Sharecare Top 5: Immunity Boosters

Cold and flu season is here, but that doesn’t mean you have to stock up on tissues and wait for the inevitable. We’ve got five all-natural prescriptions to boost your immune system and help keep a fever, sneezing, runny nose and other awful symptoms at bay.

1. Catch your zzzs
Skimping on sleep won’t just hurt your productivity — it can also make you sick! That’s because sleep deprivation dampens the production of antibodies needed to fight infection. A study from the Archives of Internal Medicine evaluated 153 people who were exposed to a cold virus via nose drops. Those who slept less than seven hours were three times more likely to catch the virus and get sick than those who had more than eight hours of sleep. Worried you’re not getting enough shuteye? Take our free AskMD consultation to find out what’s stealing your sleep. And watch this video with sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, to find out more about how sleep deprivation can affect your immune system.

2. Break a sweat
If you want to help prevent a cold, or at least make the symptoms less severe, start exercising. In a study that followed 1,000 adults during cold and flu season, people who broke a sweat for 20 minutes a day at least five times a week spent less time being sick. The reason? Aerobic exercise ramps up your disease-fighting white blood cells. Don’t work out that much? No problem. Even a single, 20-minute round of aerobic exercise can boost your immunity for hours and make your body more resilient. Find out how exercise can make your flu shot last longer.

3. Get a little help from your friends
Good relationships don’t just boost your happiness; they can also help our ability to fight off infections. A study of 276 people published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that social support increased subjects’ resistance to developing a cold – even when they were infected with the virus. Keeping up your social network also provides support and protection against stress, which can weaken the immune system. Find out how BFFs can keep you young, too!

4. Eat your way healthy
It may be true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Studies have shown that pectin, a special kind of fiber found in apples, may help boost levels of immune-supporting proteins. Other foods that can help fend off the flu: red peppers, oranges, broccoli, yogurt, tea, oats, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, grapes and blueberries, just to name a few. You can also try cooking up this immunity-boosting chocolate cake recipe from Joel Fuhrman, MD.

5. Breathe this in
To help ward of infection, especially during flu season, try using a Himalayan salt inhaler. This ancient remedy, a ceramic container filled with Himalayan salt crystals available online and at health food stores for about $30, is used to calm and cleanse your airways. The salt draws soothing moisture into your mucus membranes, making them better able to clear irritants. Discover other natural remedies to boost your immunity.