Immunity: what’s the fuss?


Colder and damper weather is here, which brings a seasonal shift of health concerns. But before you reach for the usual cabinet of remedies, examine your diet and lifestyle, says Fiona Flaherty

Immunity is the body’s resistance to both pathogens and disease. It is a sophisticated system of surveillance that identifies and neutralises potential threats. It needs to be effective, proportionate and precise – too little and it may compromise health and survival, and too much or poorly targeted may result in chronic inflammation, allergies or autoimmunity. 

We are generally born with innate immunity, which is passed on from our mothers when we are in utero. Acquired or adaptive immunity may arise as a result of exposure to pathogens or vaccinations to promote antibodies to fight potential pathogens. Here are five potential causes giving rise to low immunity:

Poor nutrition due to diets high in refined sugars, excess alcohol plus nutrient deficiencies (namely Vitamin A, C and D and the mineral zinc). 

Medications, including corticosteroids etc.

Poor gut microbiome – due to low consumption and diversity of vegetables and fruit in the daily diet.

Impaired barrier defences – including poor skin quality, pollutants such as nicotine, over-training responsible for increasing cortisol levels and therefore lowering natural immunity cells, plus heavy metal toxicity from contaminated foods and some chemicals found in smoking products.

Poor sleep – reducing natural immune cell memory and adversely affecting repair.

Attending to this list alone is the perfect road map to improving your own health outcomes and that of your family.

What’s Vitamin D got to do with it? Vitamin D is technically a hormone and belongs to a fat-soluble group of steroids needed to absorb magnesium, calcium and phosphate, alongside other roles, including strengthening bones. It is also essential in its interplay between managing cholesterol levels. Vitamin D supplements should never be taken unless a blood test is available to ensure an adequate therapeutic dose is given. Optimal levels are essential for strong immunity.

So, what else can we do? Here are seven natural remedies that – when taken as foods, spices, herbs, teas and tinctures – may help boost your immunity: garlic, ginger, turmeric, thyme, honey, echinacea and elderberry.

Taking our immunity for granted is a mistake. It needs a little work, but the rewards are immeasurable. There is nothing nicer than feeling really ‘well’. That’s something we should all work hard on improving every single day. Remember, this is a general guide and not intended to replace medical opinion.

Fiona Flaherty is a registered nurse and nutritional therapist based in South Woodford and Harley Street. For more information, call 07973 601 862 or visit meducatehealthcare.com