Now that winter is coming, we can expect to see snotty noses on the Central line, desks covered in tissues and colleagues falling ill everywhere you look. A change in the weather often makes people sick, so there isn't a better time to get clued up on how to protect your immune system.
We all know the basics of staying healthy: don't smoke, eat lots of fruit and vegetables, drink in moderation, wash your hands, reduce your stress and sleep well. But there are some more unusual ways to keep to boost your immune system that you might be missing out on.
Taking a cold shower
Cold water causing illness or instant death is a bit of an old wives tale. In fact, research shows that a cold shower in the morning can help to support your immune system. This is because after being shocked by cold water your body tries to heat itself, speeding up your metabolic rate which in turn activates your immune system and stimulates white blood cell production, fight off bugs in the process.
Brace the icy alarm alternative (if you can bear it.)
Despite food fads, some evidence suggests that stuffing down superfoods might not actually save you from illness. Instead, abstaining from food can cause your immune system to regenerate and repair. A study at the University of South Carolina found that fasting for three days "flipped a switch" in the body and "It gives the 'OK' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system."
After three days without food, your immune system is completely rebuilt from the ground up, which might just save you if you're feeling depleted from a heavy weekend.
Hugging your animals
Forget what you've always been told about your pets being fluffy carriers of disease. Petting your dog might actually boost your immune system. Bizarre as it may sound, the purring sound animals make when petted vibrates at a frequency has been documented to have a healing effect on mammals. It has been theorised that this can even transfer onto you whilst holding it.
Rolling around in the muck like a potbelly pig is likely the furthest thing you can imagine from immune system care. But the truth is, studies have proved that children need to come into contact with germs and dirt in order to develop their immune system. Growing up in totally germ-free environments often cause allergies and autoimmune issues in children.
The same is true for adults, but instead of eating mud like a toddler might, you can consume bacteria in probiotic foods like yoghurt, fermented vegetables and raw milk.
Listening to music
Peaceful music can help block out a stressful day or ease you to sleep, so it isn't surprising that it has other restorative effects. Researchers have found that it lowers cortisol levels and increases the levels of immunoglobulin A in your body - a natural boost to your immune system.
A review of over 400 scientific papers found that, "Music listeners had higher numbers of an immune cell type called "natural killer cells," whose job it is to attack bacteria, infected cells, and cancerous cells." Headphones on then.
Getting a massage
A massage is a relaxing treat most of us consider an extravagance, but it may in fact have serious benefits to your immunity.
Similar to the effects of music, a 2006 study by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle showed that getting a massage boosts your immune system as patients in the study recorded increased levels of dopamine and serotonin and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. So no need to feel bad for booking in a spa day.