Strengthening defences: The best methods for stronger protection

Abwehrkräfte stärken: Die besten Methoden für stärkeren Schutz

A strong immune system is essential to avoid getting sick. In everyday life you are constantly exposed to pathogens. Viruses and bacteria are lurking everywhere. Therefore, a strong immune system will help you not to catch a cold or get a flu-like effect.(4,9)

In this article we have put together information for you on the subject of strengthening your immune system. We will explain to you, among other things, how you weaken your immune system. We will also share our tips & tricks with you to strengthen your defense system. Here we explain what you should pay attention to in your diet and in everyday life.

the essentials in brief

  • Your immune system ensures that your body is protected from viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. A strong immune system helps you stay healthy.
  • You can strengthen your immune system primarily through a healthy lifestyle. This includes a balanced diet, exercise and relaxation.
  • You can protect yourself from the transmission of pathogens by washing your hands with soap. Therefore, you should pay particular attention to this in winter to minimize the risk of colds and flu.

Background: What you should know about strengthening your immune system

We have collected the most frequently asked questions about strengthening the immune system for you and answered them below.

Before you move on to the solution approaches, you should read these questions carefully. This will give you background knowledge that will help you with the solution part.

What are defences?

Defense is your body's ability to protect you from pathogens and allergens. This defense construct is also called the immune system and prevents your bodily tissues from being damaged. The complex system helps remove foreign substances from your body and consists of organs, cells and molecules.(4,9)

What weakens my immune system?

There are different reasons why your immune system is weakened. Below we explain the most common causes that lead to a weakening of your immune system.

A weak immune system is often associated with a chronic disease.

Chronic diseases can be metabolic disorders and respiratory diseases. Pregnant mothers are more susceptible to weakened immune systems, as are children and the elderly.(6,13)

An unhealthy lifestyle can also weaken your immune system. An unbalanced diet is one of the most common causes.(20) Constant alcohol and nicotine consumption lead in particular to a weak immune system.(14,15) If you have permanent stress and don't move much, this also leads to weak immune systems.(16) A lack of sleep also promotes a weak immune system Weakening of your system.(7)

In the cold season you are more susceptible to colds. This is because the nose and throat are less well supplied with blood by the cold, making it easier for pathogens to penetrate.(21)

How can I strengthen my immune system?

You can strengthen your defenses in different ways. We will go into more detail on the different solution approaches in the second section.

As already indicated above, you can strengthen your immune system in particular through a healthy lifestyle. This includes an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals.(20)

It also includes a healthy balance between exertion and relaxation.(22) Getting enough exercise and sleep is also important.(7)

How do I strengthen my immune system when I have a cold?

The cold winter is often accompanied by a wave of colds.(21) Viruses and bacteria are mainly found on surfaces such as door handles. Therefore, it is extremely important that you wash your hands frequently with soap.(23) Vaccinations can help strengthen the body.(24)

If you have a cold, zinc helps to shorten your cold phase.

Sunlight or, alternatively, vitamin D supplements can help strengthen your body, especially in winter.(1) When you have a cold, rest, plenty of fluids and fresh air also help to get your body back to normal.

How do I strengthen my immune system to protect against the flu?

You prevent the flu by protecting yourself in a similar way to protecting yourself from a cold. A sufficient supply of vitamins and minerals strengthens your body enormously.(20) Relaxation and exercise units are also very important.(22) Even if it is very cold in winter, you should spend enough time outside.

After the flu, you should take it slow. It helps to take short walks in the fresh air.

You also often catch the flu from a droplet infection(25). Therefore, you should avoid poorly ventilated rooms and crowds to protect yourself.

How do I strengthen my immune system during chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy affects the immune system, among other things. The therapy attacks your tissue. The human body may then be more susceptible to becoming infected with pathogens. How quickly you become infected also depends on your general condition.(2:30)

You should discuss with your doctor whether your immune system will be weakened during therapy. Your doctor will also be able to give you advice on behaviors to minimize a possible risk of infection. Furthermore, your doctor can give you information about whether immune preparations can lead to complications with your therapy.

How do I strengthen the immune system of children?

It is particularly important to strengthen the immune system of children. Children are in the growth phase. Likewise, their immune system is still in the training phase.(19) It learns to distinguish pathogenic from harmless pathogens. Frequent colds throughout the year are normal for children.(26)

It is important to remind children to wash their hands with soap regularly. Washing removes pathogens on the palms of the hands.

In kindergarten and at school, the children are in contact with many other children. During this time, they exchange a large number of pathogens. This is important so that the immune system is trained and strengthened.

A healthy diet is important to strengthen children's immune system (20). This includes lots of fruit and vegetables. Exercise in the form of sport also helps children's immune systems (5). Especially in group sports, children have the opportunity to exchange their pathogens and strengthen their immune system.

Playtime outside also helps the child develop their system. In this context, contact with dirt and other children is very important (26). On the other hand, lack of sleep and time pressure should be avoided.

How do I strengthen my dog's immune system?

In order to strengthen your dog's defenses, the rules of the game are similar to those of humans. Dogs also come into contact with germs every day and are exposed to them. Therefore, it is important that this one is also protected from them (33).

A high-quality diet is important for the dog so that the animal is supplied with sufficient vitamins and minerals. Exercise is also very important for the dog, which is why walks should not be neglected. However, it is also important for the dog to come into contact with germs. This strengthens the immune system.

small dog sits outdoors

It is also important to strengthen your dog's immune system. If you neglect your dog's immune system, infections can often occur. (Image Source: Jamie Street /

Changes in the coat can indicate that the immune system is weakened. There are special immune preparations for dogs. In this case, however, you should consult your veterinarian. Treatment depends on the breed.

How do I know if I should strengthen my immune system?

Various symptoms can indicate that your body has weak defenses. Having multiple colds does not immediately mean that your immune system is weak.

Constant tiredness and listlessness can indicate a weak immune system. Difficulty concentrating can also be a sign of a weak immune system (34).

The strength of your immune system can be checked by means of an immunoglobulin test.(6) These values ​​are checked by your doctor if there is a suspicion of a severe weakening of your immune system.

Strengthening the immune system: what you should know

In this section we give you tips & tricks on how you can generally strengthen your immune system. A strong immune system is very important, which is why we recommend that you read the next section carefully.

Strengthen your immune system with a healthy lifestyle

You can strengthen your immune system naturally. All you have to do is pay attention to a few things in your everyday life and incorporate them into your rhythm.

stress relief and relaxation

Constant stress can unnecessarily burden your body and thus weaken your immune system.(16) For this reason, it is very important that you also allow yourself relaxation phases and take time out. Consciously take time for yourself and your body.(32)

You can relax through relaxation exercises in everyday life.

Yoga and meditation are also great ways to unwind from the stresses of everyday life (32).

Kissing also strengthens your immune system. This occurs through the exchange of bacteria via the saliva. You also reduce stress at the same time.

sunlight and fresh air

Our body produces vitamin D by absorbing sunlight. Vitamin D is considered a key factor for a well-functioning immune system (8). It is therefore particularly important that we also go out in winter. In addition, preparations with vitamin D can be taken to counteract a deficiency in the winter months.

Low humidity in the room can cause your mucous membranes to dry out. A dry nose and throat make you more susceptible to infections. You should therefore air the room for ten minutes every now and then. A walk also helps to moisten your mucous membranes.

exercise and sleep

Physical activity can get your circulation going. You also increase your resistance to stress. This also strengthens your defenses (5). You should therefore incorporate daily exercise in the fresh air into your everyday life. Endurance sports are particularly suitable. We therefore recommend that you go jogging, for example (22).

If you have sufficient and restful sleep, your immune system is stronger. While you sleep, you release immune-active substances and thereby protect your immune system (7).

Wash hands and intestinal flora

Bacteria and viruses are the most common on the surfaces of doorknobs and shopping trolleys. If you wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap, you reduce contact with viruses and bacteria. If you are out and about, you can alternatively disinfect your hands with a disinfectant (23).

A healthy gut is related to a strong immune system. It is therefore important that your intestinal flora is intact. A majority of your immune cells reside in the gut (27).

Sauna and contrast shower

You can also train your immune system with sauna sessions or contrast showers. You train your circulation. In addition, your body gets used to the temperature changes.

Boost your immune system with food

A balanced and varied diet strengthens your immune system (20). A lot of alcohol and nicotine should be avoided for a strong immune system (14,15) Especially a lot of fruits and vegetables strengthen your immune system.


There are many minerals and vitamins in fruit. You should provide your body with enough fruit.(28)

The ginger root strengthens your immune system. Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances.

Citrus fruits such as grapefruit are particularly good for boosting your immune system (17). Pomegranate is also very powerful for your immune system. However, local apples should not be underestimated either.

Nuts are also very healthy for your body. A portion of nuts a day is not only helpful for your immune system, but for the entire organism.

If you have the choice between whole pieces of fruit and fruit juice, you should generally reach for the piece of fruit. Important ingredients are lost during the production of the juice (18).


Broccoli is very healthy. This vegetable contains a variety of vitamins (28). Broccoli also helps against cancer. Cabbage is rich in nutrients and is therefore also ideal for strengthening the immune system. Mushrooms also strengthen the body's defense system. These contain important vitamins and minerals.

When cooking vegetables, you should make sure that you cook them gently. A steamer is ideal for this. If the vegetables are overcooked, valuable vitamins and minerals are lost.


Sufficient drinking is very important for a strong immune system. In particular, providing your body with plenty of water is essential. Alternatively, tea with medicinal herbs can be used. If you drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day, you ensure that your mucous membranes are sufficiently moistened.(31)

Below we have summarized in the table which foods you can use for a strong immune system, for example.

Groceries Example
Fruit kiwi
Vegetables broccoli
Drink Water

Strengthen the immune system with vitamins and minerals

You can strengthen your immune system with vitamins and minerals. As described above, fruit and vegetables are particularly suitable for this. Alternatively, you can also take supplements. However, you should talk to your doctor about this and seek advice from your pharmacy. You can get such preparations in the pharmacy.

A number of vitamins and minerals are involved in keeping your immune system working properly.

vitamin C

Vitamin C is very important for the human organism. This vitamin is essential for your immune system to function normally. Vitamin C helps you to have a strong immune system, especially during physical exertion.(17)

A balanced diet is important for a strong immune system. Vitamin C strengthens your immune system in particular and can be found in lemons, for example. (Image source: Lauren Manche /

A daily dose of 200 milligrams is recommended. You can find vitamin C in fruits and vegetables.(10) You can get vitamin C from kiwis in particular. Citrus fruits are also great for absorbing vitamin C. Green vegetables also have plenty of vitamin C.(17)

Since vitamin C is very sensitive, you should eat fruit and vegetables as fresh as possible.

Vitamin D

We absorb vitamin D primarily from the sun. Vitamin D is very important for an intact immune system. Vitamin D is considered a key function for a functioning immune system. It is important that this vitamin is present in sufficient quantities in the body.(8,29)

The recommended daily dose is 20 micrograms. Therefore, you should soak up sunlight every day.(11) In winter, you should get a medical check-up to see if you have a vitamin D deficiency. In this case, you can also take supplements after consulting your doctor.

Vitamin D is usually only found in small amounts in food. For example, you can eat fatty fish and avocados for vitamin D intake.


The mineral zinc is also central to a strong immune system. Zinc is responsible for many metabolic processes. Zinc helps protect you from stress.(1)

Depending on diet and gender, a daily dose of 7 to 16 milligrams is recommended for adults. In some situations, such as pregnancy, the daily dose may be higher.(12)

Oysters are considered to be very rich in zinc. Seafood is also suitable for a high zinc balance. Likewise, beef is high in zinc.(17)

This table gives you an overview of the recommended daily doses for adults of the minerals and vitamins listed above. These are only guidelines.

vitamin/mineral daily dose
vitamin C 200 mg
Vitamin D 20 µg
zinc 7 to 16 mg


Boost your immune system with medication

There are also medications you can take for a strong immune system. These preparations are mostly enriched with vitamins and minerals. Before taking it, you should ask your doctor if any medication is necessary. In some cases, a change in diet is sufficient.

There are different preparations. There are also purely herbal remedies.(3) There are also cures with which you can take care of your immune system over a certain period of time in order to strengthen it.


Now we have presented our tips, tricks & resources in this article. In summary, it can be said that you strengthen your immune system primarily through a healthy and conscious lifestyle. A balanced and varied diet is important. Relaxation also helps to strengthen your immune system.

Stress, on the other hand, should be avoided for a strong immune system. Likewise, an unbalanced diet weakens your immune system. Nicotine and alcohol also cause weak immune systems.


  1. Barbara Becher, strengthening the immune system with zinc, Karl F. Haug Verlag, in: MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG, empirical medicine 2004; 53(10): 623-627, DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-834413. Source
  2. Christine Reinecke, micronutrients to support the immune system, Karl F. Haug Verlag, in: MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG, empirical medicine 2006; 55(2): 91-94, DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-932296. Source
  3. Schulz V., Hänsel R. (2004) Means to increase the body's defences. In: Rational Phytotherapy. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. Source
  4. Roth E, Schober-Halper B, Wessner B (2018) Immune system. In: Bachl N., Löllgen H., Tschan H., Wackerhage H., Wessner B. (eds) Molecular Sports and Performance Physiology. Springer, Vienna. Source
  5. Liesen, Heinz, and M. Baum. Sport and the immune system. Stuttgart, 1997. Source
  6. Ibs, K., Rink, L. The immune system in old age. Z Gerontol Geriat 34, 480-485 (2001). Source
  7. Andreas Schuld, Monika Haack, Dunja Hinze-Selch, Janet Mullington, Thomas Pollmächer, Experimental studies of the interaction between sleep and the immune system in humans, © Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart New York, Psychother Psychosom Med Psychol 2005; 55(1): 29-35, DOI: 10.1055/s-2004-834561. Source
  8. Pietschmann, P., M. Willheim, and M. Peterlik. "Importance of vitamin D in the immune system." Journal of Mineral Metabolism 10.3 (2003): 13-15. Source
  9. Wirtz PH (2011) The immune system. In: Ehlert U., by Känel R. (eds) Psychoendocrinology and Psychoimmunology. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. Source
  10. M Levine, C Conry-Cantilena, Y Wang, RW Welch, PW Washko, KR Dhariwal, JB Park, A Lazarev, JF Graumlich, J King, and LR Cantilena, Vitamin C pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: evidence for a recommended dietary allowance, PNAS April 16, 1996 93(8) 3704-3709; Source
  11. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, New Reference Values ​​for Vitamin D, German Nutrition Society, Bonn, Germany, Ann Nutr Metab 2012;60:241-246 DOI: 10.1159/000337547.Source
  12. German Society for Nutrition e. V., Zinc - Recommended intake. Source
  13. Schwabl, H., and C. Vennos. "The aging immune system and chronic diseases: acupuncture, extracellular matrix and the plant formula Padma 28 in the context of a structured prevention and therapy concept." German journal for acupuncture 54.1 (2011): 16-20. Source
  14. Parlesak A, Bode C (2005) Alcohol and the immune system. In: Singer MV, Teyssen S. (eds) Alcohol and alcohol-related diseases. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. Source
  15. Meliska CJ, Stunkard ME, Gilbert DG, Jensen RA, Martinko JM. Immune function in cigarette smokers who quit smoking for 31 days. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1995;95(4):901-910. doi:10.1016/s0091-6749(95)70135-4 source
  16. Christian Schubert, Magdalena Singer, Stress and its psychoneuroimmunological traces, Haug Verlag in MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG Stuttgart, Journal for Complementary Medicine 2015; 07(01): 44-51, DOI: 10.1055/s-0035-1545374. Source
  17. Raschka, Christoph et al., 22 Immune System, Exercise and Nutrition, 2012, Exercise and Nutrition, DOI: 10.1055/b-0034-41814. Source
  18. German Society for Nutrition: Smoothies - fruit from the bottle. DGE info (09/2007) 130-132.
  19. Brockow, I., Zutavern, A., Franke, K. et al. Influence of living conditions and behavior on the development of the immune system and allergies in an east-west comparison (LISA). Monthly Schr Kinderheilkd 156, 249-255 (2008).
  20. Jais, Alexander; Brüning, Jens C., Regulatory Mechanisms of Neuronal Glucose Uptake, Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research, Cologne / Neuronal Control of Metabolism, 10.17617/1.F.
  21. Ellen F Foxman, James A Storer, Megan E Fitzgerald, Bethany R Wasik, Lin Hou, Hongyu Zhao, Paul E Turner, Anna Marie Pyle, and Akiko Iwasaki Temperature-dependent innate defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells, January 5, 2015,
  22. Nehlsen-Cannarella SL, Nieman DC, Balk-Lamberton AJ, et al. The effects of moderate exercise training on immune response. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991;23(1):64-70.
  23. Farhoudi F, Sanaei Dashti A, Hoshangi Davani M, Ghalebi N, Sajadi G, Taghizadeh R. Impact of WHO Hand Hygiene Improvement Program Implementation: A Quasi-Experimental Trial. Biomed Res Int. 2016;2016:7026169. doi:10.1155/2016/7026169.
  24. de Bree LCJ, Koeken VACM, Joosten LAB, et al. Non-specific effects of vaccines: Current evidence and potential implications. Semin Immunol. 2018;39:35-43. doi:10.1016/j.smim.2018.06.002.
  25. MacIntyre CR, Chughtai AA, Rahman B, et al. The efficacy of medical masks and respirators against respiratory infection in healthcare workers. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2017;11(6):511-517. doi:10.1111/irv.12474.
  26. Remo Frei, PhD, Ruth Ferstl, PhD, Caroline Roduit, PhD Roger P. Lauener, MD, Exposure to nonmicrobial N-glycolylneuraminic acid protects farmers' children against airway inflammation and colitis, Volume 141, Issue 1, June 16, 2017DOI: .051
  27. Posovszky, C., Barth, TFE The gut in the focus of the immune system. Pathologist 41, 211-223 (2020).
  28. Duthie SJ, Duthie GG, Russell WR, et al. Effect of increasing fruit and vegetable intake by dietary intervention on nutritional biomarkers and attitudes to dietary change: a randomized trial. Eur J Nutr. 2018;57(5):1855-1872. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1469-0.
  29. Pincikova T, Paquin-Proulx D, Sandberg JK, Flodström-Tullberg M, Hjelte L. Vitamin D treatment modulates immune activation in cystic fibrosis. Clin Exp Immunol. 2017;189(3):359-371. doi:10.1111/cei.12984.
  30. Formenti SC, Rudqvist NP, Golden E, et al. Radiotherapy induces responses of lung cancer to CTLA-4 blockade. Nat Med. 2018;24(12):1845-1851. doi:10.1038/s41591-018-0232-2.
  31. German Society for Nutrition e. V., water balance.
  32. B. Rael Cahn, Matthew S. Goodman, Christine T. Peterson, Raj Maturi, Paul J. Mills, Front. Hum. Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat, Neurosci., 26 June 2017, 2017.00315.
  33. Draehmpaehl, Dirk, and Andreas Zohmann. Acupuncture in dogs and cats: scientific principles and point atlas. Georg Thieme Verlag, 2009.
  34. Hirofumi Toda, Julie A. Williams, Michael Gulledge, Amita Sehgal, A sleep-inducing gene, nemuri, links sleep and immune function in Drosophila, Science 01 Feb 2019: Vol. 363, Issue 6426, pp. 509-515, DOI: 10.1126/science.aat1650.
Back to blog
Vorheriger Beitrag

Nächster Beitrag

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.