Autumn is just around the corner and aside from cooler weather and shorter days, colds and infections can become more prevalent too. With over 100 different viruses that can lead to the common cold, plus our exposure increasing when those around us are suffering, you can give your immune system a kick-start now rather than waiting for that first hint of a sneeze later.

Viral infections challenge all areas of the immune system, especially the white blood cells as it’s their job to destroy these rogue viruses by miraculously changing shape and engulfing them, thereby reducing viruses influence little by little in a process known as ‘phagocytic action’.  So a strong immune system is one that has the highest number of white blood cells that have this ability, and the good news is that we can boost this with specific nutrients, especially the following:


Enhances T cells, a type of immune cell that helps create antibodies. Found in… seafood, chicken, oats, brown rice and pumpkin seeds.

Vitamin C

Enhances most areas of the immune system, but it can’t be stored in the body and so a regular top up is advised. Found in… berries, sweet potatoes, peppers, kale and cauliflower.


Stimulate the phagocytic action while making the process more efficient. Found in… garlic, chives, onions and leeks.

Olive Leaf Extract

Gives a valuable boost to the immune system by enhancing the number and the action of the white blood cells. This, combined with vitamin C and zinc, is good for maintaining the immune system, helping you to up the ante when surrounded by sickly people. Taken at the very first sign of a sniffle or shiver, it can potentially stop a cold in its tracks.

This is the combination that I take whenever I feel under the weather and so far I have found them to be comfortingly effective: Zinc 15mg, Vitamin C 500mg and Olive Leaf extract 500mg (drop this to 250mg daily if just for prevention). At the first sign of a cold coming on take this three times a day (and not longer than three days) and you may well find that you don’t develop the cold or infection to start with. Or for an on-going preventative measure – especially when others around you are succumbing – take one maintenance dose a day.

TIP: It’s possible to take too much zinc. If taking other supplements, such as a multivitamin and mineral, then don’t take more than 45mg daily, and then only for short periods.

I rarely recommend just supplements as nothing beats a good diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein (chicken, fish and turkey) and essential fats all play a role in maintaining a strong immune system but some foods have a little more value. Vegetable based soups are highly recommended as they offer easily absorbed nutrients as well as topping up hydration levels (vital when suffering with a streaming cold).

FYI Chicken soup maybe many a mother’s cure-all, but now research backs up what they appear to have known all along; a study from the University of Omaha found that this soup in particular had a useful combination of healthy nutrients.

Probiotics, too, can help with the digestion, as well as combating niggling bacterial and fungal infections, which may be depleting the immune system. Plain yogurt is a good source as are supplements, but do make sure you get the best quality you can afford as not all probiotic capsules are equal.
Finally, two things to avoid are sugar (do read all packaging to uncover any hidden sugars) as it can hinder phagocytic action, and excessive dieting which starves the body of the vital nutrients it needs to fight off infections.

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