My Hormonology

With the changing seasons, colds are about to pop up a lot more. You probably already know that to avoid them, it’s important to wash your hands frequently and use antibacterial gel, especially after touching germy hotspots, like shopping cart handles and ATM buttons.

However, if you’re in Week 2 of your cycle (which starts 8 days from the onset of your period), it’s even more critical to keep up your hand-sanitizing habits to evade cold viruses.

That’s because during your Week 2, your immune system weakens a bit and the mucus in your nose, eyes and mouth becomes thinner, making it easier for viruses to pass through and take hold.

Why does this happen? Since this is a fertile time of the month for you (ovulation occurs at the end of your Week 2), researchers speculate that a lowered immune system prevents the body from targeting sperm as a harmful invader and thinner mucus helps sperm pass through your cervix more easily for a better chance at conception.

Since I’m no fan of being sidelined by colds, I take extra precautions to thwart cold viruses all cycle long–and especially during my Week 2. If, like me, you have no time to stay home with the sniffles, here are four study-proven ways to lower your risk of catching a cold all cycle long:

1. Pop probiotics: Specifically, take the combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. In a recent study, taking this probiotic duo twice daily reduced the frequency of colds in schoolchildren. And it’s believed to work just as well in adults. Researchers theorize that once these probiotics reach the gut, they send immune-boosting messages to the body, making it more effective at warding off colds. Here’s the one I take.

2. Take garlic supplements: Study volunteers who took one allicin-containing garlic supplement daily were less likely to catch a cold than those who took a placebo. What’s more, garlic-takers who did catch a cold got better 24 hours faster than those in the placebo group who fell ill. Researchers believe credit goes to antibacterial and antiviral compounds in garlic that fight off the cold virus. (Note: Don’t take garlic supplements if you take hormone birth control because it can make it less effective by speeding up the breakdown of the synthetic estrogen in your body.)

3. Eat mushrooms: White button mushrooms–the most common kind of mushroom in supermarkets and farmer’s markets–contain compounds that activate natural killer cells that destroy cold- and flu-causing viruses, research shows.

4. Down vitamin D: While researchers keep going back and forth about how effective vitamin D is for reducing your risk of catching a cold, there’s enough evidence (for instance, from this study and this one) to suggest this key nutrient could protect you by prompting your body to produce more antimicrobial proteins. Aim for 2000 IU of vitamin D daily