We've all heard an old wives' tale about health that has stuck with us. Whether it's the one about how going outside with wet hair giving you a cold, or that carrots make you see in the dark, there have been plenty of techniques used by our parents or grandparents to keep us in good health. When it comes to avoiding the common cold and keeping our immune systems healthy, there are even more old wives' tales. Surprisingly though, they may all not be fake news. There are some
old wives tales about boosting a struggling immune system that are actually true.
When you think about how to boost your immune system and avoid things like the common cold, a lot of things may come to mind, from fresh oranges to hot lemon, honey and ginger. We're constantly told to follow certain advice when it comes to looking after our immune system and managing a cold, but what is actually true? While your mum may say one thing, doctors may have another suggestion. So what does science say about all of this?
I did some research to find out what is really true. These are five things that are actually proven to help:
Having A Positive Attitude
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Yes, believe it or not, research by the University of Queensland, Australia, has revealed that keeping positive can actually
help to maintain a healthy immune system. Lead researcher Dr Elise Kalokerinos studied 50 between the ages of 65 and 90, and came to the conclusion that more positive older people can actually boost their immune system. “By selectively remembering the positive, older adults seem to boost their immune functioning just when they need it the most." So, as hard as may be to remember the positive when you're feeling unwell, it really can make all the difference. Liubov Mernaya / Shutterstock
It turns out there may be something in the idea that you should ear oranges if you have a cold. They contain both Vitamin C and Zinc and there is some evidence to suggest these can give your immune system a boost. One by the University of Helsinki discovered something rather impressive about zinc. Participants with colds were given daily zinc acetate lozenges, and the results showed that the lozenges
shortened the duration of runny and blocked noses by about a third, and led to 22% less sneezing and nearly half as much coughing. The report highlights that it must be zinc lozenges taken to achieve these results though.
Vitamin C, on the other hand, is slightly less effective but can still help. The Cochrane Library's review of studies found that while vitamin C doesn't greatly reduce your risk of catching a cold, or drastically help with the symptoms, it did find that
children who were unwell saw a 14% reduction in the length of their colds, and in adults, the reduction was 8%. So while it's not nearly as effective, it's definitely worth a go. Tirachard Kumtanom / Shutterstock
exercise is part of living a healthy life, which in turn can help to maintain a healthy immune system. Holland & Barrett argue that:
"Exercise gives your cardiovascular system a boost, which will help white blood cells circulate and support normal function of your lymphatic system."
Although there is "no direct link between a workout and your immune system function,"
exercising helps keep you healthy and arguably ready to fight illness far better. newroadboy / Shutterstock
In a study from the Garlic Centre,
garlic supplements were found to be surprisingly effective in helping to ward off illness. 146 healthy adults were given a daily garlic supplement or a placebo for a period of 12 weeks during winter. While the placebo group contracted 65 colds, resulting in 366 days of sickness, those taking garlic only got 24 colds, with only 111 days of sickness. Surely this is not just a coincidence?! I'll be stocking up on my garlic supplements come winter just in case.
Perhaps the most sound advice we have ever learnt from our elders is to get enough rest. Making sure you sleep for long enough ensures your body is given time to regenerate and take care of itself.
Focusing on children's health and immune systems, Dr. Cindy Gellner of The University of Utah explained on the institution's website that, "there's a strong link between getting restorative sleep which is getting enough sleep for the body to do its work with growing and fighting off illness."
She added: "Sticking to a good consistent sleep schedule is what helps the most."
Just another excuse for an early night, then.