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6 Surprising Ways to Stay Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Tuesday, 14 October 2014 05:04 PM

Cold and flu remedies cost Americans billions of dollars every year. But a handful of immune system-boosting habits can go a long way toward warding off infections this fall and winter, reducing the need for costly medicines.

Your best defense starts with diligent hand-washing and a flu shot. But studies suggest that there are additional steps you can take to stay free of respiratory illnesses, or at least make a speedier recovery, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Here are six of the best strategies for staying healthy during the cold and flu season.
Relax. Practicing mindfulness meditation — a combination of yoga and meditation — for eight weeks reduced the incidence, intensity, and duration of cold and flu symptoms by up to 50 percent among a group of people over age 50, compared with people who didn't meditate, researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wis., found. Moderate exercise also reduced symptoms by up to 40, the study found. A second study at Tufts University found immune benefits for mind-body therapies, especially tai chi and qi gong.

Sing. Japanese researchers tested blood and saliva from a group of people over age 60 before and after a singing exercise and found levels of stress-related hormones like cortisol dropped after they belted out a song. At the same time, levels of immunoglobulin A — a substance that deflects viruses and bacteria — rose. Both changes are signs of a stronger immune system.
Eat probiotics. In a study from the Rutgers School of Health Related Professions, people who took certain probiotics — live bacteria in foods like yogurt and aged cheeses that have disease-fighting properties — had less severe symptoms after catching a cold and recovered two days sooner. The probiotics may reduce cold symptoms by muting the body’s inflammatory response to cold viruses.
Stay rested. People who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times as likely to get sick as those who put in eight-plus hours of shut-eye, Carnegie Mellon University researchers found. A recent Finnish study also found people who got a flu shot and were then awakened after just a few hours of sleep produced fewer protective antibodies than those who slept normally after vaccination.
Take supplements. Vitamin C (one to two grams a day) shortens colds slightly and, if you take it every day, may lessen symptoms when respiratory infections strike, according to the latest review of studies from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Another recent Cochrane review showed that zinc lozenges (75 milligrams a day) may cut a day or two off a cold if taken within 24 hours of the first cough or sniffle.
Get a (social) life. A Carnegie Mellon study suggests a dynamic social life combats respiratory illnesses. Researchers exposed a group of people to a cold virus, and then waited to see who got sick. Those with the most social networks were least likely to get fall ill, while loners were more susceptible.  

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A handful of immune system-boosting habits can go a long way toward warding off cold and infections this fall and winter, reducing the need for costly medicines.
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Tuesday, 14 October 2014 05:04 PM
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