15 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Here’s your prescription for staying well—no matter what you’re exposed to.
15 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
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Everyone from your parents to your partner reminds you about the rules for feeling your best: Eat smart, get plenty of sleep, find your inner Zen—yada, yada, yada. That advice gets old real fast, unless you dig deeper and understand why those tried-and-true tips add up to a healthier you. Think of it this way: If we’re all being exposed to the same nasty germs, how come only some of us get sick?

The difference between who’s laid up in bed and who’s putting Jillian Michaels to shame comes down to immunity. Over the past several years, researchers have uncovered fascinating details about how our systems respond to pathogens on a cellular level. Case in point: One in 12 people infected with the common cold virus shows—wait for it—zero symptoms, a study from McMaster University in Canada suggests. Let that sink in for a sec. If you shore up your immune system now, it can beat down invaders before you ever say “Achoo!” Studies like this have given us more insight than ever into how to protect ourselves from illness, whether it’s a sinus infection or cancer. We tapped into the new know-how to bring you 15 ways to turn your body into Fort Knox.

Floss It Up.
The bacteria that cause gum disease also appear to trigger inflammation throughout the rest of the body. Running some floss through your pearly whites at least once a day could protect you from both heart disease and cancer, adding 6.4 years to your life, says Michael F. Roizen, M.D., author of The RealAge Makeover. Who knew a little string could wield so much power?

Enjoy a Good Poke.
Not that kind of poke—we’re talking about acupuncture. Data suggests it stimulates the body’s “natural killer” (NK) cells (yup, that’s their real name), which put the kibosh on viruses and other illness inducers, so you get sick less frequently. Schedule an appointment four times per year, at the change of the seasons, suggests Marc Sklar, L.Ac., who practices in San Diego. You can locate an acupuncturist in your area at

Hit the Hay.
Between work, family and friends, it’s tough to squeeze everything you need to do into a measly 24-hour day. Unfortunately, sleep can’t be the thing that gives. Studies show that even minor deprivation can cause an inflammatory effect in the body. This autoimmune response throws all of your major systems (digestive, cardiovascular and central-nervous) out of whack and can set the stage for several diseases, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and depression. To maintain balance, you really do need to log seven to nine hours each night, says Mark Liponis, M.D., medical director of Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Lenox, Mass.

Sweat Your Butt Off.
You may think your muscles hate you during your morning jog, but your immune system is loving it—we swear! Engaging in at least 30 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise every day helps strengthen your virus-destroying T-cell and antibody response, advises Liponis. People who don’t exercise also tend to have higher levels of C-reactive protein, which the liver produces in response to inflammation—a big, waving red flag that your immune system is spinning its wheels.

Treat Yourself to a Massage.
Most of us consider a pro session a birthday splurge or once-in-a-while luxury, but research has shown that regular rubdowns offer legit health benefits. According to a pilot study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, even a single 45-minute Swedish massage raises levels of a key antibody in healthy women. Now the question is, whom can you convince to give you a back rub tonight?