7 Tips For Boosting Your Immune System

If you get sick every time someone sneezes, and seem to always have the latest flu, then it may be time to boost your immune system. Because while everyone appreciates your Girl Scout readiness with wads of tissues and holstered antibacterial gel, I'm sure you don't appreciate constantly being sick.

Who would? There's nothing worse than being stuck at home with nothing more than your boogers to keep you company. Or worse, having to go to work when no one wants to come near you. And that's why immunity products are everywhere. I mean, can you find a drink that isn't "packed with vitamin C" or "bursting with immune boosting power"? We all turn to them to ward off colds, prevent the flu, and keep stomach viruses at bay.

But the shocking thing is, that for all the hype it gets, the immune system isn't very well understood. According to Health.Harvard.edu, "There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. For now, there are no scientifically proven direct links between lifestyle and enhanced immune function."

As a total germaphobe who relies on my vitamin Cs, this is shocking and disheartening news. However, Harvard does admit that the immune system requires balance and harmony to function well, and that lifestyle choices are a great place to start. That means that our new fangled immunity rituals do amount to something, and are probably helping to keep us from getting sick.

But if you're that tissue girl I was talking about, do get on board with the rest of us and follow some of these tips to boost your immune system. You'll be glad to finally stop feeling so sick.

1. Get Some Good Bacteria In Your Gut

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We all know that probiotics help us digest properly and keep on a good pooping schedule. But these "good" gut bacteria also help boost the immune system. In fact, 70 percent of the immune system is located in the gut, so staying healthy relies heavily on filling up on these microbes. They help out by reducing inflammation and preventing infection, and can even help lessen the severity of a cold, notes Tiffany Ayuda on EverydayHealth.com. So go get yourself some probiotic-enriched yogurt, ASAP.

2. Eat A Ton Of Colorful Foods

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Although delicious, when I say "colorful" I don't mean neon orange Cheetos or lime green "fruit" snacks. (Sorry.) I mean real colorful foods, like sweet potatoes, spinach, and berries. Because when a food is extra colorful, it means it has a ton of antioxidants, which help protect you from illnesses by building up your immune system's defenses, according to Ayuda.

3. Get Your Heart (Sort Of) Pumping

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All it takes is a 30 minute stroll once a day to boost your immune system. (How easy is that?) It's been shown in studies that this kind of moderate intensity exercise may cut down the number of colds you get, according to WebMD. In fact, one study in the American Journal of Medicine, showed that women who walked for a half-hour every day for one year had half the number of colds as those who didn't exercise. This is probably because regular walking may lead to a higher number of white blood cells, which fight infections.

4. Go To Bed Earlier (More Than Once)

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To fight off colds you've gotta to be well-rested, and to do this you'll need a pretty solid sleep schedule. That doesn't mean staying up until 2 a.m. every night and then trying to catch up on the weekends. Sadly, it just doesn't work that way. But sleeping seven to nine hours every night can help you catch up, and prevent you from getting sick.

5. Think Positive Thoughts

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It may sound too good to be true, but thinking positive thoughts in order to ward off illnesses isn't just a bunch of new age-y mumbo jumbo. There's actually been scientific research to show that a good attitude can help strengthen the immune system. As Stephanie Pappas notes on LiveScience.com, "The study, which tracked changes in optimism and immune response among first-year law students, found that as students became more optimistic, they showed stronger cell-mediated immunity, the flood of immune cells that respond to an invasion by foreign viruses or bacteria. When optimism dropped, so did cell-mediated immunity." So be one of those glass half full types, and you'll possess the amazing ability to think your way out of a cold.

6. Take Some Supplements

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A lot of people say vitamins and health supplements are nothing more than snake oil in a pretty package. But as someone who has fought off many a cold with a round of multi-vitamins, let me tell you — I think they work. And why wouldn't they? Everyone knows that eating healthy food boosts your immune system. So why wouldn't vitamins (which are like food in pill form), do the same thing? When you feel a sickness coming on, be sure to supplement your diet with things like zinc, vitamins C and D, and omega oils.

To further convince those vitamin haters out there, here's some science-based evidence: One Harvard study showed that vitamin D may effectively boost immunity and help reduce colds, according to Prevention.com. And there is evidence to show that zinc can help shorten a cold by a half-day by helping to slow the multiplication of viruses in the nose and throat. See? All those Flintstone's vitamins are totally worth it.

7. Do Something About All That Stress

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Ever notice how after a particularly harrowing experience, you almost always come down with a horrible cold? That's because stressful situations, especially a chronic one, may age the immune system. So what you want to do is ease your stressful life, and thus lower your stress hormones. Slow down at work, free up some time in your schedule, and think about adding meditation to your routine. In one study, it was shown that people who meditated for eight weeks produced more antibodies to the flu vaccine than people who didn't meditate, according to WebMD. I say you pull out that yoga mat and get to visualizing.

Everyone needs to boost their immune system, whether you're the type with near constant sniffles, or someone who gets a horrendous flu once a year. Neither situation is fun, so do what you can to take care of yourself and keep illnesses away.

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