No one likes getting sick or, even worse, contracting an infection. What with doctor’s visits with long waits, the overprescription of antibiotics that lead to superbugs and generally feeling awful, most of us probably agree that preventing infections in the first place is better than trying to cure them later. While you may know about eating chicken noodle soup during the flu, chances are you don’t know about other science-backed, weird ways to stop an infection.
But wait, there really isn’t a magical elixir to prevent infections — or is there? As it turns out, there are some kind of strange ways you can stop an infection before it starts — or slow it down or shorten the bout of sickness if you are infected. The best part is that these anti-infection methods are all natural. And they aren’t the usual culprits you’ve heard of, like chowing down on garlic or adding ginger and honey to your tea. You might be surprised by these quirky, weird ways to stop an infection in its tracks, but don’t just take our word for it. They’re all scientifically proven.
5 Weird Ways to Stop an Infection
1. Avoid Factory-Farmed Chicken
Did you know that urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are the most commonly treated infection in U.S. emergency rooms? In fact, 40 to 50 percent of American women will suffer from a UTI in her lifetime. (1) But in recent years, UTIs have become harder to treat.
And guess what, one of the most popular dinners in America is now implicated in rising UTI rates. Let me explain. A UTI-triggering form of E. coli is now routinely found in supermarket chicken. (2) To make matters worse, this strain of bacteria isn’t treatable with antibiotics. It’s built up an immunity to the medicines because it’s found mostly in chickens overly treated with antibiotics. (I call that antibiotic abuse.)
And since 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the country are given to livestock, it’s safe to say that nonorganic chicken could be harboring this dangerous superbug. (3)
So what can you do to limit your risk of this hard-to-treat UTI? Stick to organic chicken. By definition, these birds aren’t treated with antibiotics and will limit your risk to bacteria that’s resistant to treatment. Need more inspiration to choose organic? Scientists recently identified a new superbug in chicken. (Be sure to avoid cross contamination, wash your hands and anything that comes in contact with raw meat no matter what type of chicken you source.)
2. Tap into Forest Therapy
This may be one of the best natural immune system boosters ever. See, if someone tells you to go take a hike, they’re actually doing you a favor. Forest therapy, also known as forest bathing, is based on the Japanese concept of “Shinrin-yoku,” which stresses the health benefits of time spent away from cities and in nature. The results are impressive.
A review of forest therapy’s effect on the immune system found that spending three days in the forest raised a person’s natural killer cell (NK) activity by as much as 50 percent. (4) This type of white blood cell is released by the body to fight infections or tumor cells. Best of all, the effects lasted up for more than 30 days.
Scientists think that forest bathing’s therapeutic benefits come from the phytoncides. These are antimicrobial organic compounds that are released by plants. It’s been proven that phytoncides actually increase NK activity. (5)
If you don’t have three days to spend in the forest, don’t stress. It seems that even shorter amounts of time spent in nature can be powerful in lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and fighting depression, all which help keep your immune system in top shape. (6, 7) Turn off your phone, grab a friend and head to the woods. And, of course, whenever you can, practice earthing.
3. Go Food-Free and Fast (the Safe Way)
Could you actually rebuild your immune system in three days? That’s what a study from the University of South Carolina found.
The scientists discovered that fasting for three days “flips a regenerative switch” in the body, giving stem cells the OK to create new white blood cells and rid itself of damaged or old cells — those making the immune system less effective. This essentially restarts the entire immune system (8). The results were the same in both mice and humans.
This could be especially powerful for people with weakened immune systems, like people who have been treated with chemotherapy or the elderly.
I’ve long been a fan of the many health benefits of fasting, from weight loss to normalizing insulin sensitivity. Now we can add “immune system regeneration” to the list.
4. Eat More Brown Seaweed
It might not have a sexy name, but brown seaweed, also known as wakame, could be the key to boosting immunity and even perhaps fighting tumor cells.
Brown seaweed is chock-full of fucoidan, an anti-inflammatory compound that prevents the growth of cancer cells and provide antiviral effects in the body. (9, 10) Fucoidan is found only in brown marine algae and echinoderms like starfish and sea urchins, but its benefits are fantastic for humans.
Fucoidan induces apoptosis in the body, killing off diseased cells and reducing cancer risk. (11) Early studies also show that fucoidan boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, fights infection and reduces the risk of cancer. That’s pretty impressive CV for a small ocean seaweed. (12)
Try adding brown seaweed to soups or sprinkling it on rice.
5. Crank Up the Tunes
That Spotify subscription might actually be helping you fight infections. Though it sounds a bit offbeat, listening to soothing music actually reduces stress, anxiety and depression. (13) Because chronic stress takes a toll on the immune system, increasing inflammation and the rate of infection, this is a pretty big deal. (14)
But it’s not just relaxing music that’s beneficial. Another study found that just under an hour of upbeat dance music increased production of immunoglobin A, the immune system’s first defense system against infection. Listening to music also lowered cortisol levels. (Cortisol is the stress hormone found in our bodies.) (15) So turn up the radio and get moving!
Final Thoughts on Weird Ways to Stop an Infection
There are certainly times when medication is necessary. But between intermittent fasting, spending time in nature and even setting Pandora to an upbeat station can prime your immune system to stave off or better fight an infection. Work these weird ways to fight an infection into your daily routine when you can so your body’s in tip top shape heading into cold and flu season.