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For all the excellent things fall and winter bring (pretty leaves, cozy sweaters, the holidays), they’re also prime time for getting sick. Aside from covering your mouth when you sneeze, washing your hands constantly and getting a flu shot, there are a number of ways to boost your immune system naturally. Here are six we’ll start practicing…now.

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natural immune boosters garlic

Eat More Garlic

No, it won’t do much for your breath, but, according to a study from Jagiellonian University in Poland, garlic is an antimicrobial agent and immune booster. One thing to keep in mind is that heat deactivates its infection-fighting powers, so if you’re cooking with it, add it in just before serving or try it in a cold salad dressing to kick your veggies up.

natural immune boosters sleep

Get Enough Sleep

Skipping out on sleep not only wreaks havoc on your immune system, but it also makes it harder to fight off a virus once you’ve got it. Per a study at the University of Tübingen in Germany, sleep and the circadian system are strong regulators of immunological processes. Basically, prolonged sleep deficiency leads to the production of cells that cause increased immunodeficiency. 

natural immune boosters exercise

Get More Exercise

As it gets colder, it’s super tempting to forgo the gym for Netflix and blankets. That’s not a good idea, though, since regular workouts (which can be as low-intensity as a 30-minute walk) are essential to immune system functioning. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, exercise causes your white blood cells to circulate more rapidly, allowing your immune system to detect illnesses more quickly and can also help flush bacteria out of your lungs. Frequent exercise also helps you sleep better, which, as you read above, also keeps you healthier.

nautral immune boosters sunlight

Spend Some Time in the Sun

We typically associate spending time in the sun with summer, but it’s actually really important (and beneficial) to take in some rays when it’s cold out. In addition to boosting your mood and helping ward off seasonal affective disorder, the sun can also prevent sickness. So says a study at Georgetown University, which found that exposure to sunlight can energize T cells that play a central role in human immunity.

natural immune boosters laughing

Laugh More

And here we thought “laughter is the best medicine” was just a cute saying. As it turns out, this study from Western Kentucky University found that laughing actually curbs the levels of stress hormones and boosts a type of white blood cell that fights infection. So set aside a couple hours for any movie starring Melissa McCarthy or take two minutes to watch one of our favorite YouTube videos of all time—it’s for your health. 

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natural immune boosters less alcohol

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Don’t worry, your nightly glass of Cabernet is fine (we’ve told you time and time again that moderate alcohol consumption comes with a host of health benefits). We’re talking about excessive alcohol consumption, which an LSU study linked to impaired immune systems and increased vulnerability to lung infections.

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