Making These 3 Tweaks to Your Home Could Help Strengthen Your Immune System

The right plants, light bulbs, and shower curtains can help make your habitat a bit healthier.

When it comes to keeping your immune system in tip-top shape and fending off nasty colds, nourishing yourself with vitamin-rich foods and scoring ample sleep are likely your go-to tactics. But as it turns out, your happy place can boost your body's defenses with a few smart moves. Here, pros break them down.

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Adjust Your Lighting

You know that stress and lack of sleep can mess with your immunity, and light affects both of them. "Blue lights suppress the body's melatonin production, which hinders sleep patterns," says Susan Albers, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with the Cleveland Clinic. "In contrast, soft yellow lights have been shown to be calming." She recommends bulbs labeled "warm white" for the kitchen and bathroom and "soft white" elsewhere, and switching off screens 45 minutes before bed.

Also consider a sun lamp, which helps spur vitamin D production. "They're great for everyone regardless of whether they have symptoms of seasonal affective disorder," says Albers. "Vitamin D is key to strengthening your immune system, and it's likely you have low levels." Try the Verilux HappyLight Luxe Therapy Lamp (Buy It, $70, (

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Verilux HappyLight Luxe Therapy Lamp

Verilux HappyLight Luxe Therapy Lamp

Nix Toxic Chemicals

George Washington University scientists found that 90 percent of indoor dust may contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), from household items harboring toxic substances like the phenols and phthalates in vinyl and PVC. "Some data suggests EDCs interfere with production of certain substances that support our immune system," says Deena Adimoolam, M.D., an endocrinologist in New Jersey. Culprits include flooring, blinds, and shower curtains as well as some cleaning products and couch cushions containing flame-retardant chemicals, says Veena Singla, Ph.D., a co-author of the study.

Swaps she recommends: Look for nylon or cotton shower curtains, and trade out old foam cushions. "Clean with a damp cloth and a wet mop so dust doesn't mobilize," says Singla. "Choose cleaning products with an Environmental Working Group-verified label or the [Environmental Protection Agency's] Safer Choice certification."

Green the Air

"It's believed that certain plants can purify the air of toxic substances," says Dr. Adimoolam. Some species of palm, Japanese fern, and devil's ivy plants could metabolize chemicals and release healthier, oxygen-filled air, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives. Plus, research in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that interacting with houseplants can reduce stress by calming the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight response. (FTR, air-purifying plants may not have as significant of an impact as you hope. Here's exactly how effective they can be.)

As for setting a mood with candles, avoid scented ones that list "parfum" or "natural fragrances," which can contain phthalates and other chemicals and send them airborne. "Add a few drops of essential oils to a plain wax candle instead," says Dr. Adimoolam. (Wait, are candles bad for you?)

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