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Dietary fiber has many health benefits, including regulating digestion, preventing constipation, and lowering the risk of a number of health conditions.
How to reduce the risk of getting sick
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Most people experience colds or the flu from time to time. However, there are some proven ways to reduce the chances of becoming infected.
Although most cold and flu infections occur during the fall and winter seasons , the viruses responsible for these illnesses are present year-round.
Fighting off a viral infection takes its toll on most people, causing them to miss days at work and valuable time with their friends and families.
In this article, we describe eight evidence-based ways to avoid getting sick, so people can maintain their health and make the most of their time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against seasonal flu infections.
The flu occurs when a person becomes infected with an influenza virus. Flu vaccines contain influenza antigens, which signal the immune system to produce antibodies. These antibodies can protect against invading flu viruses and keep people from getting sick.
There are four types of influenza virus, all of which can mutate throughout the year. These mutations can reduce the effectiveness of seasonal flu vaccines. If the vaccine is well-matched to the circulating influenza virus, it can prevent 40–60 percent of flu infections.
While flu vaccines do not guarantee total immunity, they can reduce the severity of symptoms and lower the risk of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Below are some other reasons to get a flu shot:
- The CDC estimate that flu vaccination prevented 5.3 million influenza illnesses between 2016 and 2017.
- According to a 2018 study, during 2012–2015, adults in New Zealand who had received a flu vaccination were 59 percent less likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit due to the flu, compared with individuals who were not vaccinated.
- A 2017 study found that flu vaccinations reduced the number of flu-related deaths in children aged 6 months to 17 years by 65 percent.
Viruses can survive on many different types of surface, including:
How long a virus can remain infectious on these surfaces depends on a variety of factors, such as the temperature and humidity. However, a 2016 study suggests that influenza viruses can survive outside the body for extended periods, possibly even months.
People can lower their risk of infection by using products that contain alcohol or bleach to disinfect frequently used objects, such as countertops, desks, and keyboards.
When using disinfectants and cleaning products, it is essential to read the labels and follow the instructions carefully to ensure that surfaces are properly disinfected.
Common colds and the flu are types of respiratory infection. The viruses that cause these illnesses replicate in the mucus membranes that line the respiratory tract, and they can travel through the air in tiny droplets of mucus.
This means that people with a cold or the flu can spread the virus whenever they cough or sneeze. For example, influenza viruses can travel up to 3.7 meters, around 12.2 feet, through the air after a person coughs or sneezes.
People can reduce the risk of infecting others by staying home when they are ill and covering their faces when they sneeze or cough.
Share on Pinterest Washing the hands regularly is an effective way to protect against viral infections.
Viruses can enter the respiratory tract through a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth. A person can infect themselves by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their face.
Washing the hands regularly and thoroughly with clean water and soap is an effective way to protect against viral infections. According to the CDC, proper hand washing can result in a 16–21 percent decrease in respiratory illnesses, such as colds and the flu.
If soap is not available, a person can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. A range of hand sanitizers are available to purchase online.
Zinc is an important micronutrient that occurs naturally in meat, fish, nuts, and other foods.
According to a 2016 review , zinc deficiency can lead to a weakened immune response and inflammatory skin conditions. People with a weakened immune response are less able to fight off infections.
A 2017 meta-analysis suggests that zinc lozenges can reduce the duration of common colds by about 33 percent. Participants in the study were consuming between 80 and 207 milligrams of zinc per day.
Dietary fiber has many health benefits, including regulating digestion, preventing constipation, and lowering the risk of a number of health conditions.
A 2018 study in mice suggests that dietary fiber may also boost the immune system.
The researchers compared the immune responses in mice that ate a low-fiber diet with those that ate a high-fiber diet. The results of the study suggest that the short-chain fatty acids present in dietary fiber enhanced the mice’s immunity to influenza infections.
Smoking is a known risk factor for several diseases, such as cancer, asthma, and respiratory infections. Breathing in secondhand smoke can also increase a person’s risk of developing these conditions.
People who smoke or regularly inhale cigarette smoke are also more likely to experience severe symptoms when they get colds or the flu. According to a 2018 review, cigarette smoke can affect the immune system and reduce a person’s ability to fight off infections.
Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke are great ways to improve overall health and reduce the chances of getting sick.
Share on Pinterest Participating in regular physical activity reduces the risk of a number of illnesses.
Regular physical activity can improve a person’s general health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of a number of illnesses, including:
- heart disease
- stress and anxiety
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- certain types of cancer
In addition to these benefits, research from 2016 indicates that physical activity can also improve a person’s immune function and decrease their risk of respiratory infections.
A 2018 study also examined the benefits of meditation and exercise for preventing acute respiratory infections. The 8-week study followed 390 participants, who the researchers had randomly assigned to one of three groups:
- no training (control group)
- mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training
- moderate-intensity exercise (EX) training
The researchers reported a 14–33 percent reduction in the number of acute respiratory infections among participants in the MBSR and EX groups, compared with the control group.
People in the MBSR and EX groups who developed acute respiratory infections also experienced less severe symptoms.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services state that any physical activity is better than none.
However, to experience substantial health benefits, they recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. A person can spread this activity throughout the week.
Viruses are present all year, but there are ways to prepare for cold and flu season and to reduce the chances of becoming sick.
Getting an annual flu vaccine and practicing good hygiene are great ways for a person to protect themselves and others.
Some lifestyle and dietary changes that can reduce the likelihood of getting sick include regular exercise, increasing zinc and fiber intake, and quitting smoking.
Last medically reviewed on February 12, 2019
- Cardiovascular / Cardiology
- Flu / Cold / SARS
- Infectious Diseases / Bacteria / Viruses
How we reviewed this article:
Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
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- Barrett, B., et al. (2018). Meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infection (MEPARI–2): A randomized controlled trial.
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24 Ways You Make Yourself Sick Without Realizing It, Say Doctors
Sure, you know that eating junk food, avoiding exercise, and drinking like a fish isn’t going to do any favors for your health, especially during a pandemic. However, did you know there are many other habits, rituals, and practices most of us engage in that are also damaging our well-being—only we have no idea? Read on to hear the top health and medical experts around the country reveal all the ways that you’re inadvertently harming yourself. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Symptoms Everyone Needs to Know About During This Pandemic.
Eating Anything That Has Been Tainted With This Chemical
You might think you are eating a super-healthy diet, but are in fact consuming dangerous chemicals. “Most grain and soy products in North America are sprayed with glyphosate, a known carcinogen and gut microbiome disruptor,” explains Dr. Steven Gundry, MD , medical director at The International Heart and Lung Institute Center for Restorative Medicine and the New York Times best-selling author of The Plant Paradox and The Plant Paradox Cookbook . Basically, we unwittingly eat glyphosate while eating “healthy” whole grain products. He points out that even new plant-based hamburger meat products may have glyphosate in them—as well as most of our animal products like chicken, beef or pork, as most are fed with these same tainted grains and/or soy.
The Rx: In order to avoid eating foods tainted by glyphosate, there are a number of things you can do. Eat organically, eat locally by shopping at your farmer’s market for meat and produce, or grow your own produce.
Consuming Too Much Gluten
Dr. Gundry points out that the vast majority of whole grain products are loaded with plant proteins called lectins which are part of the plant’s defense system against being eaten. “As The Plant Paradox series show, lectins are major causes of leaky gut, arthritis, depression, weight gain and brain and heart disease as well as autoimmune diseases,” he explains.
The Rx: Reduce your gluten consumption. “As I have reported at The American Heart Association, most patients who remove gluten and other lectin-containing foods resolve autoimmune issues and leaky gut within months,” he says.
Adding Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners might be a zero-calorie sugar-free alternative, but they aren’t doing any wonders for your digestive system. “Most people who use artificial sweeteners have no idea that they are destroying and altering their gut bacteria, the microbiome with every packet, the same bacteria that have the potential to keep them lean and happy,” Dr. Gundry says.
The Rx: Try to avoid artificial sweeteners. If you need a boost of sweet, you can always opt for a natural sweetener such as stevia.
Bad Sleeping Positions
You might not realize it, but certain positions while sleeping can damage your health. “Many people will sleep every night on their sides in the fetal position. While this seems harmless, this sleeping position can actually be detrimental to your health,” points out David Greuner, MD , of NYC Surgical Associates. “When you sleep like this, it cuts your diaphragm’s free range down which can cause back pain as well as issues with your lungs.”
The Rx: Try another sleeping position. According to the National Sleep Foundation , the healthiest way to sleep in on your back.
Not Hydrating Properly
It can be hard to remember to drink enough fluids. But try and remember it can be hazardous to your health. “Vein insufficiency can be amplified due to dehydration,” explains Dr. Greuner. “When you are hydrated your blood is thinner and flows better. When your blood is thicker, it can make vein insufficiency problems worse.”
The Rx: Drink lots of fluids! The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences recommends 2.7 (11 cups) liters to 3.7 liters (nearly 16 cups) per day . “Make sure to stay hydrated to keep your entire body healthy including your veins!” says Dr. Greuner.
Buying “Organic” Packaged Foods
Just because a product is called “organic” doesn’t mean it is good for you. “Many packaged products are highly processed, and may contain many unhealthy ingredients,” points out Talia Segal Fidler , MS, HHC, AADP, nutritionist at The Lodge at Woodloch. For example, they may contain a high sugar content. “Even though it is organic, it is still sugar and still a processed product.”
The Rx: Remember that processed food is processed food and sugar is sugar—even if it has an organic label on it.
Drinking Fruit Juice
Most of us were raised believing that drinking fruit juice was actually good for you. However, Fidler points out that many fruit juices are loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. “There are hardly any connections between the fruits and that beverage,” she explains. “You are basically only consuming sugar!”
The Rx: If you are going to drink juice, look for ones that are 100 percent juice and no added sugar. Better yet, eat a piece of fruit instead, so you get the belly-filling fiber.
Eating Yogurt with Added Sugar
Eating yogurt that has added fruits, or giving it to children thinking it is a good thing, is pretty common. Unfortunately, Fidler points out that those “fruits” are loaded with unhealthy sugar which defeats the purpose.
The Rx: “A better choice is to buy plain organic yogurt and add freshly cut fruits to it,” Fidler suggests. “For extra sweetness you can add a bit of local honey.”
Eating a Lot of Large Fish, Such as Tuna
Sure, many fish are high in good fats and can be a great addition to your diet. However, Fidler points out that size matters when it comes to just how healthy a swimmer is. “The larger the fish, the more likely that it may have a high mercury levels and other toxins,” she explains. This is due to the fact that the fish has lived longer and accumulated toxins overtime.
The Rx: Fidler suggests eating smaller fish, such as sardines, mackerel anchovies etc. Or, opt for a deep-water fish that isn’t exposed to the same toxins.
Consuming Farm Raised Salmon
While farm raised salmon may boast health benefits in the form of omega 3 fatty acids, they can also be contaminated with toxins, explains Fidler. According to one study , it is higher in cancer-causing pollutants.
The Rx: “Salmon needs to be chosen carefully,” says Fidler. “Wild caught is always best, and try and avoid farm-raised fish!”
Eating Gluten-Free—But Not Being Aware Of Ingredients
While a gluten-free diet may be beneficial for some people, if you aren’t mindful about substitutions you may doing more harm than good. “If we are still buying baked goods that are loaded with unhealthy hydrogenated fats, preservatives, additives, sugar, we are still consuming processed foods as well as high-caloric flours and starches,” points out Fidler.
The Rx: Read your labels! If you aren’t sure what an ingredient is, do your research. 6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e
Prolonged sitting can lead to numerous health issues, explains Joanne C. Skaggs, MD , Internal Medicine at OU Medicine in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. “We know that most people don’t get enough exercise. But even for those who meet the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) physical activity guidelines for Americans, if they sit the rest of the time, they have worse health outcomes!” adds Samantha Smith, MD , a Yale Medicine sports medicine doctor in the Department of Orthopedics. “Our bodies evolved to keep moving, and modern office life is not conducive to that.”
The Rx: “Be sure to move more and sit less,” Dr. Skaggs says. “The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week with emphasis on muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. This can prolong your life.” Dr. Smith also suggests setting a timer to remind yourself to get up and walk around. “Every step counts!” she maintains.
“Toughing It Out” During An Illness
So many people opt to avoid the doctor and try and force themselves to function as usual when they aren’t feeling well. “Pushing through to get things done further stresses your immune system and can lead to more serious complications of the illness,” points out Rachel Franklin, MD, Medical Director, OU , Physicians Family Medicine in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The Rx: Take the time to recover by getting the rest your body needs!
Over Streaming Before Bed
Binging your favorite shows on Netflix right before bed can have a serious impact on your health, according to Dr. Franklin. “Besides taking time away from your sleep schedule, this can also lead to chronic insomnia,” she points out.
The Rx: Turn off your television or tablet and give yourself an ample amount of time to unwind before bedtime.
Not Eating Enough Fiber
Just like not drinking enough water, many people fail to consume enough fiber. “Fiber is essential for proper digestion and weight loss” says Dr. Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales, PA. “Fiber helps fill you up which makes you eat less, but also offers nutrition value which your body needs.” He also points out that when people do fad diets—such as juicing cleanses—they lose the valuable fiber from fruits and vegetables.
The Rx: Dr. Conrad suggests adding valuable fiber to your diet for health and weight management. “Try adding chia seeds and flax seeds to oatmeal, yogurt, or on top of salads,” he says. “Vegetables like broccoli and Brussel sprouts are also high in fiber.”
Your mom didn’t yell at you for slouching just because of the way it looks. “Slouching at your desk or while walking may feel harmless, but over time it can lead to poor muscular balances and degenerative changes in your spine,” Dr. Thanu Jey, DC, Clinic Director at Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic explains.
The Rx: Since posture is simply a habit that magnifies over time, Dr. Jey urges the importance of understanding what good posture is. “Whenever you find yourself slouching, cue yourself to straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, and stack your head back over your shoulders.”
Not Getting Enough Sleep
Don’t skimp on sleep, urges Monique May, MD . “By not getting the recommended amount of sleep per night, you increase the risk for problems such as fatigue, obesity, high blood pressure, memory and concentration problems, stroke, depression, and advanced signs of aging.”
The Rx: Getting enough sleep—that’s seven to nine hours for most healthy adults—should be made a priority. “Things you can do to foster good sleep habits include going to bed and waking up at the same time (even on weekends), avoiding caffeine late in the day, getting regular exercise, and not watching TV or using a computer or phone in the bed,” Dr. May explains. Also, eliminating the blue light from all screens (TV, phone, computer, and tablet) helps to keep your body on a regular sleep-wake schedule.
Not Prioritizing Your Mental Health
This is especially important during the pandemic: When people think about their “health,” many simply focus on the physical aspects of it. However, Deanna Crosby , Psy D, is the Clinical Director at New Method Wellness, points out that mental, emotional, and spiritual health is just as important. In fact, many studies have found links between mental health and physical ailments.
The Rx: In order to prioritize your mental health, Crosby suggests making sure you are getting enough sleep, aren’t focusing on perfectionism, and “letting go” of things that you don’t have control over.
Many people are under the impression that only heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking can have adverse health effects, but there is evidence that even moderate drinking can impact the physical structures of the brain, points out Sal Raichbach, PsyD , Director of Clinical Services, Ambrosia Treatment Center. “The CDC defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men,” he points out.
The Rx: While having a drink or two every now and then won’t do any long term damage, try and keep your alcohol consumption at a minimum. “If you’re looking for a guaranteed way to optimize your brain health, avoiding alcohol is the way to go,” encourages Dr. Raichbach.
Drinking Out Of Plastic Bottles
Plastic water bottles may be a convenient way to store your fluids, but drinking from them can seriously damage your health in the long-run. “Plastic has BPA Bisphenol A in it,” explains Kristine Blanche, RPA-C, Ph.D . “Studies show an increased risk of breast cancer with BPAs.”
The Rx: Invest in some great BPA-free water bottles, like the ones found here .
Dr. Blanche points out that our bodies send us messages that something is not right via symptoms. While it can be easy to brush them off, if they are a sign of something substantial, avoiding them could be detrimental to your health.
The Rx: Whether you are experiencing inflammation, pain, a lack of balance, a rash, or headache, always listen to your body and speak with a medical expert.
Using Deodorant Formulated with Aluminum
Do you know what ingredients are in your deodorant? According to Dr. Blanche, many deodorants contain the ingredient aluminum, which might help you feel fresh but can harm your health. “Aluminum is a heavy metal and is toxic to the body,” she says. “Putting toxins over the lymphatic system congests the lymphatics and can increase risks for breast cancer.”
The Rx: Pay attention to every little ingredient on the label of your personal care items and make sure to educate yourself about the potential implications. With deodorants specifically, look for a brand that is aluminum free, like Native .
Using Teflon Pans
Teflon pans were all the rage for quite some time, due to their non-stick abilities. However, Dr. Blanche reminds that Teflon is made with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)—a dangerous chemical that has been linked to thyroid conditions, testicular cancer, kidney conditions, and low birth weight.
The Rx: If you are still using Teflon pans, it’s time to go shopping! There are so many other non-stick options available that don’t involve toxic chemicals getting activated by heat, contaminating the food you put into your body.
Not Taking Vitamin D Supplements
People are more sun-safe than ever, avoiding getting too many rays and lathering up in SPF to protect their skin from damage. However, this also means that we are getting less vitamin D. “Vitamin D levels are the lowest I have seen in my career,” maintains Dr. Blanche. “Vitamin D used to be boosted during sun exposure but due to pollution, the UVB rays are filtered out and we can no longer rely on the sun.”
The Rx: Take your vitamins! There is even some research linking Vitamin D to easing symptoms of COVID-19. And to get through life at your healthiest, don’t miss: This Supplement Can Raise Your Cancer Risk, Experts Say.
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek