Imagine being able to get to flu season and not find yourself filled with dread. It may seem crazy to some, but often the simple sound of a cough or sneeze has many us running for the hills.
Let's face it, we don't get sick when our schedules are clear, we get sick at the worst possible moment. It's when you've got a huge pitch meeting that you've spent weeks on preparing for. It's when you have a big birthday party, or worse, a wedding.
Every second leading up to the big day you're fine, and then it takes hold. All of a sudden you’re confined to your bed. Forced to watch in envious awe as colleagues and friends with superhuman immune systems carry on without so much as a slight sniffle.
There's no need to worry of course. You'll be given the time off from work to recover. Your colleague will no doubt step in and deliver your presentation, taking all the credit for your hard work. And on your return offer sympathetic comments like “you don’t look sick”, that feel insincere and patronising at best. As if you chose to get sick on the one important day in your calendar!
It's frustrating, and 9 times out of 10 it happens that way. But just imagine if it didn't. Imagine never using your sick days and having a top-class attendance record. More importantly, imagine never having to spend days, or weeks laid up in bed, wishing the mattress would just swallow you up.
Some people actually live like that. Your super-healthy colleague for one! But what's their secret. What are your super-healthy colleagues doing differently? How do they find the time to do it? After all, maintaining a strong immune system surely requires incredible effort and a strict regime. Right?
Actually, that’s not quite true. Sure, it requires you to actually do something. But there are heaps of different ways to build your immune system and live a healthy lifestyle, with minimal effort. Here are the top 7 secrets of super-healthy people.
Get active, but pace yourself
As we all know, exercise is super-important to your health and wellbeing. But that doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym every waking minute. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, “Taking a daily walk or following a simple exercise routine a few times a week” could be enough to help boost your immune system.
But don’t overdo it. Extremely active, intense exercise - such as marathon running and intense gym training - could have a negative effect on your immune system.
Exercise is the most important thing you can do to keep your immune system healthy. It's important to know your limits, pace yourself, and remember that even a regular 20-minute walk can make all the difference.
Stay hydrated and limit your alcohol
The majority of the human body is water (researchers suggest between 45% and 70%). Drinking plenty of water helps to flush toxins, remove waste, and transport nutrients around the body. It can also help regulate body temperature, and keep your muscles energized while maintaining a balance of electrolytes and fluids.
It’s important to understand that not all fluids are equal. Although wine might have certain antioxidant benefits, there are some downsides. For example, alcohol depletes nutrients, and in high quantities can cause dehydration and damage the liver.
Dehydration is also one of the leading causes of tiredness. So limiting your alcohol intake and drinking plenty of water can help give your body the energy it needs to build a thriving immune system.
A good night’s sleep does wonders for the heart
Sleep is crucial to keeping your heart healthy. According to the Sleep Foundation, “People who don't sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.”
The cause is unclear. However, the Sleep Foundation suggests not getting enough sleep has a huge impact on glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation. It is also noted that “those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night.”
Your immune system relies heavily on a good amount of sleep. Though the exact amount varies from person to person, researchers found those who sleep less than 6 hours a night are 4 times more likely to catch colds than those who slept for 7 hours.
Vary your diet, and watch your micronutrients
There are heaps of dietary plans that are based on limiting your nutrient intake. Some promote cutting out carbohydrates, others say to reduce saturated fats, and most focus on reducing sugars.
There is no doubt these diet plans can help you lose weight. However, our bodies rely on a delicate balance of nutrients. By cutting out specific nutrients, you could be having a negative impact on your immune system.
Researchers at Harvard suggest it is also crucial to pay attention to micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E.
Daily multivitamin and mineral supplements containing macronutrients were also highlighted as a great way to get “health benefits of many types, beyond any possibly beneficial effects on the immune system.”
Pay attention to your personal hygiene
For the vast majority of us, our hands are in constant use. That means they come into contact with hundreds, if not thousands of different bacteria every single day. As such, they play host to a vast cocktail of bacteria.
To avoid scaremongering, it's worth remembering that not all bacteria are actively harmful. Some might even play a part in boosting your immune system in the long run. However, that's like playing Russian roulette on the basis that adrenaline might improve brain power. Considering the number of times we touch our mouth, nose, eyes, and ears (approximately 16 times every hour), it really isn’t worth the gamble.
Your personal hygiene is a huge contributor to your immune system. The small act of washing your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds throughout the day significantly reduces bacteria. As a result, you limit the bacteria you are introducing into your body.
Smoking gets a bad rap in the health industry, and for good reason. As we all know, smoking has been linked to the development of heart conditions, cancers and strokes, and is an all-around unhealthy habit.
According to the LIVESTRONG Foundation, one of the main reasons smoking is so bad, is it weakens the immune system, by “depressing antibodies and cells that are in the body to protect against foreign invaders.” This, in turn, increases the chances of developing malignant diseases and respiratory infections.
Smoking also significantly reduces the number of immune cells that are present in the body. But giving up smoking can reverse this, and can even cause an increase in natural killers cells that can “target cancerous cells in the body”.
Take a moment and chill
Until recently, the relationship between physical and mental health has been met with much skepticism. Now, experts are beginning to understand the close link between the mind and body. And realize how powerful that bond really is, and how much impact stress can have on our health.
Given the difficulties in measuring stress, though, research in this area is understandably young. That being said, early research shows there may be a connection between stress and a reduction in the immune system.
According to the Harvard Medical School, “Many researchers report that stressful situations can reduce various aspects of the cellular immune response. A research team from Ohio State University that has long worked in this field suggests that psychological stress affects the immune system by disrupting communication between the nervous system, the endocrine (hormonal) system, and the immune system.”
With that in mind, it's worth suggesting stress-reducing techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation, could help to boost your immune system.
Bring a little of the Super-Healthy Lifestyle to Your Everyday Life
These 7 secrets of super-healthy people are quick, easy and simple to make a part of your everyday life. Apart from smoking, the secrets aren’t vast changes to your lifestyle. You won’t have to spend hours and hours every day training at the gym, or even take up a super intense dietary regime. They are minimal changes to your everyday life that could result in a huge boost to your immune system and free you from your flu season fears.