Now that it’s cold and flu season, you’ll hear tons of tips and tricks on how to strengthen your immune system. Unfortunately they’re mostly myths, so before you stock up on snake oil (don’t listen to Dr. Oz) or whatever the latest craze is (talking about you, Airborne), find out what really works. Here are some real tips to prevent you from getting sick during the holiday season:
A good night’s sleep will not only make you more alert, but also more awesome. Lots of illnesses are linked to lack of sleep. When you sleep, your body produces antibodies to fight infections. Regularly sleeping 7-9 hours a night will make you healthier (and more awesome – that should be pretty clear).
We’ve talked about the benefits of exercise in other blogs but it also belongs here. Follow those exercises while you study or just go out for a fun run. “What if it’s cold out?” you may ask (or not, I don’t really know who you are). Well, catching a cold because it’s cold hasn’t been concretely proven.
- Vitamin C & D
Although everyone recommends Vitamin C to fight a cold, there hasn’t been a well-designed study to successfully prove that it can. Let me introduce you to Vitamin D: researchers have shown that natural sunlight (one of the best sources of the vitamin) can help the body fight respiratory diseases. You should probably still keep taking that Vitamin C, though. We don’t want you to get scurvy.
- Stop stressing out
This list isn’t halfway over and you’re probably stressing about whether or not you’re getting healthy the right way. Stop it. Stop it right now. Getting stressed out weakens your immune system. The cortisol stress produces also harms its functions. That’s why many people get sick around exam time. Also, stop thinking about that exam, Fred. You’re going to be patient zero of our book club.
It’s on every healthy list for a reason: garlic is the greatest superfood. It’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk combined. It can fight off some infections (including a cold) but it also makes you stronger, faster, and smarter. Plus, and this cannot be stressed enough, it wards off vampires, which is really only a problem if you’re into that sort thing.
Probiotics support the good bacteria that are necessary to have a healthy digestive tract. A healthy digestive tract leads to a healthier immune system. See: eating probiotics has been proven to reduce the severity of colds too.
Patch Adams was right! Laughing is a great way to activate T-cells and produce antibodies. So, please, laugh with or at this blog post. It’ll do you some good in the end. Seriously, please laugh. We can’t hear it but it’s nice that someone’s laughing.
- Fulfilling relationships
It doesn’t have to be romantic (although that helps too). If you aren’t isolated from friends, you’ll have a stronger immune system. Studies have shown people who don’t have close friends are more likely to be more stressed. So, Fred, when we were telling you to stop stressing, it came from a place of love. Plus, you’re our ride home.
- Watch sick people
Call it your body’s Schadenfreude reflex. Watching sick people will raise the levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is the immune system’s signal to ramp up. That’s pretty awesome – unless you’re that sick person people are looking at. Then that might be a little embarrassing.
- Wash your hands often
This is the most basic tip but it’s always worth repeating. The flu can spread just by the touch of an un-sanitized hand. Just avoid using antibacterial soap too often – it actually does a lot more harm than good (killing good bacteria and whatnot). Remember: fighting the spread of the flu starts with you! (I should really trademark that).
What do you do to build a better immune system? Sound off in the comments!