Getting sick, even with a pesky viral illness like a cold, is not only uncomfortable but inconvenient. It affects your sense of wellness, it makes it difficult to accomplish even the most mundane everyday tasks and it can keep you in bed all day. Take measures to protect yourself from colds, flu and other infections. This article will show you a few things you can do that could help you to prevent getting sick.
How to Prevent Getting Sick
1. Eat Green, Leafy Vegetables
The old adage is right: Prevention is better than cure. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from illnesses is to boost your immune system. Start by eating green, leafy vegetables. Studies show that consumption of these types of vegetables may improve fatty acid profiles (1). Fatty acids may positively modify your immune responses and help strengthen it, and a strong immune system means a stronger protection against germs and infection (2,3). Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, parsley, mint and kale are also packed full of micronutrients such as vitamin C which may have an immune-boosting effect.
2. Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D provides many health benefits. For instance, it helps your body absorb calcium for stronger bones, it can improve mood (4) and it may help boost your immune system, too (5). Protect your body from sickness by spending enough time outdoors, staying active and by letting your body absorb some of the essential sunshine vitamin. You can also get vitamin D from foods and a quality supplement. Excellent sources of vitamin D are fatty fish like tuna and salmon, cheese, and egg yolks. Vitamin D is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency in the world. It’s estimated that over 40% of adults in the US and Europe are deficient. If you’re concerned you might not be getting enough vitamin D, it’s always a wise idea to talk to your doctor who can do a quick and easy blood test.
3. Get Adequate Sleep
Getting adequate sleep seems easy enough, but according to RAND Europe, a lack of sleep in the UK is costing Britain £40 billion a year. It’s not much better across the pond. The American Sleep Association says that about 50 to 70 million US adults suffer from a sleep disorder and are not getting enough (6). Lack of sleep can be bad for your body. It may weaken your body’s immune system and make you more susceptible to bacteria and infection (7). The lack of sleep may be an effect of today’s fast-paced culture, where technology and the internet provide us with many opportunities to stay up for longer hours — like spending too much time catching up on shows on the internet or using our smartphone to check on various social media accounts right before bedtime. Moreover, blue light from gadgets and artificial lighting fixtures can disrupt sleep and affect mood (8). For better sleep, try to avoid using your smartphone before going to bed, reduce your caffeine intake and try to keep the same sleep schedule every day.
4. Minimize Stress
Stress can sometimes be good for you. This is sometimes referred to as hormesis. Short-term stress, which we evolved to deal with through the fight or flight response, for instance, can help enhance your body’s immune responses. However, chronic stress or getting emotionally pressured for long periods of time is harmful to your health. Chronic stress can cause anxiety, depression, digestive problems and sleep problems. All of these can suppress your body’s protective immune responses, making you more vulnerable to various illnesses (9,10).
5. Practice Proper Hygiene
Avoiding germs is one of the keys to staying healthy, which is why it’s vital to practice proper hygiene to prevent getting sick. In fact, in one study, researchers put a sample virus on surfaces like doorknobs and tabletops and found that within two to four hours, 40-60% of the people in the facility had not only picked up the virus but spread it around. Keep your body and your surroundings clean to reduce contact with viruses and bacteria that may cause you to get sick. Remember to:
- Wash your hands properly and frequently — before and after eating and using the bathroom.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you’re coughing or sneezing, preferably with your elbow, and always wash your hands or sanitize afterward.
- Disinfect your belongings — like cell phones, keyboards and doorknobs — regularly.
6. Drink Green Tea
The benefits of green tea can be traced back to ancient times, and further studies continue to present research suggesting that the consumption of this beverage can improve health and prevent illnesses. Green tea contains high levels of antioxidants, which protect the body against free radicals. It also has a lot of anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce the risk of various health problems and diseases (11,12). Additionally, green tea tastes delicious, and it can be an excellent alternative to your morning coffee.
7. Stay Hydrated by Drinking Plenty of Water
Green tea is great — so is plain old water. Water is in lymph, which is part of your immune system. Your immune system needs to be functioning properly in order to help you fight off illness. When you walk around in a state of dehydration, you put yourself in a vulnerable position to get sick. Drinking water is a simple way to prevent getting sick.
- “Diets containing traditional and novel green leafy vegetables improve liver fatty acid profiles of spontaneously hypertensive rats”, Johnson, M., et al., (2013).
- “Fatty acids and the immune system: from basic science to clinical applications”, Yagoob, P., (2004).
- “Fatty acids as modulators of the immune response”, Fritsche, K., (2006).
- “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches”, Melrose, S., (2015).
- “Vitamin D and the immune system”, Aranow, C., (2011).
- “Sleep and immune function”, Ganz, FD., (2012).
- “Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits”, Bedrosian, TA., et al., (2017).
- “Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful”, Dhabhar, FS., (2014).
- “Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review”, Chacko, SM., et al., (2010).
- “Health-promoting effects of green tea”, Suzuki, Y., et al., (2012).