Germs are organisms that make us sick. They are present everywhere, in the air we breathe, in the food we eat, and on the objects we touch. Even our body harbors around one hundred trillion bacteria belonging to 500 different species!
But everyone isn’t getting sick. Why is it that only some people get sick whereas others do not?
Getting sick is dependent on the strength of your immune system. If you have a strong immune system that is able to fight the disease causing pathogens, then chances are that you will not get sick at all. However, if your immune system is weak and is not able to ward off the disease causing microbes, you can get all sorts of infectious illnesses that manifest as inflammation, fever, cold, cough, vomiting, diarrhea etc. Hence, the key to not getting sick lies in strengthening your immune system. But how do you achieve that? Let us discuss some of the things that you should know to avoid getting sick.
Get Regular Exercise: Exercise plays a very important role in boosting your immune system. A person who leads a sedentary life has a weakened immune system and is at the risk of getting sick. Your immunity increases by getting just 20 minutes of exercise three days in a week. You reduce your risk of getting a cold by walking briskly for half an hour five days a week. How does this happen? When you are doing regular physical activity, your blood level of leukocytes is increased. Leukocytes are a type of white blood cells that engulf the disease causing microbes invading the body. Endorphins are also released when you exercise regularly. Endorphins are natural hormones that help improve the quality of your sleep and promote a general sense of well being. Both of these factors strengthen your immune system.
Eat a Diet Rich In Antioxidants And Immune-Boosting Foods: Free radicals are molecules or compounds that are produced by your body. These compounds are capable of damaging cells of the body. Antioxidants are substances, found in diet, that neutralize these damaging free radicals and prevent cell damage. According to health researchers, when the balance between free radicals and antioxidants is disrupted, the risk of developing life threatening illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, along with illnesses related to aging is increased. Hence, to prevent sickness you should include such foods in your diet that are rich in antioxidants. The major antioxidants that you should eat more are vitamin C and E, zinc and beta-carotene. You can get an ample amount of these antioxidants by eating lots of brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables. Some such foods are apples, kiwis, berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, bell peppers, red grapes and onion.
Fresh garlic also acts as an immune booster and has properties to fight viral and bacterial illnesses. Similarly chicken soup is also believed to boost immunity and is often given as a remedy for common cold and flu.
Get Adequate Amounts Of Sleep: Getting adequate amount of sleep also boosts your immune system. Sleep is the time when all the repair of body cells and tissues happens. Inadequate sleep does not give body enough time to recover from everyday cellular damage and wear and tear. The body gets fatigued and becomes susceptible to getting sick. To prove this fact a laboratory experiment was conducted at the University of Chicago, where students were asked to sleep for only four hours every night for six nights consecutively. After six nights, all of these students were injected a flu vaccine. It was found that in response to the flu vaccine the immune systems of these students produced only fifty percent of the normal level of antibodies. The stress hormone cortisol is also produced by lack of sleep. Hence, getting at least seven to nine hours of sound sleep for an adult is essential to avoid getting sick.
Manage Stress: Stress is a normal occurrence in everyone’s life. Stress for a short duration is actually beneficial for the immune system. However, stress over a long period of time or chronic stress makes you susceptible to various types of diseases. During chronic stress, there is a constant production of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, both of which lowers immunity levels. To manage chronic stress and boost your immune system, you should practice relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga. According to some studies, regular meditation is associated with an increased immune system response.
Maintain A Strong Social Network: People who have strong social network and relationships tend to be healthier than people who are socially isolated. According to studies, people who are lonely have a weaker immune response to disease causing organisms. Moreover, the changes in the immune system are made at the cellular level. Hence, to remain healthy and avoid getting sick, stay connected with your friends and relatives.
Maintain your gut health: Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. The ratio between good and bad bacteria (85:15) is very important in maintaining a strong systemic immunity. Moreover, approximately 80% of the immune system cells are present in the digestive tract. Hence, maintaining gut health cannot be overstressed. There are many factors such as consuming antibiotics that disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria leading to a variety of illnesses. Some of these illnesses include inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut, lactose intolerance, H. pylori infection, autism, acne, genital tract infections in females, skin infections etc. Taking probiotic supplements help to replenish the good bacteria in your gut, thereby, maintaining the ratio of good to bad bacteria. This helps strengthens your immunity and prevents illness.
Laugh Out Loud: Laughing is actually good for maintaining good health by strengthening the immune system. Laughing is associated with a reduction in the level of stress hormones and an elevation in the level of endorphins and growth hormones, both of which strengthen your immune system. It also increases the level of a type of white blood cells that help in fighting infection. Hence, if you want to avoid sickness, be happy and laugh away your stress and tensions.
Photo Credit – Erix @ Creative Commons – http://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/