How to Fight Colds, Flus, and Infections at Any Age

Too much alcohol? It could affect infection-fighting immune cells.
Your 30s

Limit sugar and alcohol
Life in your 30s often means fast-tracking a career, starting a family, and keeping up with an active social life—all at the same time. That can mean meals on the fly, sugary snacks for energy, and some social drinking on the weekends. As a result, your immunity can suffer, says Mark Moyad, MD, director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. “The sugar in just one can of soda can compromise immune system function by 30% for up to three hours,” he explains. How? By immobilizing some immunity cells and hurting their ability to surround and ultimately destroy bacteria. In addition, anything more than a few alcoholic drinks per week reduces the number of immunity-providing cells your body produces.

Dr. Moyad recommends that you not only limit drinking but also replace sweets with high-fiber snacks like oatmeal, whole-wheat muffins, or apples. Fiber is actually a prebiotic—a food source for probiotics, the friendly bacteria in yogurt and other products that help keep your gut strong enough to fend off invading bacteria and viruses. Also, try starting your day with cereals containing buckwheat (try Arrowhead Mills Organic Maple Buckwheat Flakes) or wheat germ (Kretschmer Wheat Germ); both are high in polyphenols, natural compounds linked to longer life and increased immunity.

Moderate exercise gets immune cells circulating.
Work out smarter, not harder
Robo-routines that get you a hard body in a few weeks may boost your physical confidence, but they actually slow down your immune system, says Len Horovitz, MD, a pulmonary specialist and flu expert at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Studies show that moderate exercise, however, helps immune cells circulate through the bloodstream at a more rapid pace, making it less likely that bacteria or viruses will slip through unnoticed. And the effect is cumulative over time. Aim for about 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking or running, for instance) plus 15 to 20 minutes of strength training three times a week. Then try some yoga for an extra boost: A Washington State University study suggests that doing yoga three times weekly—the equivalent of a moderate-intensity exercise program—reduces a key marker for stress inside the body, helping to increase immunity.

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Lead writer: Colette Bouchez
Last Updated: January 15, 2009

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