Winter may not have technically arrived, but it sure feels like it! As we prepare for the holidays, we also have to brace ourselves for sick season. So, we’ve gathered some easy immunity-boosting strategies to help — read on for simple and natural ways to keep from getting under the weather this winter.
Energize your immune system with a scalp massage.
A daily 10-minute scalp massage can heighten your ability to fight off invading viruses by 32 percent in just 24 hours, suggests research in the journal Scientific Reports. Study coauthor Sam Brod, PhD, says firmly massaging the thousands of nerve endings in your scalp stimulates the thymus gland to release immune cells that destroy invading viruses on contact.
For best results, use a firm touch and small, circular motions — and pay extra attention to your temples, behind your ears and the base of your skull since that’s where nerve endings are most exposed.
Ward off sick days with hugs.
Cuddles feel good — and your immune system loves them too! That’s because physical touch leads to a 22 percent surge in blood levels of oxytocin — a hormone that tamps down body-wide inflammation. And once your immune system isn’t bogged down by cleaning up damaging inflammatory wastes, it can destroy invading germs 40 percent faster, Chinese researchers say.
An added perk: If a cold or flu virus does sneak through your defenses, you’ll bounce back 50 percent faster if you’ve been hugging loved ones (pets included) several times daily.
Gargle Green Tea
Flu-proof your body with green tea gargles.
Gargle with strong green tea three times daily, and you’ll cut your risk of influenza by 31 percent. That’s the word from Japanese researchers, who say an antioxidant in green tea (EGCG) coats invading viruses in your mouth and throat, making them so slippery, they can’t latch on to your tissues and sneak through into your bloodstream.
Tip: To make a strong tea that delivers enough of the healing antioxidants, pour 1 cup of just-boiled water over a green tea bag and let steep 20 minutes (store leftovers in the fridge between uses).
Heighten your defenses by looking at photos of sick people.
Taking 10 minutes to gaze at photos of people who are under the weather — like you’d see in ads for cold medications — has been shown to switch on the production of interleukin-6, a protein that energizes immune cells to mount a strong offense when viruses and bacteria invade. Canadian researchers say just the sight of people battling germs signals your body to ramp up its defenses.
Keep germs at bay with a good read.
Spend 20 minutes each day reading something that helps you relax and unwind — whether it’s a novel, shopping catalog, or a magazine — and you’ll cut your risk of colds and flu by 40 percent. Researchers at Ohio State University say taking a break from the daily grind prompts a 55 percent plunge in the production of cortisol. And when levels of this stress hormone are low, your immune system does a better job of releasing antibodies — your first line of defense against invading germs.
Cut colds by 53% with garlic.
Slashing risk of winter colds by 53 percent — plus trimming two days off your recovery time if you’re under the weather now — can be as easy as enjoying one large garlic clove daily (raw or cooked), suggests a study in the Journal of Immunology Research. The researchers say garlic’s sulfur compounds rev the production of virus-killing antibodies by 40 percent.
Tip: Let chopped or crushed garlic rest for 10 minutes before cooking to optimize its potency.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.