Your Best Health
8. Practice yoga. Regular yoga will lighten your system’s workload. Washington State University researchers found that breast cancer survivors who practiced Iyengar—a type of yoga that emphasizes precise alignment—three times a week for eight weeks had decreased activation of an immune system protein that “switches on” in response to stress.
9. Laugh more. The immune system appears to get a kick—literally—out of laughter. In a series of studies, researchers from Loma Linda University in California have found that laughter increases the number and activity of natural killer cells, other T cells, and antibodies in the body. Laughing—and even the anticipation of laughter—also decreases stress.
10. Spend time with friends. Reams of research show that people who have a strong social support network tend to live longer than those who are less connected. A study with first-year medical students at Ohio State University found that those who scored highest on tests measuring stressful life events and loneliness had significantly lower natural killer-cell activity than their peers.
11. Eat crunchy veggies. Try to get one cup of cruciferous vegetables—like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, bok choy, or Brussels sprouts—at least three to four times per week, suggests Michelle Babb, R.D., C.D., at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle. In one study, University of California, Berkeley, researchers found that DIM, a chemical produced when broccoli, cabbage, and kale are chewed and digested, enhanced the immune response in mice. UCLA researchers have since found that eating broccoli (which is rich in the antioxidant sulforaphane) may actually turn back the clock on an aging immune system.
12. EAT BRIGHT, EAT RIGHT. The best way to get selenium and zinc, the antioxidants you need to wipe out disease-causing free radicals, is to eat six to eight servings per day of colorful fruits (apples, oranges, and berries) and vegetables (like carrots, spinach, and broccoli), says Michelle Babb of the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle. As a rule of thumb, one serving is ½ cup of chopped fruit or veggies or one medium-sized piece of fruit.
13. DRINK TEA. Research suggests that L-theanine, found in black, green, oolong, and pekoe teas, may enhance the disease-fighting capabilities of the immune system’s T cells, allowing them to defend better against invading bacteria. Drink two to four cups of tea per day for a potent brew of amino acids and antioxidants. In addtion, tea’s dietary phenols also inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.
14. TAKE PROBIOTICS. Probiotics (the “good” bacteria that live in our digestive tract) help your body absorb the nutrients it needs to keep up a resilient immune system. Look for probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and aged cheese, or check out supplement brands like Jarrow Formulas (jarrow.com) and Culturelle (culturelle.com). Take a dose of three to five billion CFU (colony forming units) daily, says Gary Huffnagle, Ph.D., author of The Probiotics Revolution (Bantam, 2007).