Body & Mind

Boosting Your Health: 6 Simple Tips to Support Your Immune System

Your immune system works 24/7 to protect you against viruses and fight off illnesses. Especially during the flu season in autumn and winter, it has a lot on its plate. But there are a few surprisingly simple tricks you can use every day to boost your immune health and strengthen your body’s natural defences. These include a balanced diet, regular exercise, sufficient sleep and good stress management. We have gathered our top six tips for you and explain why these simple methods are so effective.

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  1. More whole plant foods

“All disease begins in the gut” is a quote attributed to the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, and he wasn’t far off. The gut is not only a digestive organ – it is also home to around 70% of our immune system! Nutrition plays a decisive role in this: if the intestine is weakened, this also affects the immune system. In order to function properly, the immune cells in the intestine need a robust gut microbiome, meaning the community of healthy bacteria in your gut. A balanced diet with plenty of fibre from fruit and vegetables helps you support your gut microbiome and your immunity. Make sure you eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit per day [1] to increase your daily fibre consumption. Whole grains and other fibre-rich foods (such as legumes and nuts) will help, too, since they stimulate digestion, increase blood flow and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. And don’t miss out on lactic acid and probiotic foods like yoghurt and sauerkraut to give your gut an extra dose of healthy bacteria. Try to avoid convenience foods, fast food and sweets:  they promote inflammation in the body and weaken your resistance.

  1. Drink a lot 

A basic tip, but very effective! Hydration doesn’t necessarily protect you from germs and viruses, but it still is vital to your overall health. Water regulates your body temperature, keeps your joints supple, supplies the cells with nutrients and prevents infections. Moreover, dry mucous membranes caused, for example, by warm heating air are more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. Especially in autumn and winter, you should therefore make sure to drink enough. The best helpers for a healthy immune system are pure, filtered water and herbal teas – about two litres of water a day are recommended. Avoid alcohol: it deactivates parts of the immune system for 24 hours [2] and weakens your immunity.

  1. Regular exercise 

Regular exercise strengthens your immunity, especially endurance sports. Studies have shown that sport can both reduce stress (a potent antagonist for your immune system, see tip 6) and strengthen your immunity [3] by increasing the number of killer cells and antibodies. But be careful: sport should not itself become a stress factor. Excessive exercise to the point of exhaustion weakens your body instead of helping it. The effect of sport on the immune system thus depends on the duration and intensity of the exercise. In other words, exertion and recovery should always be evenly balanced. In addition, anyone who is already ill should refrain from exercising to give the body the necessary rest to regenerate.

  1. Sunshine & fresh air

Vitamin D is significant for our immune system because the hormone activates the so-called killer cells, which are essential for fighting harmful pathogens [4]. Usually, your body produces Vitamin D when you expose your skin to sufficient sunlight, but you can also obtain it to some extent from food (e.g. fatty fish) or supplements. As a general rule, you should aim for at least 12 minutes of outdoor activity three times a week to get enough vitamin D. However, since UV-B radiation decreases during the colder seasons, it is often difficult to get enough sunlight. In any case, it can be helpful to check with your physician to see if you have a vitamin D deficiency. If so, you can then easily compensate it with vitamin D supplements from the pharmacy.

  1. Get enough sleep

Inadequate or poor-quality sleep weakens your immunity. After all, your immune system needs rest to regenerate and prepare itself for the demands of the everyday environment. In a university study [5], scientists were able to show that the proportion of killer cells dropped by 70 per cent when the test subjects slept only four hours instead of eight. How much sleep is “enough” to strengthen your natural immunity depends on the individual – listen to your biological clock and try to go to bed when you get tired. As a guide, the WHO recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night. For example, a set sleep routine can help you get enough restful sleep, meaning you should go to bed and get up at about the same time every day.

  1. Manage your stress levels

Are you constantly getting sick when things get stressful? No wonder! Stress has a considerable impact on the immune system. Short moments of stress stimulate the immune system, but too long or too much stress puts a strain on our health: the stress hormone cortisol then causes our immunity to be constantly on alert [6]. Here, it is helpful to consciously integrate relaxation and stress release into everyday life. How about a session of meditation or yoga, a walk in the countryside or dancing to your favourite song? Whatever helps you relax, create small daily rituals that ground you again and bring a smile to your face.




[1] Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (2017): Vollwertig essen und trinken nach den 10 Regeln der DGE.

[2] Pharmazeutische Zeitung (2009): Alkohol legt Immunsystem lahm.

[3] M. Baum, H. Liesen: Sport und Immunsystem. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt 1998; 95(10): A-538 / B-438 / C-411 (28.02.2019)

[4] Kongsbak, Martin et al. The vitamin d receptor and T cell function. Frontiers in immunology vol. 4 148. 18 Jun. 2013.

 [5] Irwin, M et al. Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology vol. 10,5 (1996): 643-53.

[6] Schulz, K.-H., Gold, S.: Psychische Belastung, Immunfunktionen und Krankheitsentwicklungen. In Bundesgesundheitsbl – Gesundheitsforsch – Gesundheitsschutz 8, 2006, S. 759 – 772.

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