Snuff Out the Sniffles
Avoid winter colds with 5 immune-strengthening strategies
1. Soap up. "The best strategy is also the most
mundane: Wash your hands a lot," says Elizabeth Steiner, M.D.,
associate professor of family medicine at Oregon Health &
Science University. Soap and water work best, but hand sanitizer
with at least 60 percent alcohol is also a good option.
2. Stay active. Taking a daily brisk walk of 30
to 45 minutes increases the number of immune cells circulating in
the body for several hours, according to the British Medical
3. Get enough D. High blood levels of vitamin D
have been linked to fewer, shorter colds and flus. "Vitamin D
clearly plays a role in our immune system," Dr. Steiner says. She
recommends a daily supplement of 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 for adults
and 400 IU for children. Salmon, milk and yogurt are also delicious
sources of vitamin D.
4. Catch enough Zzzs. "Sleep is one of the ways
the body resets its internal stress clock," Dr. Steiner says. One
study found that people who slept less than seven hours were almost
three times more likely to catch a cold compared with those who
slept eight hours or more.
5. Get a massage. People who get massages don't just
feel more relaxed; they have a
strengthened immune system, according to a 2010 study at
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Blood
samples were taken before and after a 45-minute Swedish massage
and compared with a control
group. "We saw a decrease in some of the key markers of stress,"
says Mark Rapaport, M.D.,
principal investigator for the Cedars-Sinai study. The massage
group also had more lymphocytes,
white blood cells that prevent and fight infections.
"At the time that I began the study, I was really pretty
skeptical about all this," Dr. Rapaport says.
"I'd had only about five massages in my life. I now get one about
every week to 10 days."
-By Teresa Caldwell Board