A healthy immune system is our first line of defence against illness, and we can all do something to improve its protective powers. Adopt rainbow eating practices You can start by eating fruit and vegetables of every colour each day. Naturopathy Senior Lecturer Gloria Cicchini recommends a focus on orange plants foods, which are excellent sources of carotenoids. "They help to support a healthy immune system. Try adding orange to salads, making a fresh mango smoothie, snacking on carrot and eating roast pumpkin alongside a good protein source for dinner," she says. Chinese herbalists (and our grandmothers) have traditionally used culinary herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger and even mint to help with ailments. You can include these in your cooking or in teas to stay healthier. Adjust with the seasonOur Head of Chinese Medicine Greg Cope encourages people to adjust their lifestyle to the season, which will strengthen their ‘defensive’ or ‘wei’ qi. "As the weather starts to get cooler, living in harmony with the natural world means we should wrap up warmly," he says. "This includes wearing a scarf to protect our neck from getting cold. In Chinese Medicine, a cold neck is considered to increase the risk of an acute respiratory infection.""Spending more time at home resting (like a hibernating animal), sleeping longer, and focusing more on ourselves is also considered protective. Involve yourself in quieter activities, like reading, writing, or crafting and gentle exercises that you can complete at home or nearby like walking, qi gong or tai chi. Turn to seasonal foods like root vegetables, winter greens, onions, garlic, mushrooms and apples, and serve them in warming foods like soup and casseroles," Greg says. Reduce life stressOur Associate Head of Department for Myotherapy Sue Sharp says chronic stress will suppress the body’s immune response. "An important way to boost your immunity is to decrease or manage life stress. You can do this by implementing stress-coping mechanisms such as keeping appropriate to-do lists, so you don’t become overwhelmed and delegating tasks if appropriate. Practice daily meditation, yoga and deep breathing, and make time to see friends and family and have fun. Isolation can cause ill health and lessen your immunity," she says. Step out in the sunlightNatural light helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, which in turns helps our bodies to produce antibodies that are essential to a healthy immune system. Sadly, many Australians are Vitamin D deficient. Gloria Cicchini says getting out in the early morning sunshine, before it’s at its brightest, for up to 30 minutes will top up your quota. If you’re staying out for longer, remember your sun cream. Vitamin D also helps your body to use certain minerals, like calcium. Natural light also helps to set your internal body clock as well as boosting serotonin levels, which can give you more energy, help you stay calm and positive, and get to sleep at night. Get enough regular sleepAdequate sleep supports an appropriate immune response. A healthy sleep routine includes seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Where possible, the experts also recommend going to bed and rising at the same time each day. Our Head of Department in Naturopathy, Elizabeth McGregor advises people to limit their electronic device use before bed, especially the blue light from phones, laptops, and tablets. "Blue light has been found to reduce melatonin (a hormone that aids sleep onset). If you’ve got to use your phone, try setting the light to night mode to increase the yellow light," she says. You’ve got to move it, move it! A daily 30-minute walk that elevates your heart rate is enough to boost your immunity, Sue Sharpe says. "Daily movement can be exercise, stretching, dancing, yoga, gym, Pilates, anything that you enjoy. Just keep active. This will promote lymphatic and vascular movement, which nourishes and oxygenates the body’s cells, while also removing waste products. You’ll also improve your cardiovascular fitness and decrease your potential risk of metabolic disease.""Exercise decreases the stress response only if you’re not doing excessive high-intensity workouts without adequate recovery. On the other hand, moderate exercise has positive effects on your blood pressure, mental wellbeing and has been shown to change antibodies and white blood cells, which help ward off colds, flu and infections. Remember to stay well-hydrated when you exercise because water is very important for your body’s functioning and immunity," Sue adds. Wash your hands wellWith all of the information about COVID-19, we’ve had many reminders about the importance of good hygiene. Wash your hands well for at least 20 seconds, and regularly throughout the day – after using the bathroom, before eating or preparing food, handling money and patting pets etc. Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to reduce the transmission of disease. Also, try to avoid touching your face as much as possible. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, preferably with a tissue. Afterwards, throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands again.Remember, no one is invincible! Boosting your immunity can’t make you invincible, but it can help your body to avoid or cope with infections, colds and flu. If you do get sick, our leaders recommend that you reduce or stop your exercise, rest up at home and use some natural remedies to help your body recover. Try some slow-cooked, nutritious meals or Gloria’s recipe for lemon and ginger tea. We hope these simple, natural ways to boost your body’s immune system help you to stay healthy and strong this season and throughout your life.Lemon and ginger teaIngredients1 lemon – skin removedA 5cm knob of ginger1 litre of water1 tablespoon of unprocessed honeyA pinch of cayenne pepperMethodIn a high-speed blender, blitz the ginger and lemon together. Put the mix in a saucepan on low heat. Add the water and cook on a low heat until gently simmering. Add honey to taste and a pinch of cayenne pepper.