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How Not To Get Sick

It's that time of year again. Say hello to flu season. Or if you're smart, you'll take steps to prevent getting sick instead of waiting til you get that scratchy feeling in the back of your throat that signals the beginning of a cold, or because it's flu season, a headache or the chills. The right strategy is taking preventative measures to improve overall health on a day-to-day basis. If you build a strong foundation, you're less likely to experience a disruption.

Prevention Tip #1: Getting Adequate Sleep

You might have heard that sleep plays a critical role in everything from slowing the aging process, recovery, productivity, mood, to improve your memory. Its biggest value might be in keeping you healthy, though.  The importance of sleep cannot be emphasized enough by numerous sources. One of those who realized how essential sleep is to health is Arianna Huffington, who wrote a book extolling the benefits and dangers of lack of sleep which she realized after collapsing with exhaustion from overworking herself.

Research from Finland found that just one night of sleeping less than 4 hours is enough to alter your genes, trigger an immune response, and cause you to be more susceptible to illness and increase inflammation. That's because your lack of rest disrupts the immune cells that protect your from viruses. 

Solution: Don't sleep with electronics in your bedroom. They can distract you and rob you of sleep. Relax before bed. Don't check email or watch TV. Read a good book or take a bath to mentally prepare for sleep. Keep the bed pet-free because they may keep you from sleeping well. Have a warm herbal or caffeine-free tea before going to bed. Don't work out just before bed. Exercise can you sleep but work out earlier in the day for a good night's rest. If you've got a lot on your mind, write about it in a journal to unwind.

Opt for light snacks like popcorn or or yogurt rather than heavy carbs before sleep. Don't eat spicy foods, chocolate, alcohol or sugar. Spicy foods can cause heartburn or indigestion. Chocolate can contain caffeine that may keep you awake. Alcohol may relax you, but it prevents you from sleeping well and prompt frequent trips to the bathroom. And sugar may cause you to wake up craving more once it leaves your system. 

Prevention Tip #2: Exercise

Going to the gym has more benefits than just aesthetics. Resistance exercise might be the best way to bolster your immune defense while you build more muscle. 

Researchers from Appalachian State found that people who exercise 5 or more days per week have nearly 50 percent fewer sick days than those that train only 1 time or less.

 To put it simply, exercise impacts blood flow, which also triggers an immune response that sends your internal defense system to combat pathogens that want to take you down and leave you confined to your bed.

Solution: Time limitations always make it difficult to exercise more than a few days per week, but “immune defense” workouts can be brief. British researchers found that just 25 minutes of weight training is enough to prompt your immune defense system into high gear and aid with sickness prevention. Far from a gym? No worries. Korean scientists also found that moderate exercise—like a brisk walk—can have a similar impact and reduce the likelihood of illness.

Prevention Tip #3: Diet and Supplements

There are many benefits to taking vitamin C, as well as vitamin D, B-complex vitamins, probiotics, and fish oil on a daily basis. Remember, prevention is the name of the game to better health, and these  supplements provide your body with what it needs to battle sickness.

Vitamin C is part of growth development and repair of your body’s tissues. This means it helps with everything from the formation of collagen, healing wounds, to protecting your immune system. It also helps fight against free radicals, which are linked to every illness or health condition imaginable.

It is a water-soluble vitamin so when sick, it is recommended to consume vitamin C every 2 hours because it gets flushed out whenever we pee. Ascorbic acid is typically used in most commercial supplements which can be harder on the stomach. Look for a supplement that contains mineral ascorbates that provide higher levels of vitamin C in the blood than from equal amounts of ascorbic acid. 

Inadequate zinc status is also known to impair cellular immunity by impairing phagocytosis and natural killer cell activity. Both vitamin C and zinc play critical roles in immune function and the healthy resistance to infectious agents, reducing the risk, severity, and duration of infectious diseases. 

Vitamin D helps protect against upper respiratory infections. In fact, Canadian researchers found that people who take minimum 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per week (so just about 1500 IUs per day) can decrease their likelihood of illness by 50 percent.

Probiotics are connected to gut health, and the more we study the microbiome, the more we learn it might play an important role in nearly all functioning in your body. In particular, Italian scientists found that a particular probiotic strand (Lactobacillus plantarum) can slow bacterial growth and prevent inflammation. And we now know that at least 70% of the body's immune cells is housed in the gut.

Research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that New Zealand athletes had about 40% fewer colds and gastrointestinal infections when they took a probiotic compared to when they took a placebo.

Cultured foods such as yogurt, kimchi, miso, kefir or kombucha can help promote healthy gut flora. However, you can't be sure you're getting enough so supplementing is a great idea.

Some studies have suggested that probiotics that use multiple species have been shown to be more effective than those with only one strain. These two strains (Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® and Bifidobacterium BB-12)  have been well documented to completely endure the journey as they travel through the harsh acids in the stomach en-route to the intestines.

And fish oil—while commonly taken for heart health and increased longevity—is showing promise in animal studies for immune protection by boosting activity of your white blood cells, according to researchers from Michigan State and East Carolina. 

When choosing a fish oil supplement, make sure that it's filtered using the double molecular distillation process, otherwise it can contain PCBs, heavy metals, mercury and other toxins. Over a prolonged period of consumption, it could cause dementia or Alzheimer's.

Solution: Eat fruits and vegetables, fish or plant-based sources of omega 3’s, and take a probiotic and you’re good to go. 

Remember to get enough sleep, exercise, stay hydrated, keep stress to a minimum and eat well!