Vitamin C can be found in foods such as oranges, grapefruit, red capsicum, papaya, strawberries, kiwi fruit and tomato.
  • Vitamin E, which works as an antioxidant, helping to keep our cells healthy. Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts help to provide a healthy dose!
  • Zinc is another nutrient critical to immune function. It helps the immune system work properly and is involved in wound healing. Seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, wholegrains and nuts and seeds are all good sources of zinc.
  • Other nutrients such as copper, iron, selenium, B12 and B6 may also support the immune system and are important to a healthy diet.

Tip 4: staying active is really important to optimise our immune systems. Now is not the time to overdo it as that can be detrimental, but ensuring you are active in some capacity everyday will ensure you are at your best.

In addition, hygiene is a really important aspect of protecting your immune system. So, washing your hands before and after preparing food, avoiding cross-contamination, for example, using a chopping board to cut chicken and then immediately using the same board to cut up some veg, washing your fruit and veg before use and wiping benches before and after preparing food with antibacterial spray are all good measures to protect yourself from nasty germs.

In summary, you cannot “boost” how your immune system functions, but there are measures we can all take to ensure ours is primed to ward off infection. Eating well, sleeping enough, exercising and ensuring you practise good hygiene around food are all good measures to take. 

If you need further information, please contact our practice on 9439 6776 to book in a consultation with Carly, our dietitian.