While COVID-19 continues to spread, cold and flu season is coming soon too, which could spell disaster for people with compromised immune systems. The elderly, pregnant women and those who already have an existing medical condition are at the highest risk for not only COVID-19, but colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and more.
Some people manage to get through the winter with barely a sniff, but the average adult suffers from three colds a year. You might think you are healthy but your immune system may not be as optimal as you think. We all know that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure so here are six ways you might be dragging your immune system down.
1. You focus on the negative
It might sound far-fetched but having a good outlook on life is actually good for your health. A study done on law students showed that their immune systems mirrored how they felt about school. When they felt positive and did well, their immune system was better equipped to handle illnesses. When they were worried about school and felt negative about it, their immune system slowed. Look on the bright side and your immune system will too.
2. You drink your vitamins
Taking a daily multi-vitamin is a good idea to stay healthy if you know you don’t eat right, but your immune system is likely to be healthier if you get those vitamins and minerals from a more natural source – fruit and vegetables. Loading up on vitamins and supplements is also not a good idea. This has not been proven to help the immune system; on the contrary it could make you sicker. Too much Vitamin C and zinc can cause stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea.
The same goes for children. It is better to get their vitamins from food than from a pill. Although children’s vitamins can be bought off the shelf and taste like sweets, remember that they are still drugs. They can be toxic when take excessively.
3. You don’t drink enough
Fluids, that is. There is a reason doctors push fluids on you when you’re sick. Your body needs plenty of fluids to flush out toxins and fight the flu. Tea, coffee and juices are acceptable sources but watch the calories. Water is by far the best thing for you when you’re sick, and when you’re not. How much you should drink per day varies from person to person, but you know you’re drinking the right amount if your urine is a pale yellow.
4. Stress! Stress! Stress!
Are you seriously stressed? It’s not a coincidence that people tend to catch a cold after a big work deadline. A report by the American Psychological Association says that long term stress weakens the responses of your immune system. Furthermore, if you become stressed while you have the flu, your symptoms can get worse. Try to find better ways to manage your workload, or at least try to leave work at the office. A weekend away or a night without the kids can do a world of good, or have a spa day and massage those worries away. Indulge yourself – it’s for your health!
5. You can’t control that sweet tooth
Eating too much sugar isn’t only bad for your hips, it gives your immune system a knock too. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that consuming 100g of sugar (roughly 3 cans of Coke) significantly stalled the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria for up to 5 hours afterward. If you can’t control your craving, try eating fruit for the sweetness. Dark chocolate is another healthier alternative if you have to have the chocolate.
6. You’re a night owl
There is a strong link between getting enough sleep and having a healthy immune system. Not just any sleep will do though. Restorative sleep is the key, this means enough sleep to get the body back into fighting shape. When you get less sleep than what you need, you build up sleep debt, and sleeping late on weekends or having an afternoon nap does not make that up. Sleep needs vary person to person but the average adult needs 7-8 hours a night. Teens need 9-10 hours, children need at least 10 hours and preschoolers need a minimum of 11-12 hours. Getting to bed at a time when you know you can sleep at least 7 hours will go a long way to keeping colds and flu at bay.