Blossom and Thrive: Essential Tips for Spring Immune Support

In recent weeks, the UK has seen a surge of cold and flu cases, with general practitioners and A&E staff from John o'Groats to Lands End reporting an influx of patients complaining of prolonged symptoms from respiratory infections. Many of these patients are being diagnosed with two or even three viral infections simultaneously. According to experts, the Covid-19 lockdowns have left us with something of an immunity debt. 

The association between the cooler weather and an increased prevalence of respiratory illnesses has long been recognised, with numerous factors contributing to this seasonal surge. According to a 2022 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, lowering the temperature by as little as 5C inside the nostrils can kill almost 50% of “good” bacteria. These “good” bacteria are key to fighting off infection, and a drop in their number can severely impact immunity. 

Cold air can also dry out the mucous membranes lining the respiratory tract, making it easier for viruses to invade and cause infection. Families also tend to spend more time indoors during the winter, leading to closer contact with others and enabling the rapid spread of viruses. Enclosed spaces often have poor ventilation, which can increase the concentration of infectious particles in the air. 

Some studies have indicated that UV light - which is harder to come by during winter and early spring - plays a key role in the inactivation of viruses. UV radiation has germicidal properties and decreased exposure during the winter can contribute to the survival and subsequent transmission of viruses.


So what exactly is the immune system?

Our immune systems are complex networks of cells, organs and tissues, which all collaborate with one another to defend the body against bacteria, fungi, viruses and other harmful invaders. To work effectively, the immune system must recognise and eradicate these foreign substances, making sure to distinguish them from the body’s own healthy cells. 

Within the immune system, there are two main components, known as the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system is sometimes referred to as the body’s first line of defence against invasion. It provides a fast, non-specific response to a wide range of pathogens. Within the innate immune system, the skin and mucous membranes serve as a physical barrier. Specialised cells, meanwhile, such as macrophages and neutrophils, surround and destroy pathogens. 

The second component, or the adaptive immune system, provides a much more specific and targeted response, tailored to each individual pathogen. T Cells and B Cells are crucial parts of the adaptive immune system. Antibodies, which are designed to recognise and neutralise specific pathogens, are produced by B cells. T Cells, meanwhile, directly attack infected cells. After the immune system has encountered a specific pathogen once, it can recognise and neutralise that particular invader, making for a speedier and more effective response if it invades the body again. 

Maintaining a healthy immune system is absolutely key for preventing cold, flu and other infections and viruses, particularly during the colder months. Regular exercise, getting enough sleep and management of stress can all contribute to a well-functioning immune system. 

How do vitamins and electrolytes contribute to a healthy immune system? 

Electrolytes, which are essential minerals that carry an electric charge, greatly contribute to a healthy immune system. Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride and phosphate are all examples of electrolytes. Sodium and chloride help to maintain the balance of fluid in and around cells. They also assist in the transport of waste products and nutrients. 

Potassium, meanwhile, regulates fluid balance and helps with nerve transmission and muscle contraction. Calcium and magnesium are key to muscle and nerve function. Calcium also participates in blood clotting, and magnesium is integral in energy production. Maintaining a balance of electrolytes is crucial for optimal functioning of immune cells. 

Vitamins, meanwhile, are organic compounds which also play an important role in supporting the immune system. Vitamin D, commonly found in oily fish, egg yolks and red meat, helps to regulate the immune response, supports the function of T cells and modulates inflation. Vitamin C, which can be found in citrus fruits and vitamin E, which can be found in almonds and sunflower seeds, act as antioxidants, neutralising free radicals, which, if left unchecked, can damage cells. 

How can I boost my immune system? 

Stay hydrated 

Aim to drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day. We recommend between 2 and 2.5 litres per day. This helps to support overall health and immune function. Consider investing in electrolyte powders. Electrolyte powders can be added to fluids, and usually contain a blend of essential immunity vitamins and minerals. 

Maintain a balanced diet 

Try to consume a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. These contain valuable vitamins and minerals. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits, are particularly high in vitamin C, which is known to enhance the production of white blood cells and antibodies - which are essential for fighting off infections. 

Berries like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are packed with antioxidants which help strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. 

Leafy greens, bell peppers, garlic and ginger can also boost immunity. 


Exercise regularly 

When possible, engage in moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking, cycling or swimming. Exercise, like staying hydrated and eating healthily, contributes to overall immune system health. It also promotes good circulation. 

With exercise, consistency is key. Try to aim got at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. Make sure to listen to your body, starting slowly and increasing the duration and intensity of your workouts. 


Try an electrolyte powder

Electrolyte powders are specifically designed to replenish electrolytes and key minerals in the body, lost through everyday sweating, and excessive sweating during exercise or illness. Electrolyte powders support fluid balance, muscle function and nerve transmission, enhancing energy levels and supporting physical recovery.