How To Strengthen Your Immune System
Want to know how to strengthen your immune system during flu season? Try adding these eight healthy foods to your diet.
By Michael Irons
In case you haven’t been watching the news or laying on your bathroom floor after three hours of puking, a flu epidemic has hit the U.S. Think you know how to strengthen your immune system just because you got a flu shot? Think again. They’re only about 62 percent effective — and they do nothing to fight the norovirus (aka, the stomach flu) that’s also been hitting the country hard this winter. So about the only thing you can do is beat back the infected with shovels … or learn how to strengthen your immune system with everyday activities.
Your first task? Wash your goddamned hands, Pig-Pen. Viruses and bacteria can live for hours on keyboards — they actually have far, far more creepy-crawlies on them than toilet seats — doorknobs, and phones, but using antibacterial soap for 20 seconds or longer helps neutralize the germs. When you feel sickness coming on, your first intuition might be to reach for vitamin C. That might help, but it might not. In studies, Vitamin C has been shown to be no more effective than a placebo at shortening the duration of cold symptoms.
Your diet can also play a big role if you’re trying to figure out how to strengthen your immune system. These eight foods in particular can help …
In addition to being delicious, oysters provide a jolt of protein, vitamins B12 and D, copper, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. The zinc can help white blood cells reproduce more rapidly and strengthen your immune system.
According to some studies, consuming elderberries actually blocks the flu virus. More research needs to be done to confirm that for sure, but the berries are high in antioxidants that can help combat inflammation. So they’re worth a try.
We’ll give you the good news first. Spinach is high in iron, which helps your immune system stave off infection and produce red blood cells, which transport oxygen to your brain and protect against anemia. Also, it’s good for hair and skin. Now the bad news: Eating spinach won’t inflate your guns like Popeye.
Rich with polyphenois, catechins, and flavonoids — all of which boost immune-system function — green tea can do more than help rid your body of toxins. According to a study from Purdue University, an antioxidant in green tea called EGCG helps keep the body free from cancer.
Probiotics — or “good” bacteria cultures — found in yogurt have been known to help digestion and keep immune function solid. Some studies have shown that consuming yogurt daily can even reduce your susceptibility to colds by 25 percent. Just make sure you see “live and active cultures” on the yogurt’s label. Oh, and watch for yogurt that’s low-fat but packed with sugar; your best bet is plain Greek yogurt.
Packed with vitamin A, Brussels sprouts help keep your immune system healthy while also building collagen to fight wrinkles. Beer, fries, and sprouts — sometimes Belgians get it right.
Fructans, a complex carbohydrate found in onions, help those “good” bacteria in your gut grow. This may help keep the stomach bug at bay while at the same time preventing carcinogens from being activated in the colon.
A 2001 British study involving 146 healthy adults revealed that people who were given a garlic supplement were less likely to get sick — and more likely to recover faster if they did get sick — than those who were given placebos. Scientists say this is because garlic contains the active compound allicin. They also say more research is needed to confirm the exact role garlic plays in fending off disease. However, all eggheads agree on one thing: Raw garlic will make your breath reek. So maybe opt for pills instead.