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By Julia Haimovich, Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

One of the most fundamental strategies for maintaining overall well-being revolves around
developing and sustaining a robust immune system. The importance of a healthy immune
system cannot be overstated, as it serves as a cornerstone for preserving our health. While we
often become more vigilant about immunity during the winter months, given the surge in cold
and flu cases, nurturing a robust immune system should be a year-round commitment. After
all, our immune system plays a pivotal role in preventing and combating a wide array of
illnesses, ranging from infections to cancer and autoimmune disorders. Furthermore,
immunity plays a significant role in managing allergic conditions. (1)

Understanding the Immune System:
When our immune system malfunctions, it opens the door to various diseases and
autoimmune disorders. The immune system is intricate and vital, safeguarding our bodies
against infections, cancer, and autoimmune illnesses. Comprising organs, tissues, cells, and
specialised proteins, the immune system orchestrates a complex defence mechanism against
threats to our health. Immune imbalances can either lead to immune depression, increasing
susceptibility to infections and cancer, or immune hyperactivity, exacerbating allergies and
autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. (2)
The immune system interacts intricately with the psychological, neurological,
endocrinological, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems, exerting influence on its
overall functioning. (2)

The Role of Fever:

Infections often induce fever, raising the body’s temperature. Fever serves as a catalyst for the
immune response and plays a pivotal role in combating infections. Suppressing a fever
prematurely can potentially hinder the immune response. The severity of the fever guides
decisions on whether to intervene early in its reduction. (1)

Strengthening the Immune System:
Nurturing a resilient immune system requires a comprehensive approach encompassing
lifestyle, nutrition, and targeted supplements. Evaluating our lifestyle choices is an essential
starting point, considering factors such as stress, sleep, exposure to sunlight, exercise habits,
weight management, nutrition, environmental factors, medication use, and susceptibility to infections. (1,3)

Stress contributes significantly to immune system health. The field of
psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) explores how the mind influences immune function, and
psychoneuroendocrinology (PNE) examines the impact of mental states on the body’s hormones. (3,4)

Sleep is another critical factor. Poor sleep compromises immunity and is linked to a
heightened susceptibility to numerous illnesses. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, plays a role in
immune modulation, making sleep disruptions detrimental to the intricate balance of hormones and the immune system. (1,3)

Gastrointestinal Health plays a central role in immunity. The gut houses trillions of bacteria
that constantly communicate with immune cells. Roughly 70-80% of immune cells reside in the gastrointestinal-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). Optimising gut microflora is crucial for robust immunity, as it influences the immune system and various bodily systems, including the brain and metabolism. (5)

When practised moderately and consistently, exercise fosters healthy blood flow, stimulates the immune system, and alleviates stress. (5)

Essential Nutrients like Vitamin D, Vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and others contribute to a
robust immune system. Vitamin D, in particular, has gained recognition for its role in
bolstering innate immunity. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, particularly during
winter, which can increase susceptibility to viral infections. (5,6)

Essential Minerals like Zinc and Selenium are critical for immune function and can help
combat colds, flu, and respiratory infections. (5)

Nutrition plays a substantial role in immune modulation. Consuming anti-inflammatory
foods, such as those rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants (Vitamins A, C, E), high fibre,
and monounsaturated fats, while reducing pro-inflammatory foods like processed foods, can
bolster immunity. (6,7)

Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods maintain gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial
microbes and introducing friendly microbes into the system. (1, 9)

Considering these aspects holistically can significantly improve overall health and immunity.
Consulting with an Integrative Healthcare Practitioner can provide evidence-based guidance
on enhancing your well-being.

Immune System and Aging:

The immune system undergoes changes with age and is influenced by seasonal variations.
Malnutrition, the natural aging process, stress, and unhealthy lifestyles can disrupt immune
function. Implementing proactive measures to support your immune system can start today,
leading to improved health, especially during the cold and flu season. Understanding the key
components of the immune system, such as white blood cells, antibodies, the complement
system, and the lymphatic system, allows us to appreciate its complexity. (3)

Additional defences against microbes include the skin, which acts as a waterproof barrier;
lungs that trap foreign particles with mucus and tiny hairs; the digestive tract, where
antibodies and stomach acid combat microbes; and other bodily fluids like saliva and tears,
which contain enzymes that inhibit bacterial growth. (1,5)

In conclusion, nurturing a resilient immune system is a multifaceted endeavour encompassing
various lifestyle choices, nutrition, and targeted supplements. Understanding the immune
system’s intricacies and its interaction with the body’s other defences is pivotal in our quest
for overall well-being and immunity. Taking proactive steps today can fortify our immune
system, support our health, and thrive throughout the seasons.

Please, make see your GP if you have any health concerns.


  1. Janeway C. Immunobiology, 7 edition. New York (NY): Garland Science, Taylor &
    Francis Group; 2008.
  2. Porta, M. (2014). A Dictionary of Epidemiology. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved
    17 Sep. 2023, from


  1. Maggini S, Pierre A, Calder PC. Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements
    Change over the Life Course. Nutrients. 2018 Oct 17;10(10). pii: E1531. doi:
    10.3390/nu10101531. Abstract available
    from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30336639
  2. Eyre, H., & Baune, B. T. (2012). Neuroplastic changes in depression: a role for the
    immune system. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(9), 1397-1416.
  3. Janeway C. Immunobiology, 7 edition. New York (NY): Garland Science, Taylor &
    Francis Group; 2008.
  4. Maggini S, Pierre A, Calder PC. Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements
    Change over the Life Course. Nutrients. 2018 Oct 17;10(10). pii: E1531. doi:
    10.3390/nu10101531. Abstract available
    from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30336639
  5. Castellani ML, Shaik-Dasthagirisaheb YB, Tripodi D, Anogeianaki A, Felaco P,
    Toniato E,, et al. Interrelationship between vitamins and cytokines in immunity J Biol
    Regul Homeost Agents. 2010 Oct;24:385-90. Abstract available
    from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21122276
  6. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine
    Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Food Forum. Nutrigenomics and the Future of
    Nutrition: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington (DC): National Academies Press
    (US); 2018 Jul. Abstract available
    from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30048077
  7. Swanson, K. S., Gibson, G. R., Hutkins, R., Reimer, R. A., Reid, G., Verbeke, K., … &
    Sanders, M. E. (2020). The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and
    Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of
    synbiotics. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 17(11), 687-701.
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