No one enjoys getting sick, but sometimes a pesky cold can just creep up on us, even when we try to avoid it. To best avoid feeling under the weather, it's important to pick up on habits that can boost your immune system, and this means more than just loading up on orange juice. Keeping healthy habits overall, and paying attention to particular aspects of our health, can keep our body in tip top shape so we can fight any flu or cold that comes our way.
With your friends bedridden, your coworkers coughing, and that stranger sniffling on the bus, it's easy to feel like getting the flu or a cold is pretty common, Each year, millions are affected by the common cold, while five to 20 percent of the population will get the flu, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, this doesn't have to be you, if you take the proper steps to keep your body strong and equipped to fight off these viruses.
Everyone's body is different, but there are a number of common practices that can help keep you healthy overall. To boost your immune system and fight off any sickness this season, you might want to start adopting these 11 habits that can improve your immunity.
1. Stress Management
"Stress is one of the quickest ways to crumble your immune system, so developing a stress management routine is very important," says holistic wellness coach Rue Jean over email. "This really depends on the person, but it can look like journaling, meditating, take a bubble bath, or going for a walk. Anything that can get your body to calm down and release stress is going to help keep you healthy."
2. Loading Up On Garlic
If there's one food that's good for your immune system, it's garlic. A study from the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming aged garlic extract not only prevents the cold and flu, but also reduces duration and lessen the severity of symptoms.
"You'll find loads of gimmick pills at your local vitamin store, however, none of them will compare to the immune-boosting power of good old exercise," says family nurse practitioner Christopher Caulfield over email. Regular exercise promotes good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently, according to Harvard Health.
4. Having A Good Laugh
They do say that laughter is the best medicine! According to a study from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, laughter can help reduce stress and increase natural killer cell levels, a type of white blood cell. Laughing also boosts your heart rate, sending more oxygen to your tissues, according to WebMD.
Go ahead, sing in the shower! A study from Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music found that immune system activity was boosted in cancer patients and caregivers that sang for an hour in a choir. After belting out tunes, there is a a reduction of stress hormones and increased immune activity, saliva samples showed.
6. Limiting Your Antibiotic Intake
Instead of taking a z-pack at any sign of illness, try to find an alternative remedy first. "Over the years, the over dosing of antibiotics leads to the creation of superbugs that are resistant to certain strains of bacteria," says holistic health coach Chef Amanda Anderson over email. "The more and more they get used to a bacteria, the better they can attack and become stronger." Two different studies have also found that that the way antibiotics kill off microbes in the gut can cause problems with the immune system, including a lower count of white blood cells.
7. Drinking A Lot Of Water
Ditch the sugary drinks and stick to water instead. "Our bodies are 80 percent or more made of water, and when we get into even slight dehydration, that will cause a stress response that will suppress our immune response," says Dr. Jeremy Overholt over email.
8. Spending Time With Friends
Staying holed up in your apartment isn't going to help prevent you from getting sick. A study from Carnegie Mellon University found that the more friends a person has, the less likely they are to catch a cold. Having many friends is generally associated with greater self-esteem and feelings of control, which can help trigger healthier behaviors overall.
Sometimes the last you thing you want to do is forego a night out for some sleep, but getting some shut eye is necessary for your immune system. One study from the University of Chicago found that people who only slept four hours a night for one week produced half the amount of flu-fighting antibodies than those who slept 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours.
It may not seem as obvious as eating a bowl of chicken soup, but research from Carnegie Mellon University proves that hugs can help improve your immune system. In the study, those who received more hugs daily were less affected by a virus. Physical contact can help lower blood pressure, improve your heart health, and reduce the negative health effects of stress.
11. Think Positive Thoughts
You might not want to make fun of your overly optimistic friend after all. A study from the University of Kentucky found that as people became more optimistic, they show stronger cell-mediated immunity, the flood of immune cells that respond to an invasion by foreign viruses or bacteria. Getting rid of negativity can do more than just keep your spirits high — it'll keep your body strong as well.
One habit won't completely change your immune system, but trying to keep up a balance of as many as you can will help keep your immunity chugging along.
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