Catch Too Many Colds? 13 Simple Changes You Can Make to Boost Your Immune System

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Are you one of those people who always get the cold or the flu come wintertime? The cold is called "common" for a reason.

Approximately 22 million school days are lost each year in the U.S. due to the illness, according to the CDC, and about 100 different viruses can cause it. Both cold and flu are contagious viral infections of the respiratory tract that make you cough and give you headache. About 5 to 20 percent of people in the U.S. come down with the flu, usually in the winter between October and March.

When the immune system is working properly, all cells, tissues, and organs should be strong enough to fight off infection. However, building a healthy immune system doesn't happen overnight. You will be headed on the right track with the following simple tips.


Get some sunshine

Immune cells contain a lot of receptors that are waiting to bind with Vitamin D. The immune system can become overactive if it doesn't have enough of the important vitamin. Exposure to the sun's rays ensures that Vitamin D is present in the body and can be used to benefit T cells, which are key to defending against infection because they are destroying traces of foreign pathogens, research shows.


Don't be too clean

Some call dirt and the microorganisms in it "nature's shots." So sign up for some mud runs this fall. Exposure to microbes is associated with protection from immune-mediated diseases. Exposure to dirt, germs, bacteria, and viruses can strengthen your immune system.  This is what vaccines technically do - they are dead forms of the microbe causing a disease, which prepare the body for when it comes across the actual virus or bacteria.


Dress warmly

This is not a fashion statement; it's common sense. Exposure to cold temperatures suppresses the immune system, so the opportunities for infection increase, according to Harvard Medical School. Also, cold weather means runny noses for many people, and wiping your nose just means you are more exposed to cold and flu viruses.


Have lots of citrus fruits

Considering the high amount of Vitamin C found in citrus fruits, increasing your consumption will surely lead to a boost of your immune system. They are believed to increase the production of white blood cells, while also helping your body fight off infections. Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals, helps kill viruses, and strengthens the body's immune system.


Avoid stress

Stress has a tremendous effect on the immune system. Long-term low-grade stressors like what people usually experience in their everyday lives deplete the immune system and prevents it from fighting an attack by foreign pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. An analysis of more than 300 studies has shown that all aspects of immunity go downhill as a result from stress. It can, through too much wear and tear, ravage the immune system.



Meditation can reduce the incidence, duration and severity of colds and the flu by about 30 to 60 percent, according to a 2012 study. Antibodies constitute humoral immunity and help immune cells inactivate toxic substances, attack viruses and bacteria. Their number was significantly greater after meditation, according to some studies.


Have some green tea every day

By reducing your exposure to opportunistic infections, hot water is superior to room temperature or cold water. Green tea is loaded with polyphenols and flavonoids, both of which are very powerful antioxidants. They give the body the defense it needs from fighting illnesses-like the common cold-and even serious diseases-like cancer.


Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep has an immense effect on the immune system. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night to set your body's internal clock and boost the quality of your sleep. Past Sleep in America polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation indicate that children and the elderly, identified as high-risk populations and first in line for the flu vaccine, are often sleep-deprived. You need restorative sleep to get the body back into disease-fighting shape.


Hit the gym

Regular workouts keep the immune system up to par. When it's in top shape, few bacteria can get in its way. Thirty minutes of exercise a day is not hard to achieve, so make sure you commit to the task. When you move your body your circulation increases. Better blood flow strengthens the immune system, which makes it better able to fight infections and viruses, including the common cold and flu.


Put some ginger in your food

Ginger is a strong antioxidant. It contains tons of vitamins, some of which are magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium. Ginger helps kill cold viruses and it can help combat chills and fever. It is also a great detox - ginger root helps relax the intestinal tract and eliminate intestinal gas. Ginger can also avert nausea and calm an upset stomach.


And some garlic and onions

This is "the godfather of immune boosting foods." With one clove containing 5 mg of calcium, 12 mg of potassium and over 100 sulfuric compounds, it's been used for years to prevent everything from the common cold to the plague. Garlic contains a phytonutrient called allicin. It is known for its antiviral and anti-microbial properties, which may help fight viral and bacterial infections. But you have to eat it raw. Onions help decrease mucus and inflammation in the nose and throat.


Add herbs and spices

Add some flavor to your dishes and protect your health at the same time. Cinnamon and cloves have been said to contain potent antibacterial, antiviral, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them the perfect cold and flu fighters. You can also try oregano, thyme, nutmeg and rosemary.


Be positive

Last but not least, mindset is everything. Thinking positively may be the key to a strong immune system, according to a study. Scientists studied how law students' expectations about the future affected their immune response. As each student's expectations waxed and waned, their immune response followed along. At more optimistic times, they'd have bigger immune responses; at a more pessimistic time, a more sluggish immune response.

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