Busting Immune Boosting Myths

By Student Dietitian, Grace Ingram

What does it mean to “boost” your immune system?

The immune system is the body’s defence force. A healthy immune system can prevent you from getting sick, by helping to fight off some of the "bad guys", such as viruses and bacteria.

However, if the soldiers in your immune system misfire, they are also capable of attacking the good guys, including your own cells! (1). Allergies and autoimmune diseases, including coeliac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Type 1 Diabetes, are products of an overactive immune system. Therefore, instead of “boosting” your immune system, we like to think about how we can optimize the immune system to best perform its desired function – keeping you healthy and free and sickness!

Many claims exist around certain nutrients and foods and their power to “boost” your immune system. So, should you really be chomping down on raw garlic, or religiously taking vitamin C tablets to avoid the common cold and flu?

Let’s take a look at five nutrients and foods that have had their moment in the immune-boosting spotlight.

Vitamin C

If you haven’t been told to take vitamin C to prevent colds and the flu, you’ve been living under a rock. Although it is one of the oldest tricks in the book, it actually does have some merit!

White blood cells are one of the star soldiers in your immune system defence force. They contain a huge amount of vitamin C compared to other blood cells. Research shows that white blood cells need vitamin C to mature and work at their best (2). Think of vitamin C like an upgrade for these fighters, giving them better pathogen destroying abilities.