Fungus to ward off winter sickness? Sounds far-fetched, but it’s science-backed—as are these other quirky immunity boosters. Cold and flu season, conquered.
Sip a mushroom latte
Those cuppas filling your Insta feed are more than just beautiful. Several studies have shown some ‘shrooms can activate immune cells and lower inflammation so your body can better fight infection—and it takes just one serving daily to get the benefits. Look for lattes made with powdered chaga or reishi mushrooms (or try an at-home mix from Four Sigmatic, foursigmatic.com), or eat a cooked shiitake daily for similar results.
Try whole grains
Two or three times a week, make oatmeal part of your morning menu or add barley to a fave soup or stew. Beta-glucans, fibers deep inside these whole grains, strengthen white blood cell activity to drop-kick unwelcome viruses. Plus, oats are a prebiotic, meaning they stimulate the good bacteria living in your gut, which is largely responsible for keeping your immune system all nice and happy.
Belt one out
Is singing alone in your car kinda dorky? Maybe, but those who do it are probably healthier, so there. Both singing and listening to music for half an hour are linked to lower cortisol levels (when stress hormones like cortisol are elevated, it can suppress your immune function). Hearing and playing music are also associated with an uptick in the antibody immunoglobulin A, a first line of defense against bacterial and viral infections, and an increase in “natural killer” white blood cells—the type that seek and destroy germ-infected cells before they can multiply.
End your shower with a cold spell. Although some experts are skeptical, one study found people who rinsed off in brrr-level H20 for 30 seconds (after a hot shower) reported less intense cold and flu symptoms than those who continued to shower in hot water.
Choose rolls with salmon or tuna; they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can curb inflammation. Salmon is also packed with carotenoids—like barbells for your immunity, experts say! Add a dollop of ginger (another anti-inflammatory powerhouse) and wasabi—the spicy condiment can clear out your nasal passages, helping fight off germs that attack your sinuses and respiratory tract.
See sick people
Stay with us here. One study found that when subjects viewed disease-y photos (people coughing, sneezing, etc.), their immune systems rallied, big-time. Thank evolution: Researchers suspect our bodies adapted to automatically react when faced with the threat of germs, and they say seeing an IRL person hawk a loogie could have the same or possibly a stronger effect. The takeaway? Don’t gawk at a sick coworker (because: creepy), but maybe don’t avoid her like the plague—or, in this case, the common cold.
Go with the flow
And add some meditation to your movement. UCLA researchers found that practicing tai chi, an increasingly popular form of Chinese exercise, increased the immunity of participants. Join a class for three one-hour sessions weekly, or grab a mat to get your dose of Zen from yoga. It’s a stress reliever, and certain poses that twist and compress organs help to massage ones that are vital to immunity, which can bolster your immune function—for example, downward dog and camel pose, which help flush mucus out of the lungs.
Get some Vitamin N
Bundle up…because spending as little as 15 minutes in nature can help relieve stress. Too chilly for a stroll? Buy some houseplants for your home or desk, or change your desktop background to a green scene; studies show just looking at photos of nature can have similar health benefits.