Immunity Essentials

Health has perhaps never been a more prominent topic or concern than in the last few years.

By Joanne Peters

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The novel coronavirus proved to be a fierce foe that could target even the hale and hearty. But for all of us, whether we’re living in a pandemic or not, supporting our immune system is the cornerstone of our well-being.

“Health is defined now by most medical establishments as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity,” says naturopathic doctor Brian Davies.

“Health is something we need to continue to work toward,” he says, “and not simply take for granted. So, starting with this definition is important, because it suggests the need for balance in our physical, mental, and social-emotional well-being.”

Back to basics

To best support our immune system, it helps to have a sense of how it works. Put simply, its job is to defend against disease-causing microorganisms. It has two main components.

  1. Innate immunity, the immune system we’re born with, consists of physical barriers like our skin as well as cells that attack pathogens that enter the body, responding quickly via effects like fever.
  2. Adaptive immunity is the part of our immune system that learns to react to foreign agents. When it’s exposed to a new germ for the first time, it responds by trying to fight it off; we might get sick, but our immune cells remember the invader and mount a more rapid response when it returns.

Having a healthy immune system doesn’t mean never getting ill. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. And remember that not all viruses are created equal.

Feeling symptoms = our immune system at work 

“Having symptoms such as fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, and the like are indications that your immune system is working to fight off infection, not the infection itself,” says naturopathic doctor Ashley Stapleton.

“Being healthy doesn’t mean you won’t get sick once in a while, but [rather] when you do, you’re able to quickly and effectively eradicate the pathogen,” says Stapleton. “In certain cases, it doesn’t matter how healthy you are: there are some viruses that our immune systems haven’t figured out how to deal with, such as HIV or herpes viruses.”

Nevertheless, the global health crisis may have led to a greater awareness of the importance of taking care of ourselves—a wake-up call of sorts.

Immune system support 

No matter what’s happening in the world, it’s always a good idea to do what we can to bolster our immune system. So, what does that look like? It depends on a person’s biochemistry, genetics, and personal history.

“When looking at key support for general immune health, a healthy lifestyle is a critical part of supporting our immune systems,” Davies says. Some people who should consider modifications to their lifestyle to better support their immune systems are those who

  • eat highly processed foods
  • don’t sleep well
  • are under excessive emotional or physical stress from injury or overexercise
  • consume excessive amounts of alcohol
  • smoke cigarettes

All of these factors put excess stress on the body, which is known to suppress innate immunity and dysregulate our adaptive immune system.

“I believe that a healthy balance of moderate exercise; healthy eating with a focus on whole-food proteins, healthy fats, and colorful veggies and fruits; routine sleep; and some mindfulness or self-awareness practice are keys to being the healthiest you can be,” says Davies.

Age and immunity 

As we age, our natural immunity tends to go down; our biochemistry becomes less efficient. However, it’s important to consider not just the number of years we’ve been alive but what our biological age is.

“Biological age has now become something that we can objectively measure to determine how our bodies are aging biochemically,” Davies says. “Once a certain part of the biological aging process is assessed to be poor, like poor immune-cell activation … then more specific nutritional and lifestyle support can be used to address these different issues.”

“Generally, though, it all still comes back to lifestyle and diet,” says Davies. “The more effort we put into our health, the more we get out of it.” [END]

Supplemental immune support 

In addition to dietary and lifestyle strategies, these supplements can help top up your immunity stores.


Probiotics have been shown to support the immune system and may exert antiviral effects by crowding out pathogens.

Vitamin C 

“Vitamin C … supports our immune cells and the damage that our immune cells can create while fighting off an infection,” says naturopathic doctor Brian Davies.

Vitamin D 

The sunshine vitamin has a direct effect on modulating immune cell function, and, when combined with vitamin K, it forms a dynamic duo that may promote immune function.


“Zinc … helps with the rapid division and maturation of our immune cells in both the adaptive and innate immune response,” Davies says. 


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