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How to boost your immune system this festive season

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

The festive season is a time where many people come together to celebrate. However, it can also be a time where your immune system is put under strain and you are more susceptible to getting sick.

Given the present climate, it's now more important than ever that we ensure our immune system is firing on all cylinders.

In this article we'll be briefly touching on how the immune system really works, why we should focus on supporting it rather than "boosting" and our best tips on how you can ensure your immunity is fully fortified to fight off any nasty viruses, bugs or whatever else this festive season.

What is our immune system really?

Put simply, the immune system is a network of organs, cells and proteins that work together to protect us from infection and illness. It's responsible for recognising and destroying harmful organisms such as viruses, bacteria and parasites.

The immune system is constantly at work, but it can be weakened by a number of factors including stress, poor diet, lack of sleep and smoking.

Our immune system can be broadly split into two distinct camps; the innate immune system and the acquired / adaptive immune system.

The innate immune system is our first line of defence and includes things like skin, tears and saliva, which act as a barrier to infection. The innate immune system also includes white blood cells, which work to destroy harmful organisms.

The innate system at work is actually what most of us experience as feeling "poorly" as it helps to fight off potentially harmful organisms by burning them out (a feverish temperature), flushing them out (through phlegm and sweat) and focusing on just the infection itself (which is when we start to feel fatigued and weak).

The acquired / adaptive immune system is more sophisticated and is responsible for creating immunity to specific infections. This immunity can be passed from person to person (immunity conferred by vaccination is an example of this).

Why we may not be boosting our immune system as we're being made to believe

There are many “experts” and companies who are claiming that their given product and or diet can boost your immune system. Some of the products include immunity boosting supplements and immunity boosting teas.

The problem is that these claims are not supported by recent scientific research, which proves immunity boosting products do not really work as they claim to be.

In fact, immunity boosters can contain harmful ingredients such as herbal extracts or vitamins in high doses. Immunity boosters also cost a lot of money and can have possibly negative side effects.

The only actual means of "boosting" your immune system is by exposure to a virus, pathogen etc. as this leads to our acquired / adaptive developing an effective immune response capable of fighting the harmful outsider the next time we're exposed to it.

Vaccinations are the only evidence-based intervention which can “boost” our immune system (as vaccines are a weakened version of a pathogen, it allows our body to develop and record an immunological response in a relatively safe manner).