Your friends, family, and colleagues who never get sick may seem superhuman. But it’s a lot more likely that they’re instituting some of the immunity-boosting strategies below to ward off insidious viruses, colds, and flu.
If you want to be more like them (of course you do!), don’t wait until you feel something’s amiss in your body. Absorb the following tips and watch your chances of being felled by an illness plummet. And for smart ways to keep your immune system strong at home, as well, be sure to memorize the 11 Surprising Ways Your Partner Impacts Your Health.
Some people swear that echinacea and vitamin C helps them stave off cold and flu like magic potions. They’re so steadfast in those beliefs that the shortage of scientific evidence to support them doesn’t seem to matter. But that’s not to say that these scientifically unsupported preventative measures don’t work. The fact that people believe they do might be why, experts say. For more ways to bolster your health, here are 40 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer After 40.
Scientists do agree on the efficacy of a good night’s sleep in lowering your chances of getting sick. According to recent research, people who sleep only five to six hours a night have a 30% chance of catching a cold, while those who get more than seven hours reduce their risk to 17%. Having trouble? These 10 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight will help you get the best shuteye of your life.
Eat your Carrots
Although there’s not much empirical evidence for Vitamin C’s role in preventing cold and flu, there is data showing that Vitamin A does play an important role in the immune system. It does that by helping to regulate T cells, the SWAT team of the immune system. Just one medium carrot contains 200% of the suggested daily Vitamin A intake.
Time and time again, stress has been shown to make people susceptible to getting sick. Although the causes of stress in your life may be inevitable, the way in which you choose to deal with them isn’t. Strategies for siphoning off stress include exercise, meditation, better quality of sleep and making time to do the things that you really enjoy doing. Need help chilling out? Here are 30 Easy Ways to Fight Stress.
Although there are lots of great foods to help fight stress, strawberries are an easy snack, dessert, or addition to a salad. The berry is packed with vitamin C, which reduces stress if you believe that sort of thing — which in turn can help boost your immune system. Even with new farming techniques, winter can be a strawberry desert. Buy frozen strawberries when they’re not available fresh, and add them to a warm dessert to double down on comfort.
If you live in the US, chances are that you’re Vitamin D deficient. Most of us live at a latitude in which our ability to synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight is limited (or even impossible) for most of the year. Luckily, we can also get it from food and supplements. Salmon, for example, provides a lot of it. D has been shown to help athletes contract fewer upper-respiratory infections during the winter (a.k.a. the common cold and other similar issues). If you aren’t a salmon fan, enjoy milk or OJ that’s fortified with vitamin D instead. Then stock your kitchen with these 25 Foods That’ll Keep You Young Forever!
Wash your hands
Employees must wash their hands, and so do you to sidestep a cold or the flu this winter. A recent study looked at the effectiveness of handwashing in 36 hospitals across Spain. The researcher’s recommendation: Lavar bien y con frecuencia las manos! (Which is to say: “Wash your mitts good and often.”)
When it comes to warding off illnesses, these fungi can help stimulate your immune system. A 2015 University of Florida study shows increased immunity in people who ate a cooked shiitake mushroom every day for four weeks. Try including them as a side with your favorite dinner, tossing them in your salad, or adding them to a soup or sauce. Bonus: Eating shiitake mushrooms can prevent gray hair. Learn why in these 50 Ways to Look Younger in Your 50s!
According to a study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, regular exercise strengthens the immune system and makes you less likely to catch upper-respiratory infections. Exactly how this works isn’t exactly clear. Some theories include exercise’s effect of stress reduction; the way it increases core temperature, stopping bacteria from growing; increased circulation of white blood cells, or the flushing out of bacteria. How it works, however, isn’t as important as the fact that it does.
Already have a glass of wine with dinner a couple nights a week? That could work in your favor this winter. After giving 12 rhesus macaques smallpox vaccines and gauging their response, researchers trained the monkeys to imbibe on their own and gave them access to either 4 percent ethanol or sugar water with the same amount of calories (the control group). They tracked the monkeys’ alcohol consumption for 14 months, vaccinating them again after the first seven months. Though the monkeys all responded to the first vaccine similarly, the moderate drinkers of the test group saw increased immune response than both the non-drinkers and heavy drinkers after the second. Here’s How to Start a Wine Collection, By the World’s #1 Wine Expert!
We humans tend to congregate with other humans. That fact has not been lost on viruses: They’ve evolved with us over millions of years. It stands to reason, then, that your chances of getting a cold or flu would be negligible if you didn’t come in contact with other humans or touch the same surfaces. Conversely, the more contact we have with people in our daily lives, the greater the likelihood that we’ll come down with something nasty. If you can work from home a little more, your chances of being struck down by a virus will get a little lower.
OK, this may sound like contradictory information coming in the wake of the previous tip, but staying connected to friends and family could be useful in avoiding seasonal maladies. A 2005 study showed that people who were lonelier and had smaller social networks had a poorer antibody response to influenza than their more social peers. Taking advantage of FaceTime and Skype may be a good way to get the benefits of feeling connected with other people without being infected by them.
Ease off the gas at the first sign of trouble
Our first instinct may be to “power through,” but that’s rarely the best strategy for warding off an illness you feel coming on. Be kind to yourself, get plenty of sleep, reduce stress, eat well, and let everyone around you know that you’re taking it easy now so you’re not brought low by something later.
Get the flu shot
According to the CDC, “while vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by about 50 to 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are like the vaccine viruses.” Does the shot guarantee that you won’t get flu this year? No. But if you were playing Russian Roulette, wouldn’t you want to take a few more bullets out of the chamber? For extra insurance, add these 10 Supplements You Should Be Taking to your diet.
Eat Yogurt for probiotics
Although less research has been done on the links between probiotics and immune health, some studies have found that certain probiotic strains help regulate the gut, which in turn helps your immune system. Plus, yogurt gives you an added dose of zinc, so it can really strengthen immunity.
There are plenty of reasons why smoking is a bad idea across the board, but here’s another: It damages and destroys antibodies in the bloodstream that help fight off infectious illnesses. With fewer of these antibodies available, smokers may experience more severe infections, and they may remain sick longer than non-smokers. Dropping smokes from your daily routine is only one of these guaranteed 10 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure All Day!
Eat cereal for zinc
Although an immune system response is important when viruses attack, too much of a response can be problematic. Zinc helps regulate this response to outside forces. The good news is that many cereals — from Cheerios to Wheaties — will give you a high dose of zinc. Check the label (a serving of Wheaties has 45% of your daily suggested zinc intake), and boost your immune system before you even leave the house.
Laughter is the best medicine, they say, but it’s just as likely to prevent a cold or bout of the flu than it is to cure one. Why? Because according to a study from Indiana State University , laughter can boost the immune system by up to 40%. Experts believe that the diaphragmatic breathing which happens when we laugh hard causes lymphatic fluid to move 10 to 15 times harder and faster that it would ordinarily. (Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no pump.) This increased flow increases the number of lymphocytes circulating in the blood, meaning better immunity toward all diseases. (Any muscle movement increases lymphocytes, but laughing is a bit easier that working out, isn’t it?)
It’s not only the bane of vampires but the nemesis of viruses like the common cold and influenza, according to studies. In recent British research, 146 people were given either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks. The result? The garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. (Although that may have been a result of other cold-havers not wanting to get too close to them.) Garlic isn’t the only food with surprising medicinal properties — add these 20 Amazing Healing Foods to your shopping list.
Have a positive attitude
Always look on the bright side of life, sang Monty Python in Life of Brian — and with good reason. A 2010 study tracked changes in optimism and immune response among first-year law students and discovered that as students became more optimistic, they showed stronger cell-mediated immunity (a.k.a. the flood of immune cells that respond to an invasion by foreign viruses or bacteria). When optimism dropped, so did cell-mediated immunity. Try it. And if you need help, just say this One Word That Will Boost Your Mood by 25 Percent.