Flu Prevention: Use Your Immune System! (cont.)

What else can I do to boost immunity?

Get plenty of sleep -- every night. Prolonged sleep deprivation wears down immune protection while getting adequate rest each night helps to boost your defenses. Try to aim for 7 to 8 hours sleep for the best immune function.

Is there anything else I can do to stay well?

Try some ways to boost IGA, a protein from the immune system that helps fight infections. IGA is thought to play a critical role in keeping pathogens from entering your body -- and capturing those that do get in.

Some ways to boost IGA in the body include having sex and having a strong support system -- both result in the production of endorphins, the natural opioid peptides or brain chemicals that are released during sex and physical touch such as hugs and handshakes.

Moderate exercise three or four times a week also increases immune function while working out too much (overtraining) can run down the immune system.

Are there immune-boosting foods I can eat?

Studies published in the journal Chest in 2000 showed chicken soup can pump up immune power and may help you get well faster. In addition, mushroom varieties such as reichi, maitake, and shitake may have some powerful influence on immune function as well as enhance production of tumor necrosis factor, interleukins, and interferon. Also, stick with a mostly plant-based diet that's low in red meat and high in fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish.

Is that all I can do to boost immunity?

Nope! Take some time daily to be happy. Smell the roses. Enjoy life's journey and listen to your favorite tunes. Some findings indicate that listening to just 30 minutes of music increases IGA levels in the body.

Also important, keep your hands clean. Nothing beats the power of frequent hand washing to keep germs at bay. By washing hands thoroughly -- and often -- throughout the day, you can stay healthier and help your immune system protect you from the flu and catastrophic diseases.

WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES: Mayo Clinic: "Germs: Understand and protect against bacteria, viruses and infection." Mayo Clinic: "Vaccines when your immune system is compromised." American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: "Tips to remember: Recurrent, or unusually severe infections."

Reviewed by Jonathan L. Gefland, MD on January 20, 2008

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Last Editorial Review: 12/24/2008