You’re feeling stuffy, tired, and achy — so you immediately start thinking about how to boost your immune system before you actually get sick. You’re not alone in wanting to ward off a cold or stop a flu from hitting you before it even starts. The good news: There are natural, healthy steps you can take to keep your body strong as we head into cold and flu season.
But are there foods that boost your immune system naturally, vitamins that do the work, or actual physical steps you can take to steel your immune system for the chilly, germy days ahead? Turns out, those are all great options. You should also know what not to do that can boost your immune system naturally — plus the one must-do that you should practice all year to stay healthy.
Read on for the best ways to outsmart cold and the flu this winter so you and your family can be better prepared than you ever have been.
How to boost your immune system naturally
Take a multi: This one step can correct common nutritional shortages that weaken the immune system, reducing your risk of infections — including seasonal colds and the flu — 76 percent.
Rev immune cells with an herb: The herbal extract called astragalus root activates immune system cells — cutting your risk of infection as much as 50 percent, recent research suggests. Consider taking 2 ml. of an astragalus tincture ($11.60, Amazon) daily, mixed with water, during cold and flu season.
Up antibodies with hot chocolate: You don’t even have to drink it. University of Westminster scientists found that simply getting a whiff of chocolate increases levels of the germ-fighting antibodies in your saliva. Talk about a delicious way to boost your immune system naturally!
Skip fried foods: To boost your immune system, wait at least until sniffle-season ends to turn the fryer back on. Deep-frying foods produces trans fats, compounds of which are shown to weaken your virus-fighting immune cells.
Ease up on exercise: As little as 30 minutes of exercise, four times weekly, boosts the function of infection-fighting white blood cells 55 percent. But there’s a catch: People who push themselves to exhaustion are six times more likely to develop upper respiratory tract infections than moderate exercisers — so, easy does it.
Be lazy on the weekend: You’re 80 percent less likely to get sick if you keep your stress levels low for a day or two each week, research shows. While stopping stress is a whole different ballgame, there are some good mood tricks that can go a long way.
Make sure your hands are clean: Keep bugs at bay by washing your hands often (or use hand sanitizer when you can’t get to a sink) and toss tissues after you use them. These two small measures make a big difference when it comes to fighting the spread of germs.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine. We write about products we think our readers will like. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the supplier.