Habits and Actions To Support A Resilient Immune System

The ability to ward off disease is called immunity. Lack of resistance is called susceptibility.

A supported and resilient immune system is an important component of wellness. The production and function of vital immune cells decreases as the body ages and as a result we are not able to respond to immune challenges as robustly as we once could. However, it is a myth that a weak immune system is a given as we age - taking a proactive approach and supporting your immune system with simple strategies will help you live a longer and more engaged lifestyle and bounce back from sickness faster.

Your immune system has a self-cleaning mechanism, known as autophagy – the process by which enzymes of the same cell digest cellular waste (worn out organelles.) Autophagy is supported by engaging in healthy dietary and lifestyle practices. 16 hour overnight fasting is one such practice with an abundance of supporting research.

The immune system is complex. The two general types of immunity are innate and adaptive.

The innate immune system is an evolutionary ancient defence system which responds rapidily and represents the dominant defence system against most organisms, including disease causing bacteria and viruses. It includes the external chemical and physical barriers provided by the mucous membranes and skin. Innate immunity includes chemical factors, physical factors, antimicrobial proteins, natural killer cells, phagocytes, inflammation and fever” (Tortora & Derrickson, 2014, p. 836).

The adaptive immune system involves activation of specific lymphocytes present only in a given pathogen. Adaptive immunity involves lymphocytes called B cells and T cells.

The six main components in the human body involved in modulating the immune system are: the lymphatic system, the respiratory system, the skin, lymphocytes, the spleen and the gut.

Natural killers (NK) cells are a sub-set of lymphocytes and are critical to the immune system. NK cells are named for their capability of killing target cells autonomously. NK cells are found in most organs - bone marrow, lung, lymph nodes, peripheral blood, spleen, and liver. These cells have capacity to influence both innate and adaptive immune responses. Research has shown that healthy lifestyle and dietary choices can modulate the normal activity of NK cells.


Healthy Dietary & Lifestyle Choices

  • Develop healthy sleep hygiene habits as adequate rest supports your immune system. Where possible go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Develop this in line with your natural circadian rhythm. Cool, dark spaces provide ideal sleep conditions.
  • Stress and worry weaken your immune system – develop strategies to manage stress (eg mindfulness and meditation – link) and become stress resilience. Focus on things you can control.
  • Optimise your nutrient status by focussing on consuming wholefoods (Wholefood as a philosophy considers that the whole is greater than simply the sum of all parts.) Food IS medicine and has a powerful ability to heal the body.
  • In a perfect world, the soil our food is grown in would naturally have plenty of vital nutrients and the food sold in our supermarkets and markets would be nutrient dense. In a perfect world we would have access to a much wider range of cultivars than what is now commercially grown and therefore would be exposing our microbiome’s to a more diverse range of plant compounds (phytonutrients). One of the greatest predictors of a diverse and robust microbiome is the diversity of plants compounds we consume.
  • Wholefood supplements, nutraceuticals and functional foods are potent and nutrient dense, and as such can fill in the gaps and optimise our nutrient status. This is turn can support a strong immune system.

Some key nutrients understood to support a resilient immune system:

Zinc – is involved in many aspects of immunological function. It is an alkaline mineral and needed for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body. It is an essential trace element known to play an important role in all human living cells. Zinc binds to protein so the amount and protein you eat and how well you absorb it determine your zinc levels.

Food sources – meats, seafood especially oysters, some seeds and nuts (if grown in zin rich soils), legumes

Karuah Active Magnesium is a good source of zinc

Magnesium - is involved in over 300 essential enzymatic reactions in the body and is necessary for every major biochemical process. Magnesium is an essential mineral and is required for ATP (energy) production in the mitochondria. The soils a lot of commercial crops are grown in are deficient in magnesium.

Sources – nuts, seeds, some Australian wild fruits, leafy green vegetables, seafood, whole grain cereals

Karuah Active Magnesium is a rich source of magnesium

Vitamin C – our bodies cannot make vitamin C so we need to ensure our intake is sufficiently large. Vitamin C acts as an anti-oxidant. At present in Australia, RDI’s of Vitamin C may be less than adequate to promote optimal health (Mahlqvist, M.L., (2011) p348)

Sources – some Australian wild fruits, citrus fruits, tomatoes, green vegetables. The world’s richest fruit source of Vitamin C is Kakadu plum.

L.I.F.E. – The Antidote To Modern Food is a rich source of Vitamin C

Vitamin D – The Sunshine Molecule - Vitamin D enhances the immune system’s response to both bacterial and viral agents – it is involved in immunomodulation. Vitamin D is a nutrient and is a fat-soluble hormone synthesised in the skin from UVB sun exposure. It is activated in the liver and kidneys. It has been estimated that exposing the skin to UVB radiation produces approximately 90% of the vitamin D that is bioavailable in the body (so dietary intake is only required to meet the shortfall.)

Food sources – oily fish, cod liver oil, mushrooms (depending on their growing conditions), eggyolk, some seaweeds

Karuah Active Magnesium is a source of Vitamin D

Omega-3 - Your immune system functions better if you have a physiological appropriate ratio of Omega-6:Omega-3 in your red blood cells. Nutritionists call omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids “essential” nutrients. The human body needs them for many functions, from building healthy cells to maintaining a healthy heart and brain, but we cannot produce them and therefore must obtain them from the foods we eat. The omega-6 fatty acids produce compounds which are generally pro-inflammatory, while the omega-3 fatty acids break down in the body to produce compounds which are broadly anti-inflammatory.

Sources – oily fish, some seeds and their oils contain ALA which our bodies convert a small amount of over to EPA and DHA (Omega-3)

Zinzino Balance Oil+ is an outstanding source of Omega-3 (as well as a source of Vitamin D)

Selenium – every cell in the human body houses about 1 million selenium atoms. The essential biological function of selenium is the role is plays at the active site enzymes that make up part of the body’s antioxidant defense and other systems. Selenium is needed for the proper function of the immune system. Selenium can modulate the normal activity of NK cells.

Sources – seafood, meat, chickens, tomato, egg yolk, milk, mushrooms, garlic, cereal grains grown in selenium rich soils

Karuah Active Magensium is a good source of selenium.

Disclaimer: this is for information purposes only and not to replace advice by your qualified health care provider.


Braun, L., Cohen, M. (2014). Herbs & Natural Supplements - An Evidence Based Guide (4th ed.). Australia: Churchill Livingstone Australia.

Greenfield B., (2020) Boundless Las Vegas: Victory Belt Publishing Inc.

Tortora, G.J., Derrickson, B. (2014). Principles Of Anatomy & Physiology (14th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wahlqvist, M.L., (2011). Food & Nutrition (3rd Ed.). Crowns Nest: Allen & Unwin