In the fall and winter seasons, it can be hard to get through each month without getting a cough, sniffle, or sneeze, but there are ways to decrease our chances of such sickness. The food that we put into our bodies is our body's primary source of fuel to accomplish the things we do physically and the things our body is doing internally to keep us breathing, digesting, and to keep our heart beating, among other things. When we provide our bodies with foods that are chock full of nutrients like lean protein, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, our bodies gain the ability to efficiently digest food, deliver nutrients and oxygen to cells, and to filter out toxins from our body. When we eat food and drink beverages that contain high amounts of sugar and fat, these processes are slowed down due to the body's need to process the extra sugar and fat in such foods.
Over time, consuming such high amounts of sugar and fat on a regular basis can wear down our bodily processes such as the body's distribution of glucose to cells for energy, and can in turn increase our risk of diabetes. However, in the short-term, not eating enough nutritious foods can cause our bodies to be low in certain vitamins such as vitamin C, and minerals, such as iron, that can ultimately weaken our body's defense system and make us more likely to catch colds and other viruses. Other risk factors for getting sick more often include not getting enough sleep and stress.
To prevent your chances of getting sick this cold and flu season, be sure to balance out both your life and your eating.
- Eat foods from each food group every day: Each day, consume lean proteins such as meat, fish, seafood, beans, nuts, and seeds, plenty of fruits and vegetables, 2 to 3 servings a day of calcium-rich dairy and dairy products such as milk (cow, soy, rice, or almond), cheese, and yogurt, and at least 3 servings of fiber-rich foods such as oatmeal, beans, or whole grain breads, pasta, and rice.
- Get plenty of sleep each night: It is important to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night so our bodies can go through the natural internal processes of our body at rest. Without proper sleep, our blood pressure doesn't get a chance to take a rest, some hormones that are important in growth and reproduction don't get released efficiently, and our digestive system doesn't get to slow down. Just like when you go for a long run without taking a break, our body gets worn out if we work it too hard without rest. When you are worn out, you likely don't perform other tasks such as working or cleaning as well, and neither does your body. If it is worn out from working hard to keep your body awake, it will be too worn out to fight the viruses or infections that may enter your body.
- Limit stress and find ways to relax: All of us experience stress on a daily basis in some form or another whether it be a high-pressure job, getting stuck in traffic, dealing with a negative person at work or home, or dealing with financial stresses. The key to staying balanced in our everyday lives is to choose our battles and not get stressed over those things which we have no control over. If we get stuck in a traffic jam, no need to get red in the face about it. There is no angry word, action, or feeling that is going to make the traffic go away, so we might as well deal with it. If someone at work or home is in a bad mood, don't let it get you down and out. Simply treat that person as nicely as possible and keep in mind that like us, they may have something stressful on their minds that is making them act negatively. Whether we have a stressful day or not, it is important to find time to relax each day. Whether it is listening to the radio for 15 minutes while we eat lunch, reading a book or magazine before we go to bed, or going for a relaxing walk around the neighborhood after dinner, it is important to have down time each day to help relax your mind and body.