How to boost your immune system: Expert advice

Get out the tissues — cold and flu season is officially here. 

If you’re sick of feeling run down all the time (who isn’t?), taking care of your immune system can make a huge difference.

We spoke with two experts for the best tips and tricks on how to boost your immune system naturally so you can be prepared to fight off the latest bug going around. 

Keep reading for immune-boosting foods, stress-busting tactics and gut health heroes (crucial!) that will have you on your way to feeling your best. 

Read more: Expert-approved tips on reducing stress

Top buys for immune support

How to improve your immune system — 5 simple tips

1. Manage your stress levels

With everything from work and relationship problems to the cost of living crisis impacting our day-to-day lives, many of us are finding that our stress levels are regularly elevated. 

But chronic stress and anxiety can have a detrimental effect on your immune system’s ability to function correctly.

‘Managing stress is vital to supporting a healthy immune system,’ Kara Landau, Prebiotic RD at Gut Feeling Consultancy and nutrition advisor to the Global Prebiotic Association, tells Best Buys. 

‘The majority of your immune cells are found in the gut microbiome. So when you are constantly stressed and your body is in a state of fight or flight this can cause issues for your gut bacteria and, ultimately, your immune system,’ she explains. 

Dr Sara Mesilhy, a gastroenterologist and Internal Medicine member at the Royal College of Physicians, agrees. She suggests managing stress by ‘practising habits such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga’. 

Need some inspiration? Here are a few of our favourite tools for reducing stress in your day-to-day life.

a graphic of two personified blue triangles, a book, white square with an orange heart, and sparkles on top of a personified square
Photo: Headspace

Bursting with stress-busting meditations and mindfulness exercises, Headspace is a super convenient way to factor a moment of calm into your day.

Discover guided meditations designed to help you relax, sleep better and reduce anxiety, as well as informative articles, gentle exercise videos and curated music playlists for focus all on the handy app. 

a cream-coloured journal with black text that reads 'the five minute journal' and a black ribbon bookmark on a white background
Photo: Waterstones

Journaling is a fantastic way to compose your thoughts and worries, allowing for a clearer head and stronger ability to cope with negative feelings.

The Five Minute Journal is the perfect option for even the busiest person, requiring just five dedicated minutes of writing a day. 

A firm favourite of the Best Buys editors, you’ll be pleasantly surprised just how much this small daily ritual can improve your mood.

brush pen and paint set in a white case
Photo: Art Discount

Not only is painting a relaxing hobby that can help reduce stress levels, but it’s pretty fun, too. 

Unleash your inner Cézanne with this set of high-quality Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolours, packaged in a handy half pan. It also comes with a nifty water brush pen that makes painting a breeze.

2. Get good quality sleep

Are you finding yourself counting sheep a little too often? You could be doing your immune system a disservice.

‘Sleep is crucial for immune system recovery and function,’ says Dr Mesilhy. 

Landau explains: ‘Our body uses sleep for cell repair, and inadequate deep and restful sleep has been shown to result in a weakened immune system. This can result in an increased likelihood of illness occurring.’

Check out these ideas for improving your sleep quality so you can allow your body to recover and boost your immune function.

quilted white pillow with ridge for neck and head support
Photo: Groove

Is your pillow a pain in the neck? The Groove pillow may be just what you need.

Crafted from memory foam, the Groove is designed to support your neck and spine while you sleep, correcting poor posture and reducing pain and headaches caused by uncomfortable pillows.

white single mattress with grey base on a white background
Photo: Emma

Investing in a new mattress can have a huge impact on your sleep quality, and the Emma Original Mattress is one of the best options on the market.

Offering a medium firmness, it features adaptive foam layers that work to evenly distribute your weight as you sleep so you feel supported and comfortable all night long.

grey plush heated blanket with remote and case
Photo: John Lewis

A heated or electric blanket can work wonders for ensuring a good night’s sleep, especially as the nights get colder.

This luxurious option from Dreamland heats up in just five minutes and features intelligent technology that responds to your environment, adjusting the temperature as you sleep. It’s also machine washable for convenience. 

3. Be mindful of your diet

Incorporating balanced, nutrient-dense food into your diet is an easy way to boost your immune system naturally, ‘especially foods rich in vitamin C (such as citrus fruits) and zinc (such as nuts, seeds and lean meats)’, Dr Mesilhy explains.

But, according to our experts, there’s one key thing many of us neglect that we should be consuming for strengthened immunity: prebiotics.

‘Prebiotics are food for the probiotics already inside your body, so consuming a gut-healthy diet packed with prebiotics would be my number one recommendation to support a healthy immune system,’ Landau says.

Luckily, prebiotics and immune-boosting vitamins can be found in a huge variety of food. Take a look at our top recommendations.

brown rectangular jar of manuka honey, white label with bronze and gold detailing, and orange and black text
Photo: Manuka Doctor

Delicious and packed with immune-strengthening benefits, this genuine New Zealand 55 MGO Manuka Honey from Manuka Doctor is a win-win.

Manuka honey is rich in oligosaccharides — a form of non-digestible carbohydrates — which work as prebiotics, therefore helping to improve your gut health and support your immune system. 

It also contains Antimicrobial Activities at a strength of 55 MGO (Methylglyoxal), which are known to kill certain types of bacteria and promote healing. 

And if all that goodness wasn’t incentive enough, this Manuka Honey from Manuka Doctor is currently available for just £15 — that’s less than half price.

a brown HelloFresh box with various fruits and vegetables inside
Photo: HelloFresh

Making meals from scratch is a great way to ensure you’re eating healthy, immune-boosting food. And with HelloFresh, cooking at home has never been easier.

Offering hundreds of easy-to-follow recipes, a HelloFresh subscription means fresh, locally sourced ingredients delivered straight to your door and a tasty, nutritious meal whipped up in no time.

You can also tailor your box to suit your household needs, from the number of meals you receive per week to recipes that accommodate specific dietary requirements such as vegan and calorie-controlled.

an assortment of fruit and vegetables on top of a cardboard box labelled 'oddbox'. fruits and veg include mushrooms, spring onions, peppers, oranges, squash etc
Photo: Oddbox

If you’re struggling to get in your five a day, why not give OddBox a go?

OddBox’s produce boxes are bursting with fresh, tasty fruits and vegetables that have a little more character than the ones you’ll find at the supermarket, helping to prevent food waste in the process.

You can also choose between four box sizes and either weekly or fortnightly deliveries, so you can tailor your purchase to suit your needs.

a pack of ginger lemon kombucha next to a singular can on a white background
Photo: Tesco

Dr Mesilhy recommends incorporating fermented food and drinks into your diet as they ‘nourish beneficial gut bacteria’, contributing to a healthy gut.  

Naturally fermented and refreshing, this ginger and lemon flavoured kombucha from Remedy is an easy way to introduce this key element into your diet. 

It’s vegan, raw, naturally contains no sugar and each can is bursting with gut-loving live cultures.

4. Get a helping hand via supplements

Whilst you’re likely to consume the majority of your vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, supplements can offer a little extra help.

And with such a wide range of options available, they’re worth giving a shot. Check out our favourite vitamins for immune system health.

translucent green bottle with orange label filled with vitamin c tablets
Photo: Holland & Barrett

Vitamin C is renowned for its immune system benefits, with studies showing that it can even reduce the rate of colds in active people by 50%, and these high-strength supplements from Holland & Barrett are perfect for incorporating all that vitamin C goodness into your daily routine.

red gummy vitamins inside a transparent bottle with a multicoloured label
Photo: Boots

If swallowing pills isn’t for you, these vitamin gummies from Boots are a great alternative. They contain an active blend of vitamin C and zinc for ultimate immune support and have a tasty raspberry flavour. 

pink and white tube with white, grey and black text
Photo: Holland & Barrett

These fizzy Vitaboost tablets feature an immune-supporting blend of zinc and vitamins C and D. Simply pop one into a glass of water and enjoy a refreshing, citrusy drink that’s good for you, too.

5. Prioritise physical activity

Time to dust off your running shoes and (finally) make use of that gym membership — exercise is particularly important for giving your immune system a fighting chance.

‘Physical activity has been proven to strengthen the immune system by a number of pathways,’ says Landau. ‘Both strength training to increase muscle mass, as well as cardio training can be beneficial for helping with the body’s ability to respond quickly to pathogens.’

If you’re struggling to feel motivated, here are some of our favourite ways to get more movement into your life. 

navy yoga mat and block embellished with the john lewis & partners logo
Photo: John Lewis

Yoga is the perfect way to incorporate gentle physical movement into your routine and practise mindfulness at the same time.

This starter kit from John Lewis comes with a yoga mat and balance block so you’ll have everything you need to get going. 

foldup black treadmill with a small screen
Photo: John Lewis

Hit the ground running with this high-tech treadmill from ProForm.

It features an integrated five inch display and a powerful motor that can handle even the most rigorous of workouts. Plus, the handles fold down for easy storage when you’re finished.

red bicycle with black details and a white logo
Photo: Evans Cycles

Enjoy the fresh air and time outdoors with this Dual Sport 2 hybrid bike from Trek. 

Designed to be a go-anywhere bike, it handles a variety of terrains like a pro. So whether you’re riding it to work or through your local park, you’ll enjoy a smooth, comfortable ride.

Why is it important to look after your immune system?

‘Your immune system is the vital component that your body relies on to fight infection from external threats such as viruses, bacteria or unwanted pathogens that otherwise can make us ill,’ Landau explains. 

That means that when your immune system is weak or isn’t functioning properly, you’re at greater risk of catching colds and flu.

Why might someone have a weakened immune system?

‘The most obvious cause of a weakened immune system is having a medical condition that impairs immune function, such as HIV, cancer and autoimmune diseases,’ says Dr Mesilhy. ‘But several factors can contribute to a weakened immunity.’

These can include ‘poor dietary choices, a lack of sleep, stress, as well as chronic use of medications such as antibiotics that can impact the diversity of gut bacteria present in your body,’ Landau says.

What are signs of a weak immune system?

Regularly catching colds, digestive problems and feeling fatigued are all common signs that you may have a low immune system.

‘When your immune system is weakened, you are more prone to viral and bacterial infections that can leave your energy depleted while your body then forces you to allow itself to heal,’ Landau explains.

Time to give your immunity a kick-start

Looking after your immune system is crucial for fighting disease and for improving your overall health. 

So, whether you begin incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet via a produce subscription like OddBox, up your vitamin C intake with Boots Vitamin Gummies or start practising yoga with John Lewis’ Yoga Starter Kit, you can rest assured you’re helping strengthen your immunity.

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The information presented above is accurate as of 30/01/2024. We are not responsible for any changes to the prices. The ‘Best Buys featured’ badge indicates sponsored content, and we may earn commission when you make a purchase.


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