The Secrets to Never Getting Sick
If you don't want to spend weeks in bed recovering from a cold, follow these tips to strengthen your immune system.
Keep Your Immune System Strong
Most secrets to good health are not secrets at all, but common sense. For example, you should avoid contact with bacteria and viruses at school and work. However, a whole host of other feel-good solutions can help you live a healthier life—whether you’re 16 or 106.
Click "next" to learn these important tips.
Green, leafy vegetables are rich in vitamins that help you maintain a balanced diet—and support a healthy immune system. According to a study of mice described in the journal Cell, eating cruciferous vegetables sends a chemical signal to the body that boosts specific cell-surface proteins necessary for efficient immune-system function. In this study, healthy mice deprived of green vegetables lost 70 to 80 percent of cell-surface proteins (Li, et al., 2011).
Reports indicate that many Americans fall short of their vitamin D daily requirements. Deficiencies in vitamin D may lead to poor bone growth, cardiovascular problems, and a weak immune system.
Results from a 2012 study in Pediatrics suggest that all children should be checked for adequate vitamin level. However, this is especially true for those with dark skin tones, who do not get vitamin D as easily from exposure to sunlight. In the study, children with vitamin D deficiencies were more susceptible to respiratory infections. Breast-fed children are especially at risk because they are less likely to drink milk fortified with vitamin D (Camargo, et al., 2012).
Staying active by following a regular exercise routine—such as walking three times a week—does more than keep you fit and trim. According to a study published in the medical journal Neurologic Clinicians, regular exercise also:
- keeps inflammation and chronic disease at bay
- reduces stress (and the release of stress-related hormones)
- accelerates the circulation of disease-fighting white blood cells to better enable the body to fight the common cold (Woods, et al., 2006)
Stay in Bed
Getting adequate sleep is extremely important if you’ve been exposed to a virus, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Healthy adult participants who slept a minimum of eight hours each night over a two-week period showed a greater resistance to the virus. Those who slept seven hours or less each night were about three percent more likely to develop the virus after exposure.
One reason may be that the body releases cytokines during extended periods of sleep. Cytokines are proteins that help the body fight infection by regulating the immune system (Cohen, et al., 2009).
Skip the Alcohol
New research shows that drinking alcohol can damage the body’s dendritic cells, a vital component of the immune system. An increase in alcohol consumption over time can increase a person’s exposure to bacterial and viral infections.
A recent study in the journal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology compared the dendritic cells and immune system responses in alcohol-fed mice to those who had not been supplied alcohol. Alcohol suppressed the immunity in mice to varying degrees. Physicians say the study helps explain why vaccines are less effective for alcoholics (Ekan, et al., 2011).
For years, doctors suspected there was a connection between chronic mental stress and physical illness. However, they did not have clear evidence linking the two conditions. Finding an effective way to regulate personal stress, such as practicing yoga or meditation, may go a long way toward better overall health, suggests a 2012 study published by the National Academy of Science.
Cortisol helps the body fight inflammation and disease. The constant release of the hormone in people who are chronically stressed lessens its overall effectiveness. This can result in increased inflammation, disease, and decreased immunity (Cohen, et al., 2012).
Drink Green Tea
For centuries, green tea has been associated with good health. Green tea’s health benefits may be due to its high level of antioxidants, called flavonoids.
According to a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, several fresh-brewed cups a day can lead to potential health benefits. These include lower blood pressure and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (Cabrera, et al., 2006).
Add Color to Meals
Do you have trouble remembering to eat your fruits and vegetables at every meal? Cooking with all colors of the rainbow will help you get a wide range of vitamins, such as vitamin C.
While there is no evidence that vitamin C can reduce the severity or length of illness, research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that it may help the immune system ward off colds and flus, especially in those who are stressed (Saszuki, et al., 2006).
Physicians have long seen a connection between chronic disease and loneliness, especially in patients recovering from heart surgery. Some health authorities even consider social isolation a risk factor for chronic diseases. Research published by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that social isolation may increase stress, which slows the body’s immune response and ability to heal quickly. In the study, male rats were slightly more susceptible to damage from social isolation than females (APA, 2006).
Get a Flu Vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all individuals over six months of age get a yearly flu vaccine. Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatrician and expert in infectious diseases in Cleveland, Ohio, seconds that advice. However, exceptions should be made for people who have severe allergies (like hives or anaphylaxis) to chicken eggs, and/or anyone who has had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination (like Guillain-Barre Syndrome) (CDC, 2012).”
Infectious disease expert, Dr. Frank Esper, advises limiting your exposure to illness by avoiding germs. Shower daily and wash your hands before:
- preparing food
- inserting contact lenses
- any other activity that brings you in contact with the eyes or mouth
Wash your hands for 20 seconds and scrub under your fingernails. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Carry an alcohol-based hand cleaner for on-the-go use. Disinfect shared surfaces, such as keyboards, telephones, doorknobs, and remote controls.
Keep It Personal
Influenza viruses can generally survive on surfaces from two to twenty-four hours, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Frank Esper. That leaves plenty of time for germs to spread among family members. Just one sick child can pass an illness to an entire family in the right setting.
To avoid sharing germs, keep personal items such as toothbrushes, towels, utensils, and drinking glasses separate. Wash contaminated items—especially toys that are shared—in hot, soapy water. When in doubt, opt for disposal drinking cups, utensils, and towels.
Staying healthy is more than just practicing a few good techniques when you don't feel well. It involves regular exercise, plenty of healthy foods, and staying hydrated throughout the day.
Your body works hard to keep you moving and active, so make sure to give it the food it needs to remain in tip-top shape. To learn more about how to get the most out of your food, check out these other slideshows we've put together for you: