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Sick of Being Sick?

8. Pop in some earbuds

Music seems to raise levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), one of the body's primary defenses against germs. When researchers from Australia's Monash University subjected students to the tension-filled task of preparing an oral presentation, participants who worked to the soothing strains of Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major" not only enjoyed a drop in stress symptoms, but also had a surge in IgA. Singing in a choir has a similar immune-boosting effect, German research has found — all of which just might translate to fewer colds.

9. Make room for mushrooms

Research from Tufts University suggests that ordinary white button mushrooms can help ward off illness. In the study, the natural killer cells of mice that were fed these mushrooms became more active. The human "dose": two cups of raw or cooked mushrooms a day, though smaller amounts might help, too.

10. Starve a cold, feed a friendship

It may seem counterintuitive, but an active social life can help you stay healthy this winter. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University exposed a group of 276 people to cold viruses, then waited to see who succumbed. The least likely to get sick: those who were connected to six or more social networks — book or bridge clubs, faith communities, even a work life including socializing. Participants with three or fewer such relationships were four times more likely to catch the bug.

11. Have a laugh

Those Friends reruns could rev up your immune response. In a study from Western Kentucky University, healthy women who laughed vigorously at clips featuring funnyman Bill Cosby showed significantly greater activity of their body's natural killer cells than women who didn't laugh or had to sit through a tourism video. "If your natural killer cells are working well, they can help fight off colds and flu, including strains you've never been exposed to before," says Mary P. Bennett, Ph.D., director of nursing.

12. Get culture

Yogurt, that is, along with other products containing probiotics. While research is young, it seems these healthy bacteria can have significant immune-boosting effects. In a recent, company-sponsored study, people who took the probiotic supplement Sustenex for a month mounted a greater immune response. Yogurt works, too, research from the University of California Davis found. Subjects who ate a cup every day for four months increased their levels of gamma interferon, an immune substance that helps white blood cells fight disease. To get the cold-curbing benefits, look for "live, active cultures" on the package or the Live & Active Cultures seal.

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