Health Corner


As we are now in winter in the Southern hemisphere, you may be considering how you can best support your immune system against influenza and other viruses this year. It is easier to prevent an infection, than to treat it, which means you can take measures to optimise your immune function even if you’ve received the flu or Covid vaccine.

When it comes to immunity it is better to prevent disease than to cure it, which means you can still take steps to optimise immune function even if you have been vaccinated.

The immune system is a complex organ and when working optimally it can recognise invaders such as viruses or bacteria and mount a response via our white cells by destroying the uninvited intruders. There are factors that can decrease host resistance to infection, such as:

  • age (infants and elderly are particularly vulnerable)
  • having a chronic disease
  • severe stress
  • prior infections
  • damaged primary defence mechanisms (burns, cuts)
  • malnutrition/diet
  • environmental influences (toxin exposure)

Even if you feel energetic and enjoy a good state of health, you may benefit from getting annual blood chemistries done in addition to vitamin D, iron and serum zinc levels checked (these nutrients are important in immune function) as knowing your status of these vitamins and minerals can help to identify any requirement for supplementation.

The main function of vitamin D is to maintain serum calcium and phosphate concentrations by enhancing the absorption of calcium from the diet. However, vitamin D helps induce monocyte conversion to macrophages (white blood cells that ingest microbial pathogens).

Zinc functions as a cofactor for immune dependent responses and is required for the maintenance of healthy mucous membranes.  Deficiency impairs white blood cell function: macrophages, neutrophils, NK cell and complement activity.

Iron is a trace mineral we require for cellular energy, synthesis of haemoglobin (a molecule required for oxygen transport in red blood cells) and detoxification.  For immunity it is involved in proliferation of white and red blood cells and deficiency impairs T cell function, cells that destroy virus infected cells. Groups most at risk of iron deficiency include toddlers, children, menstruating women, vegans and vegetarians.

Other considerations important in the immune response, is the health of your gut (as over 80% of your immune system is in the digestive tract), getting adequate sleep and managing your stress as high cortisol levels (a hormone released by the adrenal glands) depletes vitamin C levels, another vitamin important in the immune response.

If you would like further information and support for your immune system this winter, contact the clinic on 8289 2800 for a naturopathy consultation with Mel Byrne who will be happy to help you.