Why Do I Keep Getting Sick?
Do you spend all of your weekend and vacation days on the couch with a box of tissues and a glass of Emergen-C?
You just got over your illness last week – why is it back again?
Meanwhile, your coworker never seems to get sick. Are you truly just doomed to a life of perpetual illness?
If you find yourself wondering “why do I keep getting sick,” it may be time to evaluate your habits. Providing the right environment for your immune system to thrive is the key to good health.
4 Reasons Your Getting Sick
Your immune system is your body’s #1 defense against threats like the common cold and other illnesses. When you suffer from a weak immune system, you’ll find yourself getting sick all the time.
Many factors can weaken your immune system. Medical conditions like HIV or hepatitis can interfere with your body’s ability to defend itself against intruders.
Certain medical treatments, poor hygiene, bad sleep habits, and other lifestyle choices can also affect your immune response.
1. You Suffer from a Lack of Sleep
When people think about the dangerous effects of sleep deprivation, they usually think about reduced cognitive ability and slowed response time. (1) However, lack of sleep – or lack of good quality sleep – can take a serious toll on your immune system’s ability to function.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation mirrors the effects of physical stress on your immune system which causes your white blood cell count to skyrocket. Sleep and a balanced circadian rhythm are also crucial for regulating your immune response. (2)
2. You Snack on Junk Food and Dine on Fast Food
It’s no coincidence that malnourished people living in poverty suffer from infections and illnesses more often than their well-off peers. Your immune system is only as good as the fuel you feed it.
Let’s take a quick look at the worst foods for your immune system.
- Red meat
- High cholesterol and fried foods
- Soda (both diet and regular)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
Some of these foods serve as false-positive intruders and force your immune system to work overtime. Other choices actively suppress your immune system’s ability to function by depleting your body of nutrients.
3. You Suffer from an Underlying Immune System Disorder
You shouldn’t write off the possibility that you might suffer from an undiagnosed immune system disorder. (3)
Primary immune deficiency syndrome, the technical name for a weakened immune system, is more common than you might think. Likewise, illnesses can trigger a permanent or semi-permanent immune deficiency – even after they’ve run their course.
To top it off, your immune system is weakened as your body works to fight off any cold or flu. If you get sick frequently, this would result in a chronically weakened immune system.
If you think you may have an immune disorder, reach out to your doctor or health care practitioner.
4. Your Hygiene Could Use Some Improvement
Proper hygiene is good for more than just smelling nice and looking slick. Hygienic habits can also help you strengthen your immune system.
Germs spread fast. Gyms, schools, hospitals, and workplaces are all recipes for disaster in terms of colds and the flu, especially during flu season.
If you have kids, you increase your chances of getting sick. Just think about how many germs and illnesses kids are exposed to at school every day. Ask a teacher how often he or she gets sick – they’ll no doubt have a story to tell.
Biting your nails, touching your face, picking your nose, and rubbing your eyes are metaphorical train tickets for bacteria to get into your body – if you haven’t washed your hands first.
Natural Ways to Avoid Getting Sick
Are you ready to turn the tables and become part of the elite group you’ve always resented?
Yes, we’re talking about those mythical humans who never get sick.
In some cases, people have naturally strong immune systems and to top it off, they may follow the healthy practices below.
We can’t promise that you’ll never get sick again, but we can help you strengthen your immune system with these natural tips.
1. Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands after you’ve touched doorknobs, money, keyboards, or other people’s hands can help you avoid exposing your body to bacteria and germs significantly.
However, not everyone knows how to properly wash their hands.
- Moisten your hands with some warm water.
- Apply the soap.
- Rub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Cover every area: the back of your fingers, between your fingers, your palms, nailbeds, etc. Use a brush to scrub under your nails if you have to.
- Rinse your hands with fresh water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel.
- Use that towel or a tissue to turn off the sink.
You can also keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby for when you need clean hands in a pinch – such as your car or work desk.
2. Get Adequate (and High-Quality) Sleep
Adults need at least seven hours of highly-quality sleep each night. Going to bed and waking up each day at the same time is crucial for supporting your immune system and general health.
If you feel tired after sleeping for seven or eight hours each night, talk to a doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea or other conditions interfering with your sleep cycle.
To develop a solid sleep schedule, start with good habits.
- Put your phone down or turn on a blue light filter at least one hour before bed.
- Spend some time before bed doing a relaxing activity like yoga, taking a warm bath, or reading.
- Don’t consume any caffeine afternoon. Don’t drink any alcohol after 5 or 6 PM – as alcohol exits the body, it can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
3. Eat a Balanced Diet
Yes, vitamin C is important but your immune system needs a broad range of fruits and vegetables to function at optimal levels.
Vitamin A and vitamin C are two crucial nutrients. You don’t have to just eat oranges. Red peppers, broccoli, spinach, and almonds all contain vitamin C.
For vitamin A, you can eat spinach, eggs, and bright yellow vegetables.
Probiotics in foods like are important as well for balancing gut health which directly relates to immune health. Fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, miso, kombucha, and sauerkraut all contain nice levels of probiotics.
4. Increase Your Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D plays an important role in immune system support. Unfortunately, it’s fairly difficult to find vitamin D in food sources. (4)
You can add some vitamin D to your diet through fatty fish like tuna and salmon, egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver. You can also find high levels of vitamin D in certain mushrooms that have grown under UV lights or sunlight.
Many doctors recommend taking a vitamin D supplement – especially during long winter months when you may not be exposed to sunlight.
5. Reduce Stress Levels
Stress has an interesting relationship with your immune system. Chronic stress – and chronically elevated cortisol levels – can reduce or suppress your immune response.
Try unique and natural ways to lower your stress hormones. Adding meditation throughout your day can help along with cognitive behavioural therapy and other relaxing activities.
6. Laugh it Off
Laughter truly is the best medicine. Studies show that laughing and having a sense of humor can stimulate the response of your natural killer cells. (5)
According to research, laughter and humor can come from anywhere. Next time you’re feeling under the weather, load up your Netflix queue with your favorite comedies.
7. Boost Immunity with Functional Mushrooms
Functional mushrooms are packed with nutrients that support the immune system.
Many mushrooms contain beta glucans. Beta glucans are powerful immuno-modulators which support your immune system’s natural killer cells on a level unlike any other food. (6)
You don’t have to sauté mushrooms and add them to every meal. Functional mushroom powders are easy to incorporate into smoothies and coffee or take as capsules.
Should I Get a Flu Shot?
A seasonal flu shot is designed to protect you against the three or four most common viruses of the year. Different doses exist for people with varying needs such as the elderly or children.
If you’re sick or have an already compromised immune system, it’s best to avoid the flu shot.
Furthermore, the flu vaccine doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods completely. Remember that it only protects against the season’s most common flu strains so if you wind up exposed to a random strain, you could still come down with the flu.
The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age or older receive a flu shot each year – especially vulnerable groups like the elderly. However, if you think you may have an immune deficiency problem, talk to your doctor first.
The Bottom Line
“Why do I keep getting sick?”
The answer is more complicated than you’d think. Focus on strengthening your immune system with healthy lifestyle choices and talk to a doctor if you suspect there’s an underlying problem.
*This article is not intended to replace medical advice from a licensed doctor or health care practitioner.