Hannah's Top Ten Tips to Support Your Immune System This Winter

Hannah's Top Ten Tips to Support Your Immune System This Winter

Cosy season is officially here, but unfortunately so is cold and flu season, which means it's a good idea to think about ways to support your immune system. There is an overwhelming amount of information and, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to supporting your immune system, but we've got you covered! Our in-house nutritionist, Hannah, breaks things down and gives us her top tips and product recommendations to help support our immune systems this winter, so we can have more of the cosy and less of the coughing and sniffles. 


Our immune systems have never received so much attention as they have following the pandemic, but what actually is our immune system, what does it do, and how can we help it do its job better?

What actually is the immune system and what does it do?

The immune system is a complicated network of organs, processes and specialised cells and proteins that work constantly to protect the body from potentially harmful substances and micro-organisms such as bacteria, toxins, parasites and viruses. In order for a person to remain healthy, happy and resilient, their immune system needs to function optimally. 

Dysregulated immune function, which refers to both over and under-active immune function, has many possible symptoms ranging from mild to severe. This is not only because the body is less resilient to bacteria and infections, but because of the cascade of reactions that occur when the immune system is over or under-active, and their effect on other structures and processes within the body.

Symptoms of immune dysregulation include frequent colds and flus, frequent and recurrent infections, low mental resilience, digestive problems, slow wound healing, low energy, skin problems including eczema, inability to focus, low mood and more. As you can see, having a healthy immune system is needed to help your body fight off germs but is also influential in many other areas of physical and mental health.

How can we support our immune systems, naturally?

While there are some key nutrients and foods to consider when looking at ways to bolster immune function, this is a little reductionist and the best way to approach health is to zoom out and look at things from a broader and more holistic perspective. Ultimately, our bodies want to keep us well and will do the best they can with what we give them and the conditions we create for them. Nurturing our inner ecosystems through whole foods plays a big part in our body's capacity to fight off illness and keep disease at bay, but there are many other things to consider, including stress, anxiety, sleep quality, quality of relationships, inflammatory dietary input (processed foods, preservatives, excess sugars etc) and exposure to toxins. 

My top ten tips for a healthy immune system 

Tip *1 - Make whole foods the primary focus of your diet. Load up on seasonal vegetables and fruits, whole grains and protein-rich pseudo-grains (such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth) nuts, seeds and good quality oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, hemp oil and flaxseed oil. Stock up on pantry staples to support your immune system and overall health here .

Tip *2 - Learn about key nutrients and where to find them:

  • Vitamin D: Our bodies produce vitamin D in response to sunlight, however, this is something most of us are (unfortunately) lacking in the Northern hemisphere. For most people, vitamin D supplementation is recommended (Public Health England, 2022) throughout Autumn and winter as it can be hard to meet the recommended daily intake (10 micrograms). In terms of plant-based dietary sources, mushrooms are great!

Recipe to try: Lentil and Mushroom Bolognese by Lazy Cat Kitchen

  • Zinc: Plant-based sources include whole-grains, beans and legumes, including fermented soy products like tofu and tempeh. Using products made from beans and legumes such as gram (chickpea) flour and lentil or chickpea pasta is a good way to increase the zinc content and overall nutritional value of your meals
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is abundant in fresh fruit and vegetables. Something to note is that it can be denatured through heat and light in cooking, so it is a good idea to ensure that you are eating some of your vegetables raw or lightly cooked, or in pickles and ferments

Recipe to try: Shaved Brussels Sprout and Apple Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing by Nourished by Nutrition

  • Vitamin A: Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrot, apricots, peppers and leafy greens are all rich sources of vitamin A
  • Selenium: Seafood and meat are high in selenium, however, you can actually meet your daily selenium requirements with just one brazil nut !
  • Copper: The best sources of copper are shiitake mushrooms, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, vegetable skins (a good reminder to eat the whole vegetable as often as you can - just be sure to opt for organic when you can, or at least give them a good scrub before cooking), pseudo-grains such as quinoa and buckwheat, and raw dark chocolate (yay!).
Some additional immune-supporting foods to include:
  • Fresh garlic: The immune-supportive properties of garlic are particularly potent when the garlic is raw (added to dressings or tossed through salads). Another tip is to chop or crush your garlic for 10 minutes or so to allow the immune-supportive compounds to build up, before adding it to whatever you are cooking, or to add it towards the end of cooking time 
  • Apple cider vinegar (ACV): ACV can be added to dressings, dips and marinades to add sharpness to the flavour. It can also be mixed with spices, herbs, fresh garlic and warm water for an immune-boosting, gut-loving tonic

Recipe to try: Sweet Fire Tonic by The First Mess

  • Local honey (raw and unpasteurised): Raw honey from your local area has potent antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It can be added to hot tonics such as creamy turmeric lattes, used in dressings or drizzled over porridge, pancakes and roasted veggies
  • Spices, especially ginger and turmeric: Spices, especially ginger and turmeric have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, as well as digestive benefits. They can be added fresh to stir-fries, curries, dressings, smoothies and teas or hot tonics, however, can also be enjoyed in products that use dried and powdered spices, for example, Lemongrass and Ginger TeaWunder Workshop Golden Mylk Turmeric Latte, or Wunder Workshop Singe Origin Turmeric.

Recipe to try: Creamy Cashew, Cauliflower and Turmeric Soup

Product to try: Turmeric Latte Spice Mix by Wunder Workshop is a nourishing alternative to coffee and the perfect way to get your turmeric fix as part of your daily rituals

Tip *3 - Limit your intake of processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol and other stimulants. Get into the habit of checking labels, you are looking to avoid products with long lists of ingredients that look like numbers or strange words you can't pronounce. The body doesn't know what to do with these man-made ingredients and therefore perceives them as a threat and activates the immune response to protect itself. Long-term over-consumption of these products results in inflammation in the body which compromises not only immune function but many other processes in the body. 

Tip *4 - Look after your gut. Immune function and gut health are inextricably linked, so what's good for one is inevitably good for the other. There are many ways to support healthy gut health but start by eating more vegetables (variety is key) and increasing consumption of plant-based protein sources such as beans and chickpeas which are rich in fibre and other nutrients. Make sure you are chewing every mouthful thoroughly and avoid washing your meals down with lots of liquids as this dilutes gastric juices which can hinder the breakdown and absorption of nutrients from food which can result in compromised digestive function. Read this article I wrote for The Cultured Collective on other ways to support your gut health

Tip *5 - Prioritise rest, relaxation and self-care, daily. Do not underestimate the beneficial effects that proper rest, sleep and self-care can have on your immune system and overall health. When we neglect these things, our nervous systems become overstimulated, meaning that processes such as immune and digestive function can become compromised. Light a candle, soak in a warm bath (using an all-natural bubble bath) or add a few drops of lavender essential oil into a diffuser. 

Tip *6 - Limit your exposure to toxins by using natural cleaning and beauty products. Many conventional cleaning and beauty products contain chemicals and other substances that can harm the immune system. Switching to natural beauty and cleaning products limits the chemicals in your external environment, as well as those that enter your internal environment as you breathe them in or absorb them through your skin

Consider switching to natural cleaning and beauty products to limit the toxic load on your body and therefore reduce the burden on your organs of detoxification (which means they can focus on keeping you well). Browse our range of cleaning, beauty and household products here.

Tip *7 - Spend time in nature. This is my favourite way to improve immune function and overall health. Research has shown that spending 2 hours per week in nature (that's just 17 minutes per day!) has significant benefits for health and immune function (Andersen, Corazon and Stigsdotter, 2021)
Tip *8 - Spend time doing what you love with the people you love. Doing things that make you feel mentally and emotionally good, has a knock-on effect on your physiological health, including immune function and reduced inflammation (Vasile, 2020). It could be as simple as taking your dog for a walk and being really present, sending a heart-felt letter to someone you love, or doing a jigsaw puzzle with your family
Tip *9 - Good hygiene. As much as we can do on the inside to support our immune function, good personal hygiene is still paramount in keeping germs at bay. Don't forget about the basics like regular hand-washing using natural soaps, sanitising when you are out and about, covering your mouth when you sneeze and so on. Nothing beats soap and water but when you are out and about, we recommend using a hand sanitiser such as our Fig Leaf Hand Sanitising Gel.

Image by Daiga Ellaby

Tip *10 - Move your body in a way that feels good. Exercise is so important for our health and wellbeing, beyond just weight-loss or weight-management. Regular, moderate exercise has countless benefits for physical and mental health and has been found to strengthen and modulate immune function through various mechanisms within the body including decreased inflammation, stress reduction and increased immune surveillance (Silveira, Fagundes and Bizuti, 2020). 

While good nutrition plays a vital role in our immune function and overall health, don't underestimate the powerful effect that simple things like fresh air, meaningful connections and a good night's sleep can have on our physical and emotional health, and our body's capacity to keep us well. Remember, our bodies want to keep us healthy, we just need to create the best possible conditions for them to do so. 


    • Silveira, Fagundes and Bizuti (2020) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7387807/

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