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6 Natural Ways to Sick-Proof Your Winter


If there was ever a winter to supercharge your immunity, this is it. Read on for some simple, natural strategies to outsmart colds, the flu, and even covid-19.

Heals gums with a salty rinse.

A healthy mouth cuts the risk of colds, flu, and severe covid-19 symptoms by up to 50 percent, British scientists say. How? Healthy gums reduce strain on the immune system so it can react quickly to invading viruses, explains Kourosh Maddahi, D.D.S.

University of Southern California researchers say rinsing for 30 seconds twice daily with sea salt can eradicate gum disease, plus block gum-irritating plaque growth 33 percent better than prescription rinses. To make: Combine 1 Tbs. of sea salt with 1⁄2 cup of water in a glass jar, shake well; refrigerate between uses.

Bolster your lungs by sleeping in.

Your brain produces melatonin whenever you’re snoozing, but this hormone is more than just nature’s sleeping pill. According to a study published in the journal International Reviews of Immunology, it’s also a powerful natural anti-inflammatory that blocks the formation of lung-damaging wastes called cytokines, preventing one of the most dangerous complications of COVID-19: lung scarring called fibrosis.

And adding as little as 20 minutes to your nightly slumber-or sleeping in on the weekends, if your weekday snoozes are often cut short-can give you this impressive protection.

Boost heart health with this recipe tweak.

A strong heart enhances nutrient-rich blood flow to every organ in your body, so you bounce back fast if viruses attack, plus cut your risk of COVID-19 complications by as much as 75 percent, suggests research in JAMA.

A simple way to nourish this hardworking organ: Double the veggies you add to stews, soups and slow-cooker dishes, says Neal Barnard, M.D., author of Your Body in Balance. British scientists say doubling veggie intake cuts heart disease risk in half and boosts the production of virus-destroying antibodies by 40 percent.

Lower your blood pressure with sesame oil.

When blood pressure is near 120/80, it cuts COVID-19 complications by 60 percent. To trim 32 points off your BP, add 2 Tbs. of sesame oil to your daily diet. University of Connecticut scientists say this nutty-tasting oil relaxes blood vessels, lowering even stubbornly high blood pressure in weeks.

Tip: Light-colored sesame oil has the mildest flavor-try sprinkling it over popcorn and stirring it into cooked pasta to stop sticking.

Steady blood sugar with a healing soak.

Lounging in a steamy bath (with two cups of magnesium-rich Epsom salts mixed in) boosts blood-glucose control by 30 percent if you do it daily, UCLA researchers say. The mineral signals your pancreas to release sugar-controlling insulin, and small spikes in body temperature activate proteins that tell muscle cells to burn glucose for fuel.

The payoff: In covid-19 studies, having good blood-sugar control reduced risk of complications by 65 percent.

Protect the GI tract with another mug of tea.

We think of covid-19 as a respiratory illness, but a study published in the journal Gastroenterology confirms that it also grows and spreads in the intestines, causing nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea for one in five people infected.

Thankfully, Chinese researchers say black, green, and oolong teas are packed with intestine-healing compounds (polyphenols) that speed your recovery by as much as 30 percent if you sip three cups daily. Bonus: Polyphenols triple your ability to fight off invading cold and flu viruses!

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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