Simple Steps to Stay Healthy

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She has the flu“You’re sick?  Oh man, stay away.  I JUST got over it!”

Does it ever seem like you hear this same conversation over and over? I see friends post that they or their children are ill, and then a few days later they come down with something else…or worse yet, the same bug again!  

On my guard!

As a single parent, I’ve always been on my guard about getting sick. I’m grateful that my kids rarely got sick, but if they did, I took some simple precautions to protect myself from also coming down with the latest sniffle. I’ve outlined my list below.  

There was a time, however, that nothing I did protected me from illness. Unbeknownst to me, my immune system was extremely compromised (which was an indicator of a bigger issue with my health). For the first time in my life, I had the flu three times in a single year…and I was down and out for the count each time!  

After not being sick in years, it was unbearable to feel that way. I couldn’t even get out of bed, let alone go to work or even take care of my self or my children. In my sleepy, feverish stupor, I remember thinking, “This is how people die from influenza.”  My kids did their best to take care of mom, but none of us were used to the reversed roles!  

Thankfully, my immune system has now been healed and restored (read my full story here) and I very rarely get sick. However, because I have autoimmune conditions (Celiac Disease and Hashimoto’s), I stay on guard to ensure optimal health for myself and my family.  

If you find yourself constantly getting every bug that comes your way, it may be a clear sign of “leaky gut” (also known as “intestinal permeability”), which can be an indicator of a much larger issue as it was with me. Healing a leaky gut IS possible! It takes time, targeted effort with your dietary lifestyle, and may require working with a qualified naturopath or functional medicine doctor.

Reduce the Risk of Sick

If you’re feeling surrounded by family, friends, or co-workers who are sick and you want to avoid picking up their flu, virus, or that nagging cough, here are some easy ways to reduce the chances that you’ll come down with it (or at the very least, reduce symptoms if you do get it):

1)  Wash, wash, wash your hands

Washing your handsIt seems mundane, even silly at times, but washing your hands is the number one defense to staying healthy (besides boosting the immune system). And, putting some soap on your hands and running the water doesn’t really count!

Scrubbing with soap on both sides of the hands and under the nails is very important, as is the length of time that you scrub. Singing the ABC song, no matter how childish it feels, is about the right amount of time (20-30 seconds) to ensure that hands are clean. When finished, turn off the water with your elbow if possible, and use a paper towel to dry your hands versus a cloth towel (to reduce your footprint on the planet, paper towels can be recycled with paper products rather than being sent to the landfill).

2)  Avoid touching your face 

How the flu spreadsRecently washed or not, your hands come into contact with anything and everything.  It takes just one contact from your hand to a mucous membrane to start the process.

For example, if you cough, sneeze, or even laugh and cover your mouth with your hand, that’s a contact. If you feel dust in your eye and try to wipe it out with your finger, you’ve just opened the door for whatever is on your fingertip to enter the body. If you hold your nose, you’ve just touched an area of high exposure.  

Check out this infographic from that shows how easily influenza spreads in an office environment.

3)  Boost the immune system

Keep a close check on your vitamin levels; deficiencies can wreak absolute havoc on your body!  At one point, I was so low on Vitamin D that it registered as non-existent in my system. Even after heavy doses by prescription (50,0000 IU/day), I wasn’t registering in the normal range, so this lead me to pursue the underlying cause (which for me was Celiac Disease). A functional medicine practitioner or a naturopathic doctor are great resources for keeping an eye on vitamin deficiencies  (find a functional medicine doctor by searching here). If there are food sensitivities causing issues with your immune system, it’s important to remove the offensive foods as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. Those foods are typically gluten, grain, soy, dairy, and sugar, but could be attributed to many others.

It took me a long time to find “clean” vitamins that didn’t contain gluten, grain, soy, fillers, artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners, and I have to constantly check and re-check with the manufacturers (always check with your physician before adding vitamins or supplements to your lifestyle).  

healthy sleepProper sleep plays a huge role in our body’s natural ability to heal itself; be sure to get a healthy amount of sleep (7-8 hours/night) and address any issues with falling asleep or staying asleep.  A few tips about healthy sleep:  

  1. Stop the use of electronic devices at least an hour before bed
  2. For short-term help falling asleep at a healthy hour consider a small dose of melatonin for a few nights, which may aid in re-setting you to your body’s natural sleeping cycle
  3. Go to bed well before midnight. I tend to be a night owl, but through trial and error I have found that if I go to bed after 11:30pm, I wake up with swelling in my joints –  even if I have slept for eight hours! This is a similar body response to a food reaction, so it really surprised me to discover that late nights have this effect on my body.
  4. If you consistently wake up in the middle of the night, it could be related to a food intolerance as mine was, or low blood sugar cycles.  Try eliminating soy, dairy, cocoa, and chocolate from your diet for a few days to see if any of those have an impact on your sleep, and/or try having a protein-based snack before bed (such as a handful of raw nuts).

4)  Reducing Risk Through Direct Contact

Although our body naturally fights off various exposures when our immune systems are healthy, my personal cardinal rule is to avoid contact with public door handles, elevator buttons, and direct hand-to-hand contact with someone who is sick.  At times I may be viewed as a “germ-a-phobe,” but some of these bugs and viruses can be more than even our healthy immune systems can take!  Some of these “super-bugs” can survive on hard surfaces and be spread easily through the above methods.  If you must touch a door handle or shake someone’s hand, be sure to go back to step number one as soon as you can!

If someone has been sick in your home or office environment, spend some time cleaning any surface that has been touched, preferably with vinegar or bleach using a disposable paper towel.  I also take some little steps to protect against accidental “germ-sharing;” for example, I will serve water out of a disposable straw until their fevers have passed. Each sick person has their own box of tissues with a lined trash can that is emptied daily. I generally ask them to use just one bathroom until they are fever-free; this way I can clean it daily to reduce the risk of anyone else getting sick.

5)  Listen to your body

If you start to feel off or get that “tickle” in your throat, listen to your body. Taking quick action can reduce your symptoms, pain, or even keep you from getting the full-blown bug. If I’m feeling run down, slightly feverish, or even irritable  after knowing I’ve been exposed to illness, these are the steps I follow:

  1. Immediately begin drinking wellness tea and repeat all day (recipe is here on our site:
  2. And/or take a shot of organic Bragg’s apple cider vinegar (I take this every few hours until I feel better)
  3. Increase water intake and potentially Vitamin D drops and a natural source of vitamin C (oranges, for example)
  4. Wash hands even more frequently
  5. Get additional rest in short naps throughout the day (or longer if needed)
  6. Use soups made from bone broth or vegetable broth as main meals

What steps do you take to keep yourself healthy and avoid illnesses?

-Jen of The GGFGourmet

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