The right foods can prevent you from getting sick and help you recover quicker if you do fall ill. Here’s how to build a strong immune system and help your body fight off the bad guys.
You got sneezed on in the subway. Coughed on in the coffee shop. Your colleagues keep coming to work when they should be calling in sick. And your kids are bringing home illnesses you never even heard of. How the heck are you supposed to stay healthy?
It might seem like seasonal illness is out of your control. And, yeah, sometimes, sick happens. But you have more power than you think.
Your immune system is an incredible thing. The bacteria in your gut is actually a powerful army willing to fight on your behalf, but only if you feed them properly. And if you do get sick, certain foods can help you recover quicker. What you eat today can determine whether or not you get sick tomorrow.
Here’s how to build a strong immune system and help your body fight off the bad guys.
The immune system is your best line of defense.
OK, gang, it’s time to layer on the armor and bolster our defenses. (And I’m not just talking about scarves and winter coats, though those are probably good to have around too.) To stay healthy, energetic and sick-day-free, we have to strengthen our immune systems.
Here’s how the immune system works: Our body’s battle for immunity begins in the mouth. Bet you didn’t know that your saliva contains powerful antimicrobials like lysozyme, alpha-amylase and lactoferrin.
Any germs that sneak past those will confront our stomach’s hydrochloric acid.
Then, should they survive, they’ll go up against the proteins and chemical compounds in our digestive system that break down bad bacteria.
Finally, our own personal good bacterial population goes to work. They prevent bad bacteria from entering our bloodstream or taking root in our small intestine and colon. Those good bacteria are called probiotics. Think of them as an army against illness.
Feed your bacteria army.
The GI tract comprises over 70 percent of the immune system. That’s home to our good gut bacteria, which fight off a whole lot of yucky stuff.
If you want those bacteria to work for you, you’ve got to feed ’em. They love to chow down on nutrient-dense, fiber-rich whole foods. But processed foods, fats and sugars? Not so much. That’s why a balanced whole-foods diet is your best insurance against all kinds of viruses and infections.
In other words, if your diet is lousy, you’ll get sick more often and stay sick for longer. Eating poorly while you’re sick will only make you sicker. Good nutrition, on the other hand, enables your body to deliver a swift roundhouse kick straight to those germy invaders.
Prebiotics and probiotics.
Want a ready-to-roll squadron of healthy bacteria? Here’s how to keep the soldiers well fed.
Prebiotics (aka bacteria food) help nourish our good microbial friends. Essentially, prebiotics are a form of semi-digestible fiber. You should get at least two to three servings of prebiotic-rich foods each day (more if you’re unhealthy and need extra support from your gut flora).
Some of the best whole-food sources of prebiotics are:
* Vegetables: asparagus, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and onions
* Carbs: barley, beans, oats, quinoa, rye, wheat, potatoes and yams
* Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, citrus fruits, kiwifruit
* Fats: flaxseed and chia seeds
You can also take a prebiotic supplement. Just remember, supplements are exactly that — an addition to the real foods you’re eating, not a replacement for them.
Meanwhile, probiotics (the bacteria themselves) help us stay healthy and recover faster once we get sick.
If you’re healthy, aim for one to two servings of probiotic-rich foods each day (more if you are trying to prevent or alleviate a medical problem).
Some of the best whole-food sources of probiotics are:
* Dairy: yogurt, cheese and kefir with live and active cultures
* Fermented vegetables: pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi
* Fermented soy: miso, tempeh
* Miscellaneous: soy sauce, wine, kombucha
You can also take a probiotic supplement to give your healthy gut bacteria an extra helping hand — just check with your doctor first. Eating lots of prebiotics and probiotics will help you fight off viruses and bacterial infections. But even the healthiest diet can’t protect you from every invader. Sometimes we just get sick.
Sedentary Lifestyle Can Abruptly Damage Your Health
Having a sedentary lifestyle can quickly damage your health as it can lead to serious issues like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Massive and prolonged lockdown protocols in the US have forced many to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. The need to limit COVID-19 transmission led a lot of citizens to spend more time sitting at home and forego daily commutes. According to experts, most Americans are now spending a daily average of six (6) hours sitting as compared to the daily average of four (4) hours prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Most citizens, even the typically active ones, are now adhering to a more sedentary lifestyle with physical activity dropping to almost one-third of pre-pandemic times. Those who used to be sedentary became even more sedentary, as well, asserts a recent research published in the Psychiatry journal.
These alarming trends stipulate, then, that the average American has a more sedentary lifestyle at present as compared to any other period in history. “We have definitely seen instances of increased sedentary behavior, especially with more people at home during lockdowns, and more unemployment,” mentions Dr Richard Yoon, orthopedics chief at Jersey City Medical Center. “Not only the physical effects but also the mental challenges posed by the pandemic have taken their toll. And I have seen that some of my patients are less active and visiting the fridge more often because of the loss of their old routines,” Yoon adds.
An increased sedentary lifestyle leads to several health issues including heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, and even death. The prevalent trends of work-from-home (WFH) arrangements and distance learning schemes further exacerbate the problem.
“It definitely takes less time for an unhealthy lifestyle to take hold than an active, healthy one. Once you get into a routine of not doing much, you can start feeling the effects right away,” Yoon points out. “Muscle breakdown can start in as little as 24 hours, and aches and pains start to creep in,” he stresses.
Furthermore, sitting all day can even lead to an increased experience of back pain which, then, encourages people to perpetuate a more sedentary lifestyle. People who do not feel well tend to decrease their physical activities and the tempting idea of staying immobile takes hold.
“Sedentary behavior and lifestyle have a very strong link to the development of back pain,” asserts Dr Medhat Mikhael, a pain management specialist at the Spine Center of the MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center. “Weight gain that puts a load on the spine and weakened abdominal and back muscles together with weakened ligaments would lead to further load on the spine,” he continues. “All of these effects and changes would create a vicious circle of back pain and further physiological and mechanical deterioration of the spine.”
The vicious cycle that results from adopting a sedentary lifestyle gets further supported by the gradual appearance of different health issues as more and more Americans follow the lockdown protocols mandated to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, there is a need to exert some effort, even when remaining at home, so that this sedentary lifestyle does not take hold—and encourage the onset of several physical and mental issues.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle During the Holidays
It is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This becomes particularly difficult during the Christmas holidays when food becomes overflowing and simultaneous celebrations sway you toward overindulging your palate.
Experts stress that it is important to focus on having a healthy lifestyle during the upcoming holiday season. Harvard’s Medical School fellow, Dr Beth Frates, provides us with several tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the year-end celebrations.
Dr Frates mentions the necessity of maintaining your workout routine. She points out that people tend to forget their exercise routines during stressful situations. To halt such drastic decisions, however, she recommends integrating a new activity. People get easily stimulated when they are presented with new activities. She adds that it is also helpful to request for exercise-related gifts or even opt for holiday celebrations that allow you active participation. Playing a simple game with the family, for example, can provide you with the opportunity to physically exert yourself.
It helps to maintain your habits, as well. Dr Frates stresses the need to track your routine. A healthy lifestyle cannot be easily attainable without the conscious effort to control what you do. Hence, recording what you eat and drink during every meal is beneficial. Keeping a record of your daily exercise routine is essential, as well. She says that your logbook permits you to measure your efforts and also allows you to approximate the level of indulgence you can appropriate for yourself during the holidays.
Dr Frates also shares that it is crucial to have a proper mindset. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle cannot be done without changing your point of view. A positive outlook in life is essential. Thus, it is best to throw away all the negative thoughts and pursue only the good vibes that typically accompany the holiday celebrations. Spending time with your family and loved ones can provide you with this, as well.
Food, she says, is an integral part of the upcoming celebrations. However, we should not forget that Christmas and New Year are both centered on new beginnings, as well. Hence, focusing on beneficial modifications and resolutions should be looked into. Banishing undesirable habits, addictions, and even people can greatly help shape—and maintain—a healthy lifestyle. Infusing yourself with good thoughts and plans can further contribute, as well. Allow yourself to discover new things, as well. Find loved ones to do outdoor activities with.
Finally, Dr Frates points out that overindulging yourself during this holiday season can still be a possibility. However, you shouldn’t limit yourself to your maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Allow yourself to enjoy. The Christmas season is a time of celebration which specifically allows you to relax and be with your loved ones. It is the moment when you get to let your hair down and simply be yourself. She stresses that slipping up on your exercise routine, for instance, shouldn’t be a cause for worry. You can always start again, she adds.
Rapid Weight Loss and Healthy Living to Prevent Diabetes
A new international study asserts that the best way to prevent diabetes is through maintaining healthy eating, doing regular physical activity, and promoting fast weight loss. Stopping the deadly and prevalent occurrence of diabetes is a major issue all across the world. While numerous lifestyle transitions proclaim a successful prevention of type 2 diabetes, new research stresses the significance of maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle.
To highlight the importance of observing World Diabetes Day, the PREVIEW (PREVention of diabetes through lifestyle Intervention and population studies in Europe and around the World) project points out its recent findings. The study did a comparison between a high-protein-and-low-sugar diet and a moderate-protein-and-moderate-sugar diet in relation to the maintenance of weight and the prevention of diabetes. Combining these two diets with either high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercise was also looked into.
Jennie Brand-Miller, Co-author and Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, explains that the study provided significant results in connection to the lifestyle modifications that can possibly help people who have the predisposition to develop type 2 diabetes. She points out that there is, indeed, a better way to prevent diabetes.
“Overwhelmingly, participants who lost eight percent or more of their body weight in eight weeks and went on to complete the trial, did not develop diabetes within three years despite regaining some weight,” Brand-Miller stresses.
To prevent diabetes, the research was conducted in a span of three years in several countries simultaneously: Australia, Denmark, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, the UK, and New Zealand. The participants went through an eight-week weight reduction stage followed by a three-year weight preservation stage.
To achieve the required eight percent weight loss, the 2,326 participants, who were aged 25-70, had to follow several meal replacements. At the end of the said study, about 97% of the participants were able to maintain satisfactory weight loss. They were also able to prevent diabetes development.
“The most important finding in PREVIEW was the low incidence of diabetes in all groups at the end of the study,” Brand-Miller points out as she reiterates the necessity of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent diabetes especially among those who are predisposed with the condition.
She highlights that there was no significant difference observed between the two diet categories or even between the two exercise intensity categories. Brand-Miller, however, notes that fewer participants who belonged in the high-protein diet category had normal sugar levels. In addition, she mentions that further research may provide better insight into the role of weight loss in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Nevertheless, the PREVIEW study provides crucial findings to help prevent diabetes occurrence as the prevalence of this disease is proving to be extensively worrisome. “We believe this approach has been more successful in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes than any previous diabetes prevention study and represents a significant clinical advance in the treatment of pre-diabetes,” she adds.
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