may help you avoid the cold and flu this winter!
You already know about washing your hands, getting enough sleep, eating right, reducing stress, and all the standard advice for staying well this winter. Sometimes all that isn’t enough, particularly if you’re around sick people a lot of the time.
Teachers, healthcare workers, caregivers, office workers—anyone who regularly comes into contact with other people, especially in a confined space, is likely to come up against cold and flu germs over and over again, several times a day. One slip can put you out of the game for a week or more, and no one wants that.
We found some new tips that can help you hold out even in the more germ-infested situations you may find yourself in this winter. Try them and see if you don’t increase your resistance powers!
7 Tips to Increase Your Resistance
You can avoid germs by washing your hands, cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and keeping your distance from sick folks, but what it really comes down to is your immune system. Keeping your internal fighter cells strong and numerous is the best way to make sure any virus or bacterium that gets into your body does not survive long enough to replicate and cause symptoms.
Here are some immune-boosting methods you may not have thought about. Adding these to your other regular cold-and-flu-prevention habits may make the difference this year.
- Floss: Do you floss every day? The American Dental Association took a survey and found that only half of Americans do once a day or more often. Yet the bacteria that cause gum disease also contribute to inflammation throughout the rest of the body, taxing the immune system. Keep all your troops ready to fight cold and flu invaders by making sure your teeth and gums are infection-free.
- Make an appointment for acupuncture: A number of studies have shown that acupuncture may be able to activate the immune function and tame inflammation, both things that can help your body avoid future infections. A 2007 study noted that emotional disturbances and anxiety can lead to immune system impairment, and that acupuncture treatments boosted immune function in anxious women, so if you’re particularly stressed this time of year, this treatment may provide dual benefits for you.
- Get a massage: Similar to acupuncture, massage can help relax you and boost your immune system. A 2010 study, for instance, found that subjects who received 45 minutes of Swedish massage experienced significant changes in their immune system. The treatment increased the number of white blood cells called “lymphocytes” that play a large role in defending the body from disease. It also decreased stress hormones and levels of “cytokines,” which play a role in inflammation. A later 2012 study found that massage therapy also boosted the immune system of premature infants.
- Turn on the tunes: You know your favorite music can boost your mood, but your immune system? Yes—you’ll increase the antibodies in your body as long as you’re favorite music is upbeat. That’s what researchers found in 2008. They asked 300 people to listen to 50 minutes of happy, joyful dance music or to a random collection of tones. Those who listened to the upbeat music showed increased levels of antibodies in their blood, and also decreased levels of stress hormones (which can weaken the immune system).
- Go to your yoga class: Turns out twisting and stretching your body, breathing deeply, and reconnecting with your “center” can also help you avoid that winter cold or flu. A 2013 study, for instance, from the University of Oslo found that yoga practices can have an almost immediate impact on gene expression, particularly in immune cells. Participants who went through a weeklong yoga retreat showed changes in the expression of 11 genes in circulating immune cells. An earlier 2011 study also found that those participants who engaged in yoga experienced no significant immune impairment from stress, while those who didn’t suffered a hit to the immune system.
- Watch a funny movie: How long has it been since you had a good laugh? Winter months can be long, dreary, and boring. Add depressing if you live in northern climates where you rarely see the sun. If you’re not finding a way to laugh, you’re inviting an infection. Many studies have shown that laughter boosts natural killer cells. A recent study from Indiana State University found that laughter could boost the immune system by up to 40 percent. It also lowers stress, so pull out the funny movie, go to comedy night, or hook up with your funny friends for the evening.
- Hook up: With your significant other, that is. Turns out those who turn up the heat two to three times a week are less likely to get the flu. So say researchers from Wilkes-Barre University in Pennsylvania, who found that having an orgasm at least twice a week produced higher levels of immunoglobulin (IGA)—an antibody that can prevent susceptibility to catching minor colds and flus. In fact, sex two-to-three times a week boosted these levels by at least 33 percent. More is not necessarily better, however—those who had sex more than three times a week actually demonstrated less potent IGA levels than those who had no sexual activity.
Do you have other tips for keeping the immune system strong this winter? Please share.
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“The Public Speaks Up on Oral Health Care: An ADA and Crest/Oral-B Survey,” GFK Roper Public Affairs & Media, October 2008, http://www.crest.com/ada-webcast/surveyfindings.pdf.
Arranz L, et al., “Effect of acupuncture treatment on the immune function impairment found in anxious women,” Am J Chin Med 2007; 35(1):35-51, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17265549.
Rapaport et al. A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2010; http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2009.0634.
Ang JY, et al., “A randomized placebo-controlled trial of massage therapy on the immune system of preterm infants,” Pediatrics, 2012 Dec; 130(6):e1549-58, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23147978.
Richard Gray, “Music can boost your immune system,” Telegraph, August 16, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2569640/Music-can-boost-your-immune-system.html.
Su Qu, et al., “Rapid Gene Expression Changes in Peripheral Blood Lymphocytes upon Practice of a Comprehensive Yoga Program,” PLOS One, April 17, 2013, http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0061910.
Aravind Gopal, et al., “Effect of integrated yoga practices on immune responses in examination stress—A preliminary study,” Int J Yoga 2011 Jan-Jun; 4(1):26-32, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099098/.
Mary Payne Bennett and Cecile Lengacher, “Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function,” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 June; 6(2):159-164, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686627/.
“Laughing at, or laughing with? Researchers finding our brain can distinguish between types of laughter—and it could affect our health,” Daily Mail, May 8, 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2321430/Our-brains-tell-laughed-laughed-affect-health-claims-study.html.
Jill Ettinger, “Sexual Healing for Cold & Flu Prevention,” Organic Living, December 9, 2010, http://www.organicauthority.com/health/sexual-healing-tip-1-cold-and-flu-prevention.html.