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Winter survival

All-important ways to boost your family’s immunity with our A-Z of natural winter supports

Winter presents us with a unique set of health challenges, ranging from dry skin to seasonal colds and flus to feeling tired and lethargic,” says Dr Paula Gaynor, nutritionist and co-founder of Irish health supplement brand SOMEGA. “This winter, we are faced again with the additional challenge of Covid-19, making it more important than ever to keep our immune systems strong.”

“In order to keep healthy in the winter months, it is really important to eat a healthy diet,” says Sian Eustace of health store Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway. ‘Go back to basics and eat really nourishing foods such as stews or hearty soups. These are also a great way to pack in as many vegetables as possible, giving you loads of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you feel the cold, pop in a few warming spices or drink teas with ginger, cinnamon or cayenne.”

Vitamin A

“Vitamin A has antiviral and immune-enhancing properties involved in the production of white blood cells which help clear bacteria and pathogens from the blood system,” says Lucy Kerr from health store The Good Earth in Kilkenny.

“Vitamin A plays regulatory roles in cellular immune responses,” agrees John Baldwin, a health consultant and founder of Aspire2. “It is also involved in the production and function of white blood cells, which help capture and clear bacteria and other pathogens from your bloodstream. A deficiency in Vitamin A can increase your susceptibility to infections and delay your recovery when you get sick.”

B vitamins

“B vitamins help reduce tiredness and fatigue, a common complaint during the winter months,” says Dr Gaynor. “They also promote healthy skin and hair and provide support for optimal functioning of both the immune and nervous systems.”

Bone broth

“Bone broth is packed with anti-inflammatory properties, amino acids and great for gut health which is vital for a healthy immune system,” says Lucy Kerr.

Broccoli sprouts

Microgreens such as broccoli sprouts can boost your immune system. Try to include a handful a day, or add to soups and stir fries, salads or take as a green powder.

Vitamin C

“Vitamin C is a key player in the body’s healthy immune response,” says Sian Eustace. “It should be high on your list this winter.”

“This is possibly the most popular go-to supplement during the cold and flu season,” says Dr Gaynor. “Not only does vitamin C support our immune system, it is also invaluable in enhancing energy levels and combatting tiredness and fatigue. When choosing a supplement look for a high-quality liposomal vitamin C for maximum absorption.”

“Vitamin C helps encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which help protect the body against infection,” says John Baldwin. “It helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damaging free radicals.”


Chromium stimulates the immune response – it can be sourced from wholegrains, oranges, onions, tomatoes and greens.

Coconut oil

“Coconut oil can be used externally to protect stressed skin and hair in the cold winter months,” says Sian Eustace. “It has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties,” says Lucy Kerr.

Vitamin D

“A vitamin D supplement is important all year round in Ireland, but even more so in the winter months when our skin can’t make vitamin D from sunshine,” says Dr Gaynor. “Many studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with an increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial respiratory infections.”

“One of the main functions of vitamin D is to help the activation of T cells in the body,” says John Baldwin. “T cells actually detect and destroy foreign pathogens, like viruses. This makes Vitamin D especially crucial for maintaining a functioning immune system that is capable of fighting back against foreign pathogens. A 2016 study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) found that Vitamin D supplements protect against acute respiratory infections, including colds and flu.”


“Echinacea helps the body fight infections caused by bacteria and viruses,” says Sian Eustace.” It can be used as a preventative as well as to fight off an existing infection.”

“Echinacea has been shown to possess immune stimulatory properties which may be supportive during a time of infection,” says Lucy Kerr. “It has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.”


“Elderberry extract has been found to help reduce the length and severity of symptoms caused by the flu,” says Dr Gaynor.

“The most common health benefits of elderberry include boosting the immune system and reducing uncomfortable symptoms of the flu or a cold,” says John Baldwin. “A 2019 University of Sydney study found that compounds from elderberries can directly inhibit the entry and replication of the influenza virus in human cells, and can help strengthen a person’s immune response to the virus.”


“Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties thanks to the compound allicin,” says Lucy Kerr.

“Garlic supplements help prevent and reduce the severity of the flu and common cold,” agrees Dr Gaynor.


“Ginger is a warming spice that increases circulation and reduces inflammation,” says Sian Eustace. “It can be really useful for those with cold extremities in the winter weather.”

You can cook with it, eat it crystallised, pickled or preserved, suck ginger lozenges or drink ginger tea.


Raw honey that hasn’t been heated or pasteurised and naturally contains vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants can be of real benefit during the winter.

“Honey has antibacterial, antifungal properties, soothes sore throats and is also great for allergies,” says Lucy Kerr. “It helps to kill infections and can also soothe the throat,” agrees Sian Eustace.

Matcha green tea

“Matcha is loaded with antioxidants,” says Dr Gaynor. “It helps boost energy levels and is a healthy alternative to coffee on cold winter days.”

“Matcha green tea is packed with antioxidants and is believed to have antimicrobial properties,” says Lucy Kerr.

Omega-3s, DHA and EPA

“As most of us do not eat enough oily fish to get our recommended intake of omega-3, taking a supplement all year round is advisable,” says Dr Gaynor. “Omega-3s positively impact our immune system because of their anti-inflammatory properties.”


“Don’t forget to support your gut flora,” says Sian Eustace. “These microscopic buddies keep your immune system in tip top shape, so you need to keep them fed and healthy. Think fermented foods (sauerkraut, kefir, live yoghurt) and fibre.”

“Probiotics come in lots of different shapes and sizes: yogurts, fermented drinks such as kombucha and supplements,” says Dr Gaynor. “Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and help give our immune system a boost.”


“Selenium has antioxidant properties which help neutralise harmful free radicals and help protect cells from damage,” says Lucy Kerr.

“Selenium is essential to the normal function of the immune system,” says Dr Gaynor. “In addition to a myriad of other health benefits, selenium protects our cells.”

“Studies show that selenium strongly influences inflammation and immune responses,” says John Baldwin. “A study has shown that supplemental selenium confers health benefits for patients suffering from certain viral diseases, including influenza. Selenium deficiency has been shown to harm immune cell function and may lead to a slower immune response.”


“Turmeric is an important modulator of inflammation,” says Sian Eustace. “It helps to reduce swelling of tissue in an infection.”

“Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been shown to enhance antibody responses and modulate immune function,” says Lucy Kerr.


“Zinc is an immune supporter and works well in conjunction with vitamin C,” says Sian Eustace. “It increases the activation of cells responsible for fighting infection,” says Lucy Kerr.

“A deficiency can lead to a weakened immune system.”

“Zinc stimulates particular immune cells and reduces oxidative stress,” says John Baldwin. “Because zinc is necessary for immune cell function and cell signalling, a deficiency can lead to a weakened immune response.”

Winter help tips

  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly.
  • Drink lots of water to keep your mucous in your nose, throat and mouth moist and lessen the chance of a bug latching onto them.
  • Exercise regularly as being fit helps you to recover from infections quicker.
  • Cut down on stress in your life because it can weaken the immune system and leave you vulnerable to infections.
  • “Take antibacterial and antiviral teas or supplements to support your immune system,” says Sian Eustace. “Examples are echinacea, garlic, lemon balm and honey I also recommend gargling salt water as a good remedy for the start of a sore throat.”
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