The BBC’s flagship health programme ‘Trust Me, I’m A Doctor’ this week contained a fascinating insight into the workings of our immune system. The programme features commonly asked health questions from members of the public, and this week top of the pile was “Can I boost my immune system?”.
To find out, surgeon and presenter Gabriel Weston visited BSI member Professor Paul Garside and Professor Iain McInnes at the Institute of Infection, Immunology and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow to see the new imaging techniques they have developed that allow them to watch individual immune cells in real time interacting with each other. Using these images which beautifully illustrated the dynamic nature of the immune system, the team discussed that wanting to ‘boosting your immune system’ is the actually the wrong way to look at it.
As we know, the immune system is incredibly complex and needs to sit in balance, not under-functioning (which could lead to infection) or over-functioning (the cause of allergies and autoimmune diseases). “There are as many on switches as off switches in the immune system," said Professor McInnes. "If those off switches fail, overactivity in the immune system could become a problem. A healthy immune system is one that sits in balance.”
So, how can you make sure your immune system is functioning optimally? “The normal vitamins and minerals that we take in a healthy, balanced diet are what you need,” said Professor Garside. “It’s balance in your diet, it’s balance in your lifestyle and that balances your immune system.”
Find out more and watch the programme via BBCiPlayer. The section on the immune system starts at 12 mins, 45 seconds into the recording.
Trust Me, I’m A Doctor Factsheet: Can I boost my immune system?