Nature’s Flu Shot: A Healthy Eating Guide For Illness Prevention

so sick

Written by Becki Andrus

It’s that time of year… head colds, flu, and other sicknesses are starting to set in. I’m sure you are experiencing the same thing: people are sick everywhere you go! I have noticed people talking about it on Facebook, everyone coughing and sniffling at the store, and many people commenting on how their entire office is sick (and several bugs are being passed around from person to person at work).

One “solution” is to go get the flu shot. I don’t want to go into detail about the pros/cons of getting a flu shot, because there are a lot of great arguments for and against flu shots. I personally choose to not get the flu shot, because I know that my immune system is strong and can effectively fight off illness.

Another (more effective) solution to preventing illness is eating healthy. I know, this seems like too simple of a solution… but I can personally attest to the power of healthy eating in preventing disease! My husband and I RARELY get sick, and when sickness does set in, it is very VERY mild.

As a matter of fact, I don’t even get nervous about being around sick people any more, because I usually don’t catch whatever it is that they have. For example, my husband mentioned to me just awhile ago that everyone at his work just recovered from being sick– he was literally the only one in the office that hadn’t been complaining of a stuffy nose, sore throat, etc.

Why Healthy Foods Are So Powerful To Prevent Illness:

  • Strengthen The Immune System – Whole foods contain high amounts of antioxidants and other nutrients, which support a healthy body and help to strengthen the immune system. Antioxidants repair and protect cells from harm, so the body can effectively fight off disease.
  • Whole Foods Contain Fiber – The fiber in whole foods helps the body to prevent disease, because the fiber cleanses toxins out of the body. Eating plenty of fiber will keep the digestive system working properly, allowing the body to use it’s natural functions to remove waste and toxins. Plenty of fiber intake keeps the intestines clean and infection free, and a clean intestine helps the rest of your body to be healthy and well.
  • Protein Helps The Body To Repair and Grow – Eating healthy sources of protein allows the body to rapidly produce cells, which helps to fight off disease by supporting the immune system. Be sure that you are eating good sources of protein, plant based protein is more healthy than animal based protein.

Becki’s Blueprint To Preventing Illness:

1. Drink Green Smoothies

Drinking nutrition-packed green smoothies EVERY day is essential for disease prevention. I try to drink at least a quart of green smoothie daily, and it provides my body with great nutrition to keep my immune system healthy and strong. Green smoothies have high levels of ready-to-use nutrition and the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are very effective in strengthening the immune system.

In fact, the last time I got a head cold (a long time ago, I don’t even remember the date) coincided directly with a few days that I skipped my green smoothies…

At the time, life was ridiculously busy for a few days, I ran out of leafy greens and I didn’t have the time to run to the store to replenish my stock of veggies. At the same time, I slacked on my healthy eating habits and found myself indulging in a few too many treats (ie sugar filled foods and higher amounts of meat) at several social events.

Between the lack of green smoothies (and other fresh fruits and vegetables) and the increase in unhealthy foods, my immune must have weakened and I found myself in bed for several days MISERABLE with a stuffy nose, sore throat, tender sinuses, clogged ears, and everything in between.

Was it a coincidence that I got sick at the same time that I started to eat unhealthy? No! The reason I was sick was because I was slacking on my usual eating habits. My body was weak, so the illness was able to attack my body.

So, the moral of the story: drink your smoothies every day to prevent illness!

2. Eat Whole Foods

In addition to your green smoothies, make sure that you are eating plenty of whole foods every day. Eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables will provide your body with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which will help to strengthen the immune system.

Focus your eating on dark-colored fruits and vegetables, these foods contain higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients. Keep in mind that many fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, which is an antioxidant which protects the cells. Illness and disease affect the body on a cellular level, so getting the proper nutrition will help your body to fight the illness from the inside out.

Be sure that you are eating a good variety of whole foods, having a well balanced diet is the best way to give your body all of the nutrition that it needs so that it can function optimally.

3. Avoid Foods Filled With Sugar (Especially Processed Sugars)

Eating sugar is an immediate way to weaken your immune system, which in turn can cause you to be more likely to get sick. Sugar consumption causes a domino effect in the body:

  • It first causes the body to spike the insulin levels in order to digest the sugars.
  • Next, the higher blood sugar levels prevent growth hormones from being released in the body.
  • The decrease of growth hormones in turn weaken the immune system.
  • And a weakened immune system means that your body is more susceptible to coming down with an illness.

There is a direct correlation between sugar intake and a weakened immune system, so you need to say “No Thank You” to the candy bars and doughnuts if you want to keep your immune system strong.

Also, highly refined and sugar-filled foods are acidic in nature, and when you eat them it affects the pH balance of your body. When you are eating these foods and your body is more acidic, you will be more likely to get sick because the bad bacteria and viruses thrive in the acidic environment.

On the other hand, eating lots of alkaline foods (ie fruits and vegetables) will reduce the acidity of your body and help to prevent disease.

4. Avoid Meat and Dairy Products

Meat and dairy are acidic foods, and they have a similar affect as sugar. Keep your body’s pH levels balanced by avoiding a high intake of animal protein.

Additionally, dairy causes mucous formation and congestion– which can be a great place for bacteria to breed. Avoid dairy products, especially if you are coming down with a cold or you are experiencing congestion.

5. Reduce Your Stress Levels

Have you ever noticed that you tend to get sick during periods when you have a lot of stress? For example, many college students report that they often get sick at the end of finals week… their bodies were so stressed leading up to their final exams, which caused them to be more likely to catch an illness.

Multiple studies have shown that higher levels of stress weaken the immune system, and there is actually a scientific reason why: Higher levels of stress (as well as long term stress) cause the body to increase the cortisol levels, which in turn weakens the immune system.

In addition to the chemical reactions that occur within our body from stress, there are also other behavioral responses that tend to occur during times of high stress. Some people will get lax with their eating habits, stress eating causes many people to binge on higher amounts of sugary, sodium filled treats. So they intake more junk food and less healthy foods, which in turn weakens the immune system (as we have already discussed).

On the opposite side of the spectrum, other people forget to eat during times of high stress. Either they are too busy to eat, or they don’t have much of an appetite. When food consumption slows down, the body is not getting the nutrients that it needs to keep the immune system strong. Which in turn causes the weakened body to be more susceptible to disease.

6. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep enough each night will help to regulate the growth hormones, reduce stress hormones and prevent illness. Getting enough sleep each night helps the body to rest and repair, so it will be more effective against fighting disease.

Sufficient sleep also helps to reduce your feeling of stress. When you are anxious or nervous about something, a lack of sleep often exacerbates the problem.

7. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking enough water each day allows the body to flush out toxins and it keeps the major organs running efficiently. I have already written a detailed post about the health benefits of drinking enough water, you can read the post about water here.

Water assists in keeping the mucous membranes moist, and when they are moist they are more effective to fight viruses and other illnesses. Additionally, staying hydrated helps the liver and kidneys to effectively remove waste and toxins from your circulatory system.

8. Use Your Common Sense

There are several common sense steps that you can take everyday to avoid illness. For example, we all know that washing our hands on a regular basis helps to prevent disease. Make it a point to wash your hands thoroughly every day, especially when you are out in public.

Additionally, it is a good idea to try to avoid lots of contact with someone who is ill. Even though I don’t get too worried about being around sick people, I also make it a point to try to keep my distance. Illness can be passed if the person sneezes on you, shares food with your, or if you don’t wash your hands after touching them.

Following the steps listed above will help to keep your immune system strong, but avoiding disease and illness can be even more effective to prevent disease– because your body won’t need to fight the illness in the first place!

Keep in mind that no matter how hard you try, everyone will get sick at one point or another. But, maintaining a healthy lifestyle everyday helps to reduce the severity of the illness and will decrease the number of times that you get sick.

Remember that the symptoms associated with illness are the body’s way of getting rid of things that it doesn’t want (ie runny nose, throwing up, upset bowels, etc), so your body will not need to go through these processes to get rid of the illness if you can maintain a healthy lifestyle everyday and prevent the illness from starting in the first place.

Photo credits: rachel_titiriga

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