Now winter is upon us, it’s important that we keep our immune system fighting to ward off dreaded colds and flu. We are more likely to succumb to illness in the colder months for a variety of reasons. Spending time indoors with the windows shut and the heating on makes it easier for germs to spread.
Less daylight makes it harder for us to get adequate vitamin D, and unfavourable weather makes it less conducive for staying active. If you are feeling below par, going through a stressful time or feel your diet may be lacking in nutrients, supplements may be your key to a stronger immune system. With so many new products on the market it can be di cult to keep up to date with what is available, so we’ve put a list together of lesser-known ingredients that can help boost immunity.
“Joints can are up with the colder weather” says Good Health naturopath, Vanessa Vujcich. Supplements with a natural type II collagen works with the immune system to help preserve joints and support the regeneration and maintenance of healthy cartilage. Collagen is a protein that has di erent purposes in the body. Type 1 and III support skin, muscles, bones, hair and nails. Type II collagen supports cartilage and joints.
You may have been adding turmeric to your latte or curry for a while now, but the new generation of supplements containing turmeric extract use technology to enhance absorption making it more bioavailable. The active component of turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin has antioxidant properties making it a useful supplement for a range of conditions and also for maintaining general wellbeing. “Turmeric supports muscle, joint and gut health,” says Vujcich. “Turmeric helps in reducing damage to cells in our body, as well as protecting them from free radical damage. If antioxidants are lacking and toxin exposure is high, we are more vulnerable to an attack from these free radicals, which is how many diseases and accelerated ageing begins.”
Gut health is vital when it comes to immunity. In fact, 80 per cent of your immune system is located in your gut, says Vujcich. “Only when your gut is functioning well will your immune system be at its optimum.” Probiotics are live bacteria that help to increase the amount of good bacteria in the digestive tract. Prebiotics provide the food for probiotics helping to increase the effectiveness of the probiotic. “The prebiotic feeds the probiotic together increasing good bacteria in the digestive tract to restore gut flora balance and promote immune health,” says Vujcich.
Beta-glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides that are found in substances such as mushrooms and yeast. They can also be made in a laboratory. A study published in the Journal of Hematology & Oncology  has shown that some types of beta-glucan have been found to support the body’s immune defenses and healthy macrophages production [a type of white blood cell that attacks foreign substances].
Phycocyanin is a powerful protein with antioxidant actions found only in spirulina. “It supports our immunity, recovery after exercise and helps to protect our cells from damaging oxidative stress caused by a stressful lifestyle or the environment,” says Lifestream naturopath Karin Spicer.
Blackcurrants harvested in New Zealand have high levels of antioxidants, including anthocyanins and vitamin C. “They have long been reported to have health benefits for our eyes but recent research shows amazing benefits for brain health and for recovery after exercise,” says Spicer.
A digestive tonic that is soothing to the stomach and intestines, aloe vera can help balance acidity, aid cleansing our system of toxins, help maintain healthy intestinal bacteria, and support the immune system. “The pure ‘inner gel’ of the aloe plant contains a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, nutrients and enzymes essential for cell growth and renewal inside and outside the body,” says Spicer.
Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that a monthly high dose of vitamin D in people over the age of 65 supported respiratory health and resistance to ills and chills. Vitamin D helps to activate our immune defenses and a deficiency can reduce our capacity to fight off winter bugs.