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Can Eating Boogers, Having More Sex & Swedish Massage Ward Off the Flu?

written by Carrie Borzillo - Nov 16, 2020
medically reviewed by Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Nov 23, 2021

It’s flu season and we’re still in a pandemic that is killing people daily. That double-whammy means it’s more important now than ever to nourish your body with ingredients, vitamins, and nutrients that can help boost your immune system and keep you healthy this season.

By now, everyone knows that eating healthy foods, drinking a lot of water, taking vitamins (especially Vitamin C and D), exercising, and getting enough sleep are the five staples of healthy living. But there are other ways — some downright weird and others just off the beaten path a bit — that can also help give you a stronger immune system. Here they are…

Eat Your Boogers

This might be the weirdest and grossest way to boost your immune system but hear the experts out. According to many reports, including an interview with Scott Napper, an associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan, with CTV-News Saskatoon, eating your own snot can actually be good for you. You see, the mucus in your nose, affectionately known as boogers or snot, have trapped bacteria. The theory goes that if you eat that bacteria, your body could build up an immunity to the bacteria in the mucus and be more equipped to fight against future illness-causing bacteria. The same concept goes for nail biting which has also been shown to improve immunity and decrease the incidence of allergies.

Have More Sex

Time to get busy! Studies show that regular sex can give your immune system a boost and prevent you from getting the flu and colds. Researchers at Wilkes University of Pennsylvania found that those who had sex once or twice a week had a higher level of certain antibodies known to defend the body against germs, viruses, and other intruders than those of people who didn’t have sex. As sexual health expert, Yvonne K. Fulbright, simply put it to Penn State, “Sexually active people take fewer sick days.”

Get a Swedish Massage

Getting regular massages helps to fight off illness and disease, according to researchers in Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. The 2010 study showed that people who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant changes in lymphocytes, which is a type of blood cell, that plays a large role in defending the body from disease. It also showed that Swedish massage decreased the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which if you have too much of it, can contribute to a compromised immune system.

Get Stinky

Little known fact, but there are health experts who say that the stinkier the food is, the better it may be for your immune system. This includes foods in the allium family (i.e., garlic, onions, chives, shallots, scallions, and leeks), as well as ginger, ginseng, cruciferous vegetables (i.e., cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts), vinegar, fermented foods, and more. Research even shows that the organosulfur compounds in alliums can prevent certain cancers.

Photo Credit: Carrie Borzillo
Photo Credit: Carrie Borzillo

Feed on Fermentation

Fermented foods, such as kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt, involves a process that breaks down carbohydrates by bacteria and yeast. They contain healthy probiotics that help to increase the good bacteria needed in your gut, as well as are high in Vitamin C, iron, and zinc, which also contribute to a stronger immune system. With about 70% of the immune system located in your gut, this helps to strengthen the bacteria that lives there to fight off pathogens. Fermented foods not only help boost your immune system but can also help you recover faster when you’re sick and aid with digestion.

Photo Credit: Carrie Borzillo
Photo Credit: Carrie Borzillo

Bathe in the Forest

Forest bathing, also known as forest therapy and called Shinrin-yoku in Japan, is the simple act of walking or hiking through the forest. It’s like nature’s aromatherapy exercise Here is how it works: “While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies,” explains the Department of Environmental Conservation. In one study, increased natural killer cell activity from a three-day, two-night forest bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days.

Photo Credit: Carrie Borzillo
Photo Credit: Carrie Borzillo

Sing! Dance! Cuddle!

Want to fight off the flu in a fun way? Stop stressing out! Try singing in the shower, dancing around your home, or just cuddling with your pet. All of these feel-good activities help to lower stress. Less stress means less cortisol (the primary stress hormone) and less cortisol means a stronger immune system. Chronic elevations of cortisol (which can occur from chronic stress) can lead to the immune system being resistant, an accumulation of stress hormones in the body, and an increased production of inflammatory cytokines, all of which compromise the immune system.

Photo Credit: Carrie Borzillo
Photo Credit: Carrie Borzillo

Chew Your Food

In case you were contemplating a liquid diet anytime soon, you might want to reconsider. A study from the University of Manchester showed that chewing food (aka mastication) can help improve the immune system. The act of chewing food, as opposed to consuming softer foods such as juices, soups, or even pureed vegetables that don’t require mastication, actually stimulates the release of T helper 17 (Th17) cells in the mouth. Th17 is important because these cells form a part of the adaptive immune system that uses certain antigens to defend against harmful pathogens while enduring the good bacteria that we need for a healthy immune system.

Drink Mulled Wine

Hot mulled wine is a holiday favorite, and it’s good for your immune system! The red wine in mulled wine is full of antioxidants that are wonderful for the immune system and for fighting free radicals. Additionally, cloves, another ingredient in this drink, are said to have an antimicrobial effect, which also helps to boost the immune system and aid with digestion. And, another common ingredient, elderberries, have long been used to treat colds and coughs.

Enjoy this Hot Mulled Wine recipe:


• 1 bottle of red wine

• 1.5 cups of water

• 1 large orange, juiced

• ½ cup dried elderberries

• ¼ cup honey

• 4 whole cloves

• 3 whole cardamom pods, crushed

• 2 whole star anise

• 1 cinnamon stick

• 1 vanilla pod, cut in half lengthwise

• Optional garnishes: Cinnamon sticks, orange wedges, star anise


Step 1: Put all of the ingredients, except for the wine, honey, and garnishes, in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Stir gently.

Step 2: Turn the heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 3: In a larger pot, warm up the wine and honey for a few minutes and then add the ingredients from the other pot of ingredients to it. Stir gently and simmer on low for 10 minutes.

Step 4: Strain with a fine mesh sieve. You can use a strainer or cheesecloth if you don’t have a mesh sieve)

Step 5: Pour into whatever glass you like, garnish, and serve hot!

Don’t forget: It’s also a good time to get a flu shot. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says it is even more important than ever to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, this fall and winter. The CDC highly recommends that everyone get a flu shot, which you can get at your local pharmacy or at your next doctor’s visit, and also cut down on holiday travel and gatherings and stay in as much as possible.



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