Getting sick for some people is an annual thing, and for others it is much more frequent, yet some people almost never fall ill. Most people contribute illness to the weather, or “there’s a bug going around”. The more likely situation is that there is a lack of sleep and nutrition and a lot of stress going around.
We are exposed to bacteria and viruses everyday. While we may think that life is much cleaner than it was 1000 years ago, our indoor lifestyle has become a petri dish for bugs of all types to grow and replicate. Public areas no matter how well maintained, provide lots of exposure. So why do people seem to get sick at the same time?
When your body is healthy, your immune system is constantly fighting off everything you come in contact with. Getting exposed to something like a flu virus at these times often results in nothing more than maybe a little less energy for a day or two. In a work place usually a time of stress is on the entire staff, not just an individual. With heightened stress and extended hours comes less sleep and a weakened immune system. One person with a weak immune system becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. With everyone else’s defenses down as well, spreading the sickness becomes very easy for the bugs.
There are two ways you can approach these situations. You can be reactive and depend on drugs to pick up when your immune system fails to keep you well, or you can be proactive and fight the stress and fatigue with good food and good sleep to keep your immune system up to par.
If you don’t like feeling miserable, I’m guessing proactive sounds better. So how do you accomplish this?
You have to start with the basics, eating a clean diet high in quality protein, whole food fruits and vegetables, that is also low in sugar, inflammatory fats, processed wheat, corn, and soy products. You can improve on this by supplementing with a quality multi-vitamin, zinc, probiotics and vitamin D3.
- A good multi will provide you with the cofactors to support energy production. The immune system needs a lot of protein and energy to run well. This is why it suffers when your diet and sleep do.
- Zinc and selenium are the main minerals of the immune system. Almost everyone needs more zinc in their diet so supplementing with a zinc chelate is a good idea for optimal immune function among many other benefits.
- Probiotics help set up your first line of defense and keep your immune systems guard up. These beneficial bacteria and yeast actually compete with and kill harmful bugs. These become even more important if you take anti-biotics or NSAID and other pain killers that disrupt your natural biota.
- Vitamin D3 helps modulate immune function throughout the body, and in layman’s terms helps it target the bad bugs and leave the good stuff.
Now that you have the basics, the next step is to see trouble coming. When times of extra stress approach, you need to be proactive about increasing your nutrition and maintaining sleep quality. Often times stress and the causes of said stress lead to missed meals, late nights, and consumption of lower quality convenience foods. Stock up on super foods like berries and teas to keep you going in a pinch. Adding in some high quality whey protein shakes during the day to keep up protein intake. Whey protein is especially good at increasing immune function.
You have to make time for sleep, and take measures to keep sleep quality. A busy and stressed out mind does not always come down easy. Eating foods high in omega 9′s like avocado may do the trick. Supplementing with theanine, calming herbs, or teas can also help. It’s usually beneficial to add magnesium and inositol at night if you have trouble with sleep quality as these compounds also help combat stress as well. Here are some more things that can improve sleep very easy.
- Don’t watch TV before bed, read instead with dim lighting to calm the mind.
- Don’t eat small daytime meals and large dinners, this will result in disrupted sleep.
- Stop caffeine consumption no later than 4PM
- Avoid strenuous exercise within 4 hours of going to bed
- Stretch in the evening to lower cortisol
- Quality carbohydrates with your meals later in the day can help lower cortisol
- Listen to calming music or nature sounds with dinner
- Stay on a consistent sleep and wake schedule
We can’t always avoid stressful situations or events in our life, but we can be proactive in how we deal with stress when it does come into our lives. The more drugs we take, the harder it is for our body to recover, and the greater burden each illness takes on us. These should be the last line of defense against illness. Fighting stress with rest and nutrition is the way to come out ahead in the end and avoid those sick days.