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Ready To Try 10 Quick & Easy Immune-Boosting Hacks?

With the fall season comes a billion reasons to keep your immune system strong.

Wellness

Typically, this is the time of year when we hear the term "immune system" come up quite a bit. That's because, as the temperatures start to drop and the weather becomes more inclement as it relates to harsh winds, sleet and snow, it can start to take a toll on our health. Not to mention the fact that flu season (which usually runs between October thru April) is on the horizon as well.

Yet what actually does our immunity consist of? Well, white blood cells, antibodies, our lymphatic system, spleen, thymus and bone marrow all play a direct role in fighting off germs, viruses, bacteria and anything else that could cause us to catch an infection or get really sick. That's why, it's imperative that we never take our immune system for granted; that we do all that we can to keep it strong and healthy, so that it can combat anything that may try and come our way this fall and winter season. Are you ready to learn 10 relatively easy ways to do just that?

1. Up Your Vitamin C Intake

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Let's start with something that actually might be pretty obvious to most of y'all. The reason why I say that is because, probably ever since you were a little girl, your mama (or grandma or auntie) talked about how Vitamin C helps to fight colds. And she would be right.

Something that's interesting about this particular vitamin is your body is unable to produce it; this means that you need to either take it in supplement form or via your diet. It's important that you not skip out on getting Vitamin C into your system because it's an antioxidant that helps to build up your body's defenses, manages your blood pressure, helps to keep your iron levels balanced and, it also helps to increase your white blood cells so that your body is better equipped to fight off infections.

So, how much Vitamin C do you need? Around 90 mg a day is cool. If you feel a cold coming on, you can consume as much as 1,000-2,000 mg before side effects like diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramping set in. However, it should go on record that close-to-overdosing on Vitamin C, thinking that it will help you, doesn't really do much good. For one thing, you will urinate out what your system doesn't need and, it's not a vitamin that prevents the onset of a cold so much as it speeds up the recovery process once you already have one. As far as the foods that are high in Vitamin C—citrus fruits, broccoli, red and green peppers, tomatoes, white and sweet potatoes, berries and kale and spinach are just some that can give your body a healthy dose of this must-have nutrient.

2. Consume Whole Plant Foods

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If you want your immune system to remain uncompromised, you definitely need antioxidants; ones that are able to keep harmful pathogens (bacterium and viruses that trigger disease) at bay while also fighting off free radicals (which damage cells and even DNA) in the process. Something that is loaded with the antioxidants that you need in order to combat both of these health-related issues are whole plant foods. They're the kinds of fruits and vegetables that are considered "whole" because they include very minimal processing. While whole plant eating shouldn't be confused with veganism or vegetarianism, individuals who follow a whole plant diet, typically eat less meat in comparison to their produce intake.

By the way, if you especially make sure to eat fruits and veggies that are high in fiber, that can help to remove toxins out of your system while also providing your gut (which is where 80 percent of your immune system resides) with good bacteria. If eating more whole plant foods is what you're interested in doing, click here for a list of fruits and veggies that are in season during the fall and wintertime.

3. Lay Off of Grain-Based Foods

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While inflammation is a topic that deserves its own article, the short version is, it's a natural defense to an injury or illness. While a short-term amount of inflammation is OK, if your body remains in a high state of alert where inflammation-related chemicals continue to flow throughout your system, that can negatively impact your organs and tissues. And guess what can actually trigger an inflammatory response in your body? Grain-based foods. What exactly fits into this category? Bread, pasta, cereal, tortillas and even grits. Listen, I'm not saying you can't eat these things. All I'm saying is if you do and you start to feel a little less than great, cutting back on those types of things could prove to be beneficial. Try it and see.

4. Cook with More Garlic

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As far as natural remedies to fight off illnesses go, I'm not sure if there are too many things that top garlic. Since it's a plant that's a part of the Allium (onion) family, this means that garlic has its fair share of sulfur (33 sulfur compounds, to be exact); this is relevant because sulfur is proven to increase your body's resistance to viruses. Garlic is also high in the kind of antioxidants that reduce the amount of oxidative stress that your body produces. It also helps to detoxify heavy metals out of your system, lower your cholesterol levels and cut the time you're sitting with a cold or the flu by as much as 61 percent! Impressive indeed.

5. Drink Some Echinacea Tea

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The fall and winter seasons are definitely the time of year when a warm cup of tea (with honey) sounds pretty amazing. If you're trying to figure out which tea you should add to your collection, how about some echinacea? It's actually the kind of tea that is popular for both preventing and shortening the lifespan of a common cold. Plus, it's something that can help to increase the production of your white blood cells so that you are able to ward off infections before they set into your system. Just keep in mind that if you're someone who has an allergic reaction to any flower in the daisy family (ragweed, chrysanthemums, etc.), you might want to pass on this particular tip. Echinacea is a flowering plant that is a part of that family too.

6. Take Some Krill Oil

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If you're not familiar with what krill oil is, it's basically an oil that comes from animals like lobsters, crabs and krill (so, if you're allergic to shellfish, you should take a pass on this particular suggestion as well). It's an oil that is gaining traction in popularity because it's loaded with omega-3 fatty acids; in fact, it has a reputation for being more effective than fish oil (which is pretty bomb). The reason why it's a great way to boost your immunity is because krill oil fights bodily inflammation (which again, can lead to illness). As a bonus, krill oil is known to relieve PMS symptoms and soothe aching joints too. If this is something that you'd be interested in trying, click here to read a list of the best brands that are currently on the market.

7. Keep Some Clove Oil on Tap Too

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Listen, if you've got a toothache, something that will nip it in the bud is clove oil. I mean, I have never encountered something that will significantly reduce oral pain like it can. OK, but this is about building up your immune system, so let me stay focused. Because cloves contain very potent antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties, it's hailed as being an ultimate natural antiseptic. Whether you opt to put a couple of drops of the oil into your favorite tea to relieve nausea; mix it with a carrier oil like coconut or grapeseed, put it on a cotton ball and rub it on your forehead to open up your blood vessels and bring headache relief; you rub it on chest to break up congestion, or you cook with cloves to boost your immune system, cloves can bring immediate relief to cold-related symptoms in a way that few other all-natural remedies can. If you'd like to incorporate it more into your diet, apple butter, Blueberry Gluhwein (which is basically a fancy mulled wine) or Moroccan-Spiced Carrot Hummus are some creatively delicious DIY ways to get cloves into your system if they're not something that you're used to consuming on the regular.

8. Walk Outdoors 

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As it gets colder outside, sometimes we want to spend less time outdoors. But actually, it's during cold and flu season that you should be out more than usual.

Just because the temperature may be lower, that doesn't make the sun any less effective and Vitamin D is something that we are able to get directly from sunlight. The more Vitamin D you have in your system, the better you'll be at fighting off viral infections including the flu and even COVID-19. In fact, many people who are susceptible to illness are oftentimes lower in Vitamin D than they should be.

And what about the days when it's simply too chilly to step out? No problem. Open up our window treatments. The natural light can get into your house—and body—that way too. What about Vitamin D supplements? You can certainly take those, but it tends to be more effective (on the potency tip) to get your Vitamin D via Mother Nature. (By the way, foods that are high in Vitamin D include cheese, egg yolks, salmon, tuna and mushrooms.)

9. Have Sex

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If you follow my byline enough on this platform, you know that I'm gonna shout-out sex, just as much as I possibly can (check out "10 Things Couples Who (Consistently) Have Great Sex Do", "12 Absolutely Bomb Sex Techniques To Try Tonight" and "How About Having A 'Mindful Orgasm' Tonight?", for starters). The reason why sex makes the list for this article is because, believe it or not, it's another way to strengthen your immune system. For one thing, sex helps to increase the antibodies in your system that fight germs and viruses.

On the oral sex tip, check out "Do You Swallow? The Unexpected Health Benefits Of Sperm" to learn how sperm is basically like the ultimate multi-vitamin. There are also studies that couples who engage in coitus, no less than 1-2 times a week, end up producing more Immunoglobulin A (IgA) than those who don't. What the heck is that? Long story short, it's an antibody that helps your mucous membranes to stay in peak condition so that you get sick less often. Not to mention the fact that sex helps to decrease stress levels; the less stressed you are, the stronger your immune system will be. This brings me to my final point.

10. Reduce Your Stress Levels

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If you want to make sure that you don't get sick in the upcoming months, you definitely need to do all that you can to prevent your stress levels from increasing. The reason why is because stress has the ability to literally suppress your immunity which makes you much more vulnerable to falling ill. So, make sure that you get no less than 6-8 hours of sleep, that you exercise at least 2-3 times a week, that you set healthy boundaries in your relationships, that you meditate, and that you drink lots of water (water helps to keep the natural stress hormone cortisol from elevating). And finally, chill out and relax. Do these things regularly, and it can help you to stay cold and flu-free and strengthen your immunity, from fall well through the spring.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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