CEC Blogger Shannon Herbert is back with another blog! Being in tune with the natural world and finding time to treat yourself to healthy food and time outdoors really can make a positive difference in your health!
Set a goal to walk or run our Fall Foliage 5K October 22! Visit www.copeenvironmental.org for details!
Adventures in Healthy Living: Sick No More!
Hello, loyal readers of the Cope Environmental Center blog. It’s so nice to grace your computer screens again. You’re probably not aware of this, but for the past week I have been oh-my-goodness-I-will-never-leave-bed-again sick. (Not that I’m too keen on leaving the bed anyway, but still.)
For some people, this kind of thing is a once in a while occurrence, but for me – a girl with an immune system comparable to John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble – this happens all the time. To me, every sniffling friend is a sign of a full blown cold coming my way.
I used to think that this was just my misfortune. Immune systems, I assumed, were luck of the draw. Some people have good ones, and others don’t. Imagine my surprise when the good people of Earlham College Health Services told me how wrong I was.
As it turns out, your immune system is something you can control to a certain degree with your habits. Knowing what I do about my own habits, my poor immune system is starting to make sense. So, in order to cast off this useless immune system in favor of an effective one, I researched the dos and don’ts of staying healthy.
The following is a list of tips for boosting your immune system and living a healthier life:
1. Eat a proper diet. Avoid foods high in sugar and saturated fat.
a. Yes, big surprise, the tips for improving your health include altering your diet. I know it’s hard (for me, at least), but consuming even 75 grams of sugar (approximately two cans of pop) can limit your white blood cells’ ability to destroy bacteria. The same is true for diets high in saturated fats, which are found in meat and dairy products.
As someone whose diet consists of “whatever’s there” with a side order “oh, that looks delicious,” this is not my favorite of these tips. However, I know that eating more natural food will ultimately be better for me, so it’s something that I’m going to try.
2. Exercise, but do it properly.
a. Research shows that exercising as little as 35-45 minutes 4-5 times a week can improve your ability to fight infections. Regular exercise also leads to better sleep quality, which is important because the immune system is most active when you are asleep.
However, exercising too much can be just as harmful as not exercising as all. You run the risk of increasing stress hormones and decreasing the effectiveness of the body processes that fight infections. So, be sure to get out and be active, but take the time to relax as well.
3. Rest, relax, and sleep like the dead.
a. Let me just say that, as a college student, I hardly ever sleep. A study done by the University of Chicago showed that people who sleep 4 hours a night (my average, sadly) have a high level of stress hormones that weaken the immune system. When given the flu vaccine, these test subjects produced only half the amount of antibodies as normal, well-rested people.
In addition to getting an adequate night’s sleep, be sure to spend time relaxing with friends or family. Oddly enough, research has found that people who feel connected to others are more resistant to infections than those who are lonely. Take this as a cue to treat yourself to some time with those close to you. It’s not a luxury; it’s for your health.
The moral of the story? All that advice you’ve ever heard about taking care of yourself is for the better. Not only do healthy habits give you a lot of energy, they keep you from relying upon the Nyquil Fairy as often as I do. As for me, although I do love seeing the nice women at Earlham College Health Services, I’m going to do everything in my power to avoid visiting them for a long time.