Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Some people never seem to get sick. What are they doing that the rest of us aren’t to keep illness at bay?
Are you secretly envious of your co-workers and friends who, like superheroes, never seem to get sick? You know, the ones glowing with good health while everyone around them is sneezing, sniffling, and coughing like villains.
Don’t hate the healthy people. Instead, steal the secrets of people who manage to stay above the sickroom fray and take steps to boost your body’s immunity.
Training For The Body
Jennifer Cassetta, a martial arts instructor in New York City, claims she never gets sick, and neither do her father and grandmother, who also teach martial arts. “I believe it is the holistic approach to exercise that calms the mind and relieves stress,” she says. “And the cardio, strengthening, and conditioning help boost the immune system.”
Cassetta says her health has changed dramatically after she picked up martial arts eight years ago. Before then, she was a smoking, take-out-every-night, espresso-drinking girl in her 20s.
“As I started to train, I started to change my habits drastically,” she says. “I cleaned up my diet, trained more, and quit smoking. Now in my 30s, I have more energy, I look better, and am stronger than I ever have been.”
One bout of vigorous exercise can increase circulation, says Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. “Whenever circulation is increased, you get far more white blood cells,” she says, “so they check for foreign germs and are far more apt to be able to gobble them up.”
Pay Attention To Your Mouth
Chicago public relations consultant Joanna Broussard says gargling regularly with an antiseptic mouthwash has helped improve her dental health and may have helped fend off other illnesses.
Twelve years ago, Broussard’s dental hygienist convinced her to gargle consistently after brushing her teeth. “So I made the effort and got into the habit every morning,” she says, “Since then I have not had colds. When people all around me have colds or the flu, I seem to be immune.”
Another reason to bone up on your brushing and gargling is that poor oral hygiene and gum disease have been linked to more serious illnesses, including diabetes.
An Apple A Day Really Works
Your mom may have been right when she said, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” A natural antioxidant called quercetin, found in red apples as well as broccoli and green tea, may give an immunity boost to individuals under stress.
In a study conducted by David Nieman, PhD, professor at Appalachian State University, results showed that only 5% of cyclists who took 1,000 milligrams of quercetin every day for five weeks reported upper respiratory illness during a two-week period following extreme exercise, whereas 45% of the cyclists who took a placebo reported illness following extreme exercise. However, there were no significant differences in measures of immune system function in the two groups.
Additionally, researchers found that athletes taking the quercetin supplement maintained better mental alertness and reaction time over the placebo group. So go ahead, stock up on those red apples and you may be thanking Mom later.