When it comes to skipping sick season, the answer seems obvious: wear a coat, cover your neck and eat your greens. But what if you get sick anyway? Have you thought about the little things that are sending you into decline? Here are 4 of the most unexpected things that are keeping you under the weather.
You’re stressed or anxious
Stress is part of our day-to-day. Whether due to a challenging relationship, difficulty managing finances or dauntingly climbing to-dos, that sweaty-palmed, light-headed, knot-in-your-stomach feeling isn’t just in your head. Fact: how you feel on the inside often shows up on the outside. This couldn’t be truer of stress and anxiety. Not only do these cause personal distress, but they have the ability to pierce straight through your psyche and right onto your physical being. This suppresses your immune system, affects your sleep hygiene, and ultimately makes you more vulnerable to illnesses looming ahead. Managing your stress can be a challenge, but employing relaxation techniques and self-care methods could help for smoother sailing. To get ahead, keep an eye on what’s troubling you by identifying your stressors and addressing them head-on.
You’re on a “see-food” diet
You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it once more: you are what you eat, and when it comes to the average North American diet, that typically means junk. In short, our diets are commonly full of “anti-nutrients” and additives that have long-term, long-damaging effects on the body. With over a quarter of Canadians consistently consuming fast food, our diets are steep in foods high in sugar, dairy and saturated fat. These are low in nutrients, high in risk and provide very little reward. This kind of diet weakens your immune system and increases your chances of developing harmful ailments like heart disease and cancer.
A poor diet can also cause stress to the digestive system, leading to awful and unwanted symptoms such as gas and bloating, to name a couple. Foods high in sugar, processed ingredients and additives can hinder your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in your food, leaving you lacking in the good bacteria that keep the digestive system on track, and those sluggish symptoms at bay. This also slows down the digestive process, and promotes bloating, constipation and general discomfort. Keeping your gut in check is a challenge, but probiotics are a great way to ensure you are getting as many “good bacteria” as you need.
The way you eat also has a significant impact on how well your body does its job. For example, eating too little may not give it the resources to keep you strong, while eating too much may slow it down altogether. Eating too fast has its issues, too. Did you know it takes your brain 20 minutes to realize that you’re full? Plowing through your plate prevents you from being actively conscious of what you are putting into your system, encouraging you to lose track of how much you’re eating, packing in more calories than accounted for. It also encourages you to chew less and swallow more, something your digestive tract will not thank you for. Food that isn’t sufficiently chewed strains your esophagus, and inhibits your stomach from properly metabolizing it.
During your next meal, practice mindful eating by eating foods high in nutrients, focusing on the meal at hand and listening to your body to know when it has had enough.
You’re not drinking enough water
With our brains comprised of 73% water, our lungs made up of 83% and the overall body composed of 60% water, it’s no wonder that when there’s a drought, your whole body runs dry. Water is essential to the functioning of your system. It carries many essential molecules throughout the body, and keeps your mainframe afloat. The lack of water, also known as dehydration, causes strain on the body’s lymphatic system, impacting the fluidity of your blood flow and leaving you feeling lethargic, light-headed and run down overall. Combine this with inflammation from a poor diet and you’re left with unfavourable conditions promoting weight gain, one of the leading causes of heart disease and diabetes, as well as triggering auto-immune responses, inadvertently turning your immune system against your healthy cells. Get your 13 cups in by keeping a pitcher at your desk and a bottle in your bag. You’ll wonder how you ever did without!
You’re not getting your 40 winks
Aside from making you an unpleasant desk-mate, missing out on sleep will decrease your energy levels and hinder your cells from regenerating, weakening your immune system and making you more prone to illness. Sleep hygiene, defined as “habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis” is instrumental to the maintenance of good health. To achieve this, start by making your bedtime routine a priority. Set the scene for a good night’s sleep by establishing a sleep schedule, limiting caffeine, and eliminating tech at least 90 minutes before bed.
- Gelman, L and Brooke Nelson. (2018, February). 10 Common Habits That Are Making You Sick. Retrieved from https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/5-surprising-habits-that-make-you-sick/https://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1011600-8-daily-habits-could-making-sick/
- The USGS Water Science School. (2016, December). The Water In You. Retrieved from https://water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html
- NHS Inform. (2017, December). Dehydration – Illnesses & conditions. Retrieved from https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/nutritional/dehydration
- New Vision. (2013, September). Dehydration a leading cause of diseases. Retrieved from https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1331212/dehydration-leading-cause-diseases
- Web MD. (2017, July). Stress Symptoms: Effects of Stress on the Body. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body
- Willard, C. (2016, October). 6 Ways of Practicing Mindful Eating. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/6-ways-practice-mindful-eating/
- Statistics Canada. (2007, April. Canadians' Eating Habits: Findings. Retrieved from https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2006004/article/habit/4148989-eng.htm
- Zelman, K. MPH, RD, LD. (2004, January). Slow Down, You’re Eating Too Fast. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/slow-down-you-eat-too-fast