We all want to protect ourselves from illness and may often wonder how to prevent getting sick. But it seems especially important now with all the chaos surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic (x). COVID-19 is a disease that develops as a result of a coronavirus, specifically a strain that researchers have never observed in humans before now. The disease causes respiratory symptoms ranging from mild to severe and can even be life-threatening. As of Tuesday, March 24, 2020 research reports more than 400,000 cases worldwide (x).
Unfortunately, with all the changing variants, there is a lot that experts don’t know about COVID-19, but researchers are continuously investigating. In the meantime it’s important now more than ever to make sure you know how to prevent getting sick, as well as others.
7 Habits to Prevent Getting Sick
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to protect yourself from illness is to take advantage of available vaccines such as the flu vaccine, as well as other antiviral treatment and prevention methods (x). However, the CDC recommends the following habits to avoid spreading germs and prevent sickness (x):
- Avoid close contact with other people who are sick to avoid contracting viruses.
- Stay home when you’re sick to avoid spreading disease to other people.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes that can spread viruses for a variety of respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
- Keep your hands clean by washing them thoroughly and often, especially before eating and after using the restroom or touching an object or surface that other people may touch regularly.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects in your home, at work and at school to avoid spreading germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Touching your face after you’ve touched an object or surface can spread germs and allow them into your body.
How to Support the Immune System Naturally
The immune system’s job is to protect our bodies from disease and infection. The system recognizes foreign substances in the body that may cause damage and differentiates between healthy and unhealthy cells (x). Typically it does a remarkably effective job and that’s what keeps us healthy. But of course there are instances where a virus or bacteria manages to slip through the cracks and makes us sick.
So what can we do to keep the immune system strong and prevent illness? The truth is there is no simple answer. Immunity is a very complex system that functions based on a variety of different factors and requires balance in order to work efficiently (x). But research also acknowledges that there may be a connection between immune system function and different lifestyle factors that may prevent getting sick such as:
- Diet & nutrition
Exercise & Immunity
Studies investigate the connection between physical activity and immunity. Research claims that exercise may help maintain T-cells, which is a type of white blood cell that the immune system uses to protect against infections.
For example, authors David C. Nieman and Laurel M. Wentz state that “acute exercise is an immune system adjuvant that improves defense activity and metabolic health.” According to the results of the study, regular exercise appeared to improve immune regulation and reduce the risk for illness (x).
According to studies, stress may have an impact on immune system function. However, research seems to focus on chronic stress, implying that long-term stress may have more of an effect on the immune system than short-lived stressors.
Cortisol is a hormone that helps regulate bodily responses including metabolism and immune response and stress triggers cortisol release in the body. Authors Jennifer N Morey, Ian A. Boggero, April B Scott and Suzanne C Segerstrom state that “chronic” increases in cortisol can interfere with immune function. The authors note that this increase can cause resistance in the immune system, “an accumulation of stress hormones, and increased production of inflammatory cytokines that further compromise the immune response” (x).
Focus on Nutrition
The body needs nutrients for fuel to help it function properly and evidence suggests a connection between diet and immune system health. Specifically, micronutrient deficiencies may interfere with the immune response and increase the risk for disease. There are some micronutrients—called essential micronutrients—that the body can’t produce on its own, so we must get them from food.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are rare in the United States because many common foods contain key nutrients. However, it’s still important to make sure you’re getting enough micronutrients in your diet. Choosing foods that naturally support the immune system can help prevent getting sick (x). Experts in nutrition recommend a diet consisting of fruits and vegetables in as many colors as possible.
Where to Buy Supplements for Immunity
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- Echinacea Extract
- Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6)
- Astragalus Extract
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
- Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)
- Elderberry Extract
- Andrographis Extract
Protecting yourself from disease is important now more than ever. Making healthy lifestyle choices can help strengthen your immune system so that it can fight infections and other illnesses. Research acknowledges connections between immune function and several different health factors, such as exercise, stress management and nutrition.
Making these general lifestyle choices can help improve your health but you can also protect yourself by practicing other habits to prevent getting sick. You can separate yourself from other people when you’re sick and avoid close contact with other people that are sick. Covering your coughs and sneezes and washing your hands can help prevent the spread of germs. Make sure you’re practicing healthy habits to strengthen your immune system and keep yourself from getting sick.