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Five Ways to Naturally Boost Your Immune System

Here are five simple measures that can be taken to help you strengthen your immunity naturally.
Five Ways to Naturally Boost Your Immune System

by JJB Admin

A month ago

This article was written by Marc Barton, who is a 2nd degree Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt under Mauricio Gomes.  Marc is the head instructor at Kingston Jiu Jitsu and is also a qualified medical doctor. Marc has also contributed articles for a medical education website.

Cold and flu season is upon us again. While there are no proven quick fixes to boosting our immune system to help us fend off illnesses, we can do some simple things to help the body’s natural defences do their job.

Here are five simple measures that can be taken to help you strengthen your immunity naturally:

1. Get good quality sleep

There is a very close and often underestimated relationship between sleep and immunity. It is well established that a lack of sleep can adversely affect the immune system. Several studies have shown that sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of getting sick after exposure of viruses, such as the ones that cause the common cold. One particular study undertaken on 164 healthy adults demonstrated that those that slept less than six hours per night had a higher susceptibility to the common cold1.

The precise mechanism by which good-quality sleep protects against infection is not fully understood. Still, it is known that the immune system releases special protects called cytokines during sleep. Cytokines are an essential part of the immune response, and sleep deprivation can reduce their production. Similarly, the production of infection-fighting cells and antibodies are also reduced by lack of sleep.

The sleep foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night as the optimal amount for adults. If you are struggling to get enough sleep, try work on your sleep hygiene and avoid watching TV, or looking a computer or tablet screens before you go to bed, as the blue light exposure from electronic devices can be very disruptive2. Some people may also benefit from taking CBD oil before bed as a natural remedy to promote restful sleep3.

2. Take vitamin D

I consider vitamin D to be the single most important supplement for jiu jitsu athletes to take. Vitamin D is one of the most vital vitamins for overall health, and it plays a crucial role in the maintenance of the immune system. Vitamin D is not a single vitamin but instead a group of five fat-soluble vitamins. In humans, vitamin D3 appears to be the most important of these. Vitamin D is actually considered to be a steroid hormone and plays a vital role in gene expression, controlling the action of over 1,000 genes in the human body. It also controls an enormous variety of vitally important physiological functions. Very few foods contain Vitamin D3, and the primary source is UV radiation from exposure to sunlight. The UV radiation converts a type of cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D3, which is then converted into a more active form, called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, in the liver.

In recent years, research has confirmed that vitamin D plays an important role in supporting the immune system, and many immune cells metabolise vitamin D4. Vitamin D appears to be essential for normal immune function, and impaired levels can lead to dysfunction of the immune system.

The best way to check if you are deficient in Vitamin D is to talk to your doctor about arranging a blood test. The UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) currently advises that all adults lining in the UK should take a daily supplement containing 400 IUs of Vitamin D throughout the year, including in the winter months5. Higher doses than this are required to treat established vitamin D deficiency. 

3. Take vitamin C

Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid, is a vitamin found in various foods, most notably citrus fruits and berries. Vitamin C has several important functions, including protecting cells, maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilages, and assisting with wound healing. It is also a potent antioxidant and plays a crucial role in supporting a healthy immune system.

While vitamin C hasn’t been proven to prevent infectious diseases, there is evidence that it speeds up recovery from illnesses such as the common cold and reduces the severity of the symptoms6.

It is important to remember when supplementing with vitamins such as vitamin C and D that you should only take doses within the recommended safe limits and that exceeding these doses can result in serious side effects.

4. Stay hydrated

Staying well-hydrated is incredibly important for maintaining good overall health. The human body is composed of around 60% water. Adequate hydration is needed for the body to support numerous essential functions, such as the regulation of body temperature, the maintenance of healthy bones and joints, digestion and optimal immune system functioning.

 The NHS website advises that people drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration if they develop a cold7. The skin and mucosal surfaces of the body need to be well hydrated to work optimally, and these can act as a barrier to prevent viruses from entering the body. If you do pick up a cold, it can be easy to quickly get dehydrated, particular if a fever has developed and this can worsen the symptoms of the illness. Keeping on top of your fluid intake during an illness can help to reduce symptoms such as sore throat and nasal irritation and can also help when trying to control a fever.

 The optimal amount of water to drink in a day varies greatly depending upon numerous factors, such as climate, exercise levels, gender and body weight. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have suggested that adequate daily fluid intake is around 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women. You may need a little more if you are unwell. If you are sweating a lot or have vomiting or diarrhoea, then you may also want to consider supplementing your water intake with an electrolyte solution, such as Dioralyte.

5. Exercise

There is overwhelming evidence supporting the health benefits of exercise. Jiu jitsu is an excellent form of exercise and has numerous health benefits!

We know that exercise can reduce the risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and reduce the risk of premature death by as much as 30%. Exercise also helps to support a healthy immune system and can help to fend off illnesses, such as the common cold. Exercise is the miracle cure we’ve always had, but far too many people neglect to take the recommended dose.

Studies have shown that bouts of moderate exercise are ‘immuno-enhancing”, reducing inflammation and improving the functioning of the immune system8. Moderate-intensity exercise has even been used to increase the effectiveness of vaccine responses in “at-risk” patients.

 To stay healthy, adults should try to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities9. Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, steady bicycling, jogging, swimming and hiking.

The caveat to this is that you shouldn’t overdo the level of exercise and bouts of high-intensity exercise can have the opposite effect and actually depress immunity8, so don’t overdo it!

In summary, there are several simple things that you can do to help optimise your immune system and get it ready to face the winter. Sleep well, supplement wisely, drink enough water and take some sensible levels of exercise and hopefully you will reduce your chances of picking up a cold or flu bug this year.



  1. Aric A. Prather, PhD, Denise Janicki-Deverts, PhD, Martica H. Hall, PhD, Sheldon Cohen, PhD, Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold,Sleep, Volume 38, Issue 9, September 2015, Pages 1353–1359 :

  1. Harvard Health letter: Blue light has a dark side: 

  1. Truth Naturals Blog: Help – I need better sleep:

  1. Prietl B, Treiber G, Pieber TR, Amrein K. Vitamin D and immune function. Nutrients. 2013;5(7):2502-2521. Published 2013 Jul 5:

  2.  NICE CKS: Vitamin D deficiency in adults - treatment and prevention:
  1. Douglas RM, Chalker EB, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD000980:

  2. 7. Common cold – NHS advice:

  1. Simpson RJ, Kunz H, Agha N, Graff R. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions.Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:355-380:

  2. 9. Benefits of exercise – NHS advice:



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