Fitness and Health

How to boost your immune system – these tips can be used to build up strong defences

Camilla Freinek Camilla Freinek
from Camilla Freinek, BSc MSc
on 29.12.2023

Viruses, bacteria, foreign bodies. Our immune system has a lot of fights to contend with every day. But even the strongest warrior runs out of puff from time to time. Not all of us are blessed with a strong immune system. People who are constantly ill are keen to strengthen their defences quickly. You can find out which tips and tricks can be used to support your immune system in our article.

Why strengthen our immune system?

A strong immune system is the best precaution against infections. There are more than 200 viruses that alone can trigger a cold. In addition, there are countless other pathogens that can cause, for example, bladder inflammation, gastrointestinal complaints or fungal infections. Keeping these offenders at bay is a “mission impossible”, because we come across them everywhere – in the air in our rooms, when shaking hands or when touching infected door handles. It is therefore all the more important to strengthen the body's own defences.

People only realise the importance of a powerful immune system when their body’s protective shield repeatedly “fails” and they are constantly ill.

Possible reasons and factors for a weak immune system:

  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Micronutrient deficiency
  • Stimulants such as nicotine and alcohol
  • Pregnancy
  • Advanced age
  • Negative thoughts and emotions
  • Cold
  • Drugs
  • Diseases such as diabetes, kidney and liver diseases

A strong immune system is a good preparation for autumn and winter

Colds and flu-like infections peak in the autumn and winter. It’s no wonder that our immune system is hampered by the lack of sunlight and the cold. This makes it all the more important, especially in the darker months, to strengthen the immune system with the right vitamins and nutrients – but what is the best way to arm your defences?

What vitamins & nutrients strengthen the immune system?

Whether it’s a walk in the forest during rain or snowshoe hiking in the mountains – with the right vitamins and trace elements, you are not only externally equipped, but also perfectly equipped inside in the autumn and winter. When it comes to our immune system, the following vitamins and trace elements are particularly active in keeping us healthy:

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the first thing many people think of when it comes to strengthening the immune system. This water-soluble vitamin helps to fight off intruders and protect the body from oxidative stress that can weaken the immune system.

Zinc: Zinc is another immune classic. This trace element not only supports the barrier function of our skin and mucous membranes, which form an important protective shield against invaders, it is also required for the formation and activation of various defence cells. In addition, zinc protects our body from oxidative stress, which can weaken the immune system.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D also plays a role in the body’s own immune system and thus makes a valuable contribution to its defences. In the cooler seasons, however, the sun is too low in this part of the world to form enough vitamin D via the skin, which is why vitamin D levels need to be kept an eye on and should be checked regularly.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A supports the mucous membranes, including those of the nose and throat, which offer important protection from the inside against environmental pathogens.

Iron: Iron is less well known in this role, but also contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system and women of childbearing age in particular should focus on ensuring an adequate supply.

B vitamins: B vitamins provide an all-round package for a powerful immune system. They help the immune system to detect pathogens, maintain the mucous membranes intact and contribute to cell growth.

Copper and selenium: Copper and selenium also play a role in the immune system. While selenium affects the activity of the immune cells, copper can increase the lifespan of white blood cells.

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How do I strengthen my immune system? Four more tips for boosting your defences

1. Strengthen your immune system with a balanced diet & fresh foods

If you choose fresh foods from the region that are currently in season and ideally have been grown outdoors, you can provide your body with a decent amount of valuable vitamins and minerals. With the help of a healthy, balanced diet, the body is supplied with many of the important substances it needs. 

Which foods strengthen the immune system?

Natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are packed with important micronutrients and phytonutrients. For example, berries, broccoli and citrus fruits provide vitamin C, vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene is found in dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and carrots, and zinc is found in whole grain products, legumes and nuts. In addition, there are also plants that strengthen the immune system due to their special ingredients. These include garlic, curcuma, thyme and elderberry. At the same time, plant-based foods are also always good fibre suppliers that care for our gut flora, an important immune supporter. If you want to build up your intestinal flora in a targeted way, you can use prebiotic foods such as black salsify, artichokes or chicory. Meat, white flour, fatty food, sugar and processed foodstuffs should be avoided. 

2. Quench your thirst.

Drinking too little not only makes you tired and exhausted, but also means you are more susceptible to infections. One reason for this is the mucous membranes that have dried out as a result. Due to the lack of moisture, viruses and bacteria cannot be adequately removed and remain in the body. Make sure you have enough liquid, preferably water and unsweetened herbal teas.  

3. Strengthen your immune system with exercise

Exercising outdoors not only relieves stress, it also stimulates the cardiovascular system and blood circulation, promotes a good mood and healthy sleep. Regular exercise has a positive effect on the immune system, as exercise strengthens not only the muscles, but also the immune cells. This allows pathogens to be overcome more quickly and effectively in the event of an imminent infection. It is important to exercise regularly (at least three times a week). However, there’s no need to overdo things. If you put too much stress on your body during sports or exercise during an acute infection, you will achieve the opposite effect.

 4. Ban nicotine and alcohol.

Alcohol and nicotine, as well as stress, are among the typical risk factors that can lead to a weakening of the immune system. Alcohol-intoxication, for example, significantly reduces the activity of the immune system for 24 hours. Regular consumption of alcohol causes the immune cells to be inhibited in their activity. Nicotine disrupts the work of the white blood cells in the body that are responsible for finding and destroying pathogens.

Strengthen the immune system in children

The immune system of children still has a lot to learn. Although newborns already have a congenital immune system that can detect and destroy unwanted invaders in a non-specific manner, the specific immune system – another powerful defence system – only matures over the course of the first ten years of life. It is therefore normal that children, especially small children, develop infections much more frequently than adults. Nevertheless, the child's immune system can gain resilience with a number of different measures. Find out more here:

Hhow to strengthen the immune system of children

Intestinal immune system – Strengthen the immune system

Strong defences are created in the intestine. The intestinal flora is in constant interaction with the intestinal immune system. It trains the immune cells and stimulates the formation of defence substances that not only benefit the intestine, but also other sites, such as the nasal mucous membranes. All of this makes the digestive system an important part of the immunological network, which is also reflected in figures: 70% of all immune cells are housed in the small and large intestines and almost 80% of all immune responses take place here.

But what can we do to strengthen the intestinal immune system?

Learn more

Plant power: How do you naturally strengthen the immune system?

In addition to micronutrients, Mother Nature is also bursting with good things that can strengthen the immune system quite naturally. Plants that have already gained recognition in this area include, for example:


Cistus is a genus of shrub that grows in the Mediterranean. In its homeland, the plant enjoys a long tradition of use, whereby it is said to be effective against infections of all kinds. 


As far back as ancient times, the eucalyptus was known as the "fever tree" among the indigenous people of Australia. Rich in essential oils, the plant has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well as being an effective expectorant and is therefore well suited for the concomitant treatment of respiratory tract infections.

Echinacea (coneflower)

The magnificent coneflower is not only beautiful to look at, it also works wonders as a supplement. Thus, it is used concomitantly for colds due to its anti-inflammatory, antiviral and immunostimulating properties.


Quercetin is a natural substance that is found in numerous fruits and herbs and has antiviral, immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties. It is therefore hardly surprising that clinical studies show that quercetin can alleviate the symptoms of respiratory diseases.


Turmeric is a spice that doesn’t just make our food taste and look more interesting. Its values as a supplement are also highly sought after. The plant has anti-inflammatory effects and supports our defences.

Vital mushrooms:

The use of vital mushrooms is firmly anchored in TCM (traditional medicinal herbs). Some vital mushrooms, including reishi and shiitake, have a beneficial effect on the immune system. Substances contained therein can influence the activity of immune cells and have a balancing effect on the immune system.

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Getting you fit. What else helps to strengthen the immune system.

Hygiene: Keep your hands clean!

Today, it is well known that bacteria and viruses are generally transmitted via the hands. Accordingly, door handles, ATMs and hand shaking, etc. are underestimated hazardous areas in terms of infection. And since we tend to touch our faces every four minutes on average, we are paving the way for pathogens to attack us. Therefore the following applies: Try not to touch your face and wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.

Take time out & strengthen your defences: Treat yourself to some time out!

Take regular breaks to relax and breathe deeply. In the sense of holistic cleansing, in addition to the body, the mind and soul should also be given sufficient attention. Permanent stress and psychological stress weaken the immune system. Regular relaxation can therefore contribute to staying healthy even during stressful periods. For example, reduce one of the most invasive daily habits of modern life: Ignore your smartphone or laptop for a good period of time and spend time consciously offline – yoga, meditation or a leisurely walk in the fresh air have a relaxing effect and support both body and mind.

Get into the sauna and build up a strong immune system

Regular visits to the sauna are not only relaxing, but also help to strengthen our immune system. By alternating between hot and cold, the blood vessels are trained and can therefore adapt better to changing temperatures. This reduces heat loss in a cold environment and the mucous membranes cool down less. This makes it more difficult for pathogens to become established in the body. To give your blood vessels the best possible workout, you should not only go to the sauna in the cold season, but also in summer from time to time.

Caution: If you already have a cold, it is better to avoid a visit to the sauna. The large temperature fluctuations can put too much strain on the body.

Home remedies – alternating showers: Strengthen your immune system with alternating hot & cold water

Similar to saunas, alternating showers also strengthen our blood vessels and thus strengthen the immune system too. A warm shower first followed by a cold one. Start with the outside of the legs, then shower the inside. Then slowly move to the upper body and the arms until your body is used to the cold. The temperature of the cold water should be selected so that it is just tolerable.

Make sure you get enough sleep: Good night!

Sufficient sleep is also important, since the immune system learns and produces immune cells during the rest phases. Insomnia can drastically reduce the number of defence cells and thus weaken the immune system. If you sleep for around seven to eight hours a day, you give your body enough time to recover. During the night, the immune system works at full speed and produces more white blood cells, for example. Those who start the day well-rested are therefore not only more efficient, but also less susceptible to colds.

Fight dry heating air

Our mucous membranes are not fans of dry heating air as this dries out our airways and thus paves the way for viruses and bacteria. Our tip: Indoor plants and an uncovered water bowl on the heater (ideally made of clay) can increase humidity naturally.

Quick ventilation

With small changes to the room climate, we can considerably increase the feel-good factor. Regular intermittent ventilation, for example, ensures a good oxygen supply and reduces germ contamination immensely, especially in open-plan offices. In order to ensure the oxygen and moisture content of the air in the room, open all the windows several times a day for five to ten minutes and then close them again. This means that most of the air that has been used can be replaced.

Conclusion: A powerful immune system is the best defence against all kinds of infections. In addition to a healthy lifestyle characterised by sufficient sleep, movement and fresh air as well as a healthy diet, our defence team also has selected nutrients on the menu – because if you’re well-equipped you’re forearmed.

Frequently asked questions on the topic of strengthening the immune system:

A healthy diet, plenty of fluids, regular exercise and fresh air, good sleep, a healthy bowel, a positive attitude to life as well as a reduction in stress and stimulants (e.g. alcohol, nicotine) are also essential for the strength of the immune system in old age. In addition, the body's own defences can also be specifically supported with a sophisticated immune preparation.

In order to strengthen her immune system during pregnancy, the expectant mother should pay attention to a healthy diet that provides her body with all the micronutrients that both she and her developing baby need. In addition, special nutrients that boost the immune system can also protect the immune system of pregnant women in a targeted manner – in consultation with the treating specialist staff.

In order to support the immune system as effectively as possible, it is important to know the reasons for susceptibility to infection. So it often pays to keep an eye on your nutrient supply. A laboratory diagnostic test can help to uncover a potential deficiency in an immune nutrient and quickly revive the immune system with a targeted supplement.

A healthy diet, plenty of fluids, regular exercise and fresh air, good sleep, a healthy bowel, a positive attitude to life as well as a reduction in stress and stimulants (e.g. alcohol, nicotine) all strengthen the immune system. In addition, the body’s own defences can also be supported with nutrients and plant extracts that help to strengthen the immune system.

In particular, the immune system of babies is strongly dependent on that of the mother during the first months of life. Thus, it already receives maternal antibodies as immunoprotection in the womb via the umbilical cord. Breastfed children are also supplied with antibodies via the breast milk. If the immunoprotection falls, the baby’s immune system can be strengthened with fresh air, impact ventilation and sufficient sleep.

People with a strong immune system generally feel really alive. If they catch a cold or a flu-like infection, they generally recover quickly and well. Other signs of a strong immune system can be a good digestion and restorative sleep.

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