It’s probably not surprising to hear that internet searches for ‘immune system boosters’ are on the rise. On TikTok, the hashtag #bestimmuneboosters has amassed 11.6 million views (and counting), and over on Instagram there are 1 million posts tagging #immunebooster. A quick scroll, and you’ll see several juice recipes, ‘must-try’ supplements and healthy ‘immune system boosters’ meal ideas.
During winter, immune health tends to be at the forefront of our minds – as generally speaking, this is a time when winter viruses and infections are rife. Aside from being a total killjoy, many of us are keen to prime our immune system to give it the best chance to fight off said viruses and infections.
“The busy party season is fast approaching. Of course, we want to let our hair down – but it’s all about finding a balance as late nights, being over tired and out of whack eating and drinking habits can take their toll,” says Lola Biggs, registered dietician at vegan supplement brand Together Health.
Thankfully, there are a few small changes we can make to boost the body’s natural defence system. And while we don’t discredit the advice available on social media, we’ve recruited the help of expert nutritionists and dieticians to break down the best immune system boosters that won’t break the bank. You’re welcome!
What is the immune system, exactly?
Before we get to the boosters, let’s begin with the basics. “The immune system is a catch-all term to describe the body’s defence mechanisms against disease and infection,” explains Charlotte Radcliffe, registered nutritionist. It consists of two main parts that work together to protect our health.
“The innate immune system includes initial responders (acting like paramedics) to quickly tackle pathogens,” says Radcliffe. Examples include physical barriers like our skin and gut lining, biochemical barriers such as our stomach acid as well as white blood cells which whip into action immediately.
If the innate immune system fails to destroy germs, then the adaptive immune system takes over. “The adaptive immune system involves immune cells which are recruited over time and provide a more specialist, targeted response.”
To stay in tip-top shape, this complex system needs a wide variety of nutrients – which is where immune system boosters come into play.
The best immune system boosters for under £15
Vitamin D has received a lot of air-time recently – and rightly so – as: “it’s vital to strengthen the immune system, making you less susceptible to infection,” points out Sasha Parkin, nutritional therapist at Wild Nutrition. Otherwise known as the sunshine supplement, the body naturally creates vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. This is why so many of us here in the UK are deficient.
“From October to early April it is advised by Public Health England and the NHS that everyone in the UK supplements vitamin D,” says Parkin. The recommended dosage is between 1000 and 2000 units per day. “Keeping levels within the optimal range will boost your body’s natural defences by supporting the formation of white blood cells that recognise if cold or flu pathogens are present.”
“It’s important to top up with essential minerals during times of indulgence, as we can often skip or reduce the number of nutrient-dense foods we eat, missing out on vital minerals,” says Biggs. One vital mineral that – according to the World Health Organisation – 80% of us don’t get enough of, is magnesium.