Outsmart the Flu

Flu season officially starts this month. But other than incessant hand-scrubbing and getting vaccinated, what else can you do to arm your defenses?

Get buggy. Probiotics are believed to prime your immune system. But skip the supplements, which some studies suggest don’t provide the probiotic punch promised on their labels. Instead, eat more foods that are naturally rich in live and active microflora — like yogurt, miso, fermented sauerkraut, and kefir. Their composition also includes prebiotics — food for the good bacteria — as well as compounds that protect bacterial breakdown from stomach acid and bile.

Snooze. Sleep deprivation is connected to countless health problems plaguing Americans today, including obesity, high blood pressure, and inflammation. But studies show that getting less than 7 hours of zzz a night also raises your susceptibility to colds and flus.

Hydrate. Water is a key to fending off the flu. But many people fall short of the recommended intake. Carry a water bottle with you at all times, and try tea instead of sugary juices, sodas, or coffee. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that L-theanine, a compound in tea, helps sharpen the body’s immune response against infection.

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