Nobody likes getting sick – that first scratchy swallow always seem to come at the worst time. Some of you will get the flu vaccine, but it’s more effective some years than others. Others of you will use vitamins and supplements. Supplements that promise to boost your immunity are of limited value and offer little more than peace of mind. However, there are many lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your odds of getting sick.
Wash your hands! Viruses and bacteria are most often spread by direct contact. Think about everything you touch each day that is also touched by other people: the telephone, computer keyboard, door handles, and shopping carts. You can wipe these things down if you want to, but it would be nearly impossible to sterilize your world. Instead, be smart about knowing when your hands are dirty – and when they are, don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. These are the places that germs most easily enter the body. Washing your hands frequently is one of the most effective ways to prevent illness. Lather up with liquid soap and scrub your hands for at least 30 seconds (sing the alphabet song twice or just count to 30 in your head).
Get plenty of sleep. Good sleeping habits play an important role in helping you stay healthy. A recent study was performed in which people were deliberately exposed to the cold virus through drops placed in their noses. The participants’ sleeping habits were monitored over the next few weeks and the findings showed that the people who got less than seven hours of sleep each night were 3 times more likely to get sick. Sleep is an important time of rejuvenation and repair for the body. Lack of sleep impairs the immune system.
Drink lots of water. Water provides many health benefits that help the body to run smoothly. Don’t worry about silly numbers like 8 glasses a day or half your body weight in ounces. These don’t take into account the water in all the fruits and vegetables you eat or how much you sweat. The best way to insure that your intake is adequate is to check the color of your urine – if it’s yellow you are not getting enough water. The color of your urine should be close to clear. Water is important because it helps to flush germs and toxins out of your body. It also keeps your tissues well hydrated. When the tissues that line your nose and lungs get dried out, they are unable to function as a protective barrier and that leaves you more susceptible to viruses and bacteria.
Exercise regularly. Exercise also provides several benefits to the body. Regular exercise helps you sleep better by relieving tension so that you can relax at night. It’s also one of the best ways to reduce the aches and pains of arthritis that can make it difficult to fall asleep. Furthermore, exercise also reduces stress, which can impair the function of your immune system. Finally, exercise increases the number of natural virus killing cells in the body.
Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Fruits and vegetables are full of the vitamins and minerals that your immune system needs to fight off viruses and bacteria. Sure, you can take vitamin pills and supplements, but in many cases they will just pass into your urine. The vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables are present in their natural form and are more easily absorbed and utilized by the body. Try to get at least 5 servings per day of dark green, red, or yellow fruits and vegetables. A few apples a week or an occasional can of Mandarin oranges isn’t good enough.
Eat yogurt. Two recent studies have shown that the beneficial bacteria in yogurt can reduce your susceptibility to the cold virus. One study found that adults who consume 6 ounces of yogurt daily caught 25% fewer colds compared to people who never ate yogurt. The other study focused on children and compared the effectiveness of different dairy products. The results revealed that significantly fewer children who ate yogurt caught colds compared to children who consumed only milk. Look for yogurt containing Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium.
Cut back on the bad habits. No blog on staying healthy would be complete without a brief reminder about the negative effects of candy and cigarettes. Processed sugar stresses the body and depresses the immune system, so the more sugary snacks you eat, the greater the likelihood that you will get sick. Cigarette smoke is a respiratory system irritant. It impairs the natural protective barriers in the nose and lungs so that they cannot protect you from viruses and bacteria. Statistics show that smokers catch more severe and more frequent colds.