Sick of Being Sick?
14 research-proven ways to eat, drink, and even party to boost your immunity
Winter bugs don't just make you feel miserable. Sick days create havoc at
home and work. And those days can become weeks if a cold morphs into something
more serious — a sinus or ear infection, or bronchitis. Flu can lead to
pneumonia or worse, sometimes sending you to the hospital. And while
antibiotics fight many of these secondary infections, there's no cure for the
viruses that make you sick in the first place. That's why you need a good
defense — immune boosters like these that really work.
1. Roll up your sleeve
A flu vaccine is the best way to improve your "immune profile," says William
Schaffner, M.D., president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
The vaccine, which is between 70 and 90 percent effective in preventing the
illness or reducing its severity, is reformulated every year in anticipation of
what scientists believe will be the dominant circulating strains. But even if
it's not a perfect match, you'll get at least partial protection, Dr. Schaffner
notes. Now is also a good time to check recommendations for vaccination against
2009 H1N1 ("swine") flu.
2. Take up tai chi and qigong
These Eastern systems of meditative movement could boost your body's
response to a flu shot, a study from the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign has found. Older adults who got the vaccine and then practiced
tai chi and qigong an hour a day, three times a week, for three weeks had
significantly higher flu antibodies than seniors who just got the shot.
3. Stay rested
When volunteers in a study at Carnegie Mellon University were exposed to a
cold bug, those who regularly slept seven or fewer hours a night were three
times more likely to come down with sniffles than those who got eight-plus
hours of rest. "We were surprised how little sleep loss it took to cause a big
increase in cold risk," says lead study author Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., professor
of psychology. Quality counted even more than quantity: Just 38 minutes of
tossing and turning upped cold risk fivefold for eight-hour sleepers.
4. Take the right vitamin
Research has confirmed megadoses of vitamin C won't do much to prevent
colds. But the next one in the alphabet may. Research from the University of
Colorado Denver School of Medicine and Harvard showed that people with the
lowest blood levels of vitamin D had significantly more respiratory infections
than those with the highest. If you don't have enough D, you produce lower
amounts of the proteins that kill bacteria and viruses, explains Adit Ginde,
M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of surgery. To get levels up to cold-fighting
strength, most people need at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day.