Ok, so we can’t actually stop you from getting sick (even on World Health Day), but we can give you a fighting chance to avoid illness by boosting your overall health.

Notice that we didn’t say boosting your immune system there? There’s often lots of health advice around about how to avoid getting sick by boosting your immune system, but actually that’s not quite how it works. You see, your immune system is a funny old thing, made up of lots of different kinds of cells that each respond to different microbes, germs or potential infections. So if you’re going to boost your immune system, which cells should you boost, and to what number?

So far, scientists don’t actually know the answer.

What we do know is that the best way to avoid getting sick seems to be keeping your body healthy and in balance, keeping your stress levels low and minimising your exposure to potential infections. So with our Rowan House mission, helping you to discover life’s natural balance firmly in mind, here’s a few ideas!

1. Keeping your body healthy and in balance

Living what you might consider a super healthy life is surprisingly challenging isn’t it? Not to mention a bit depressing… cutting out cake, wine and chocolate permanently? Existing on salad leaves and the occasional bit of dried fruit? No thanks!

Happily, you don’t need to be as drastic as that to keep your body in good shape, simply by creating healthy daily habits you can improve your health and minimise the chances of getting sick.

Drink more water: It flushes toxins from your body and keeps your organs functioning at their best. Get a head start by drinking a glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning.

Eat more vegetables: Yes, yes, you’ve heard it before but it’s so, SO important for your health! If you can’t stomach the idea of more cabbage on your plate then try sneaking veggies in to your food. Grate a carrot finely into your Bolognese sauce, pop a tin of mixed beans or lentils into your sausage casserole, give your kids a few slices of cucumber with everything!

Take a probiotic supplement: Like any fighting force, the immune system army marches on its stomach. Probiotics are live, friendly bacteria and yeast that can help to support the health of your digestive system, as well as aiding your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, fight infections and keep your immune system balanced. Probiotics can also help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut when it has been disrupted by an illness, medical treatment, antibiotics, stress and of course, a high sugar or white carb diet.

We asked our Nutritional Therapist Catherine Jeans for her view:

Your gut is one of the most important organs in your body, but its health is often overlooked and its importance to our immune system almost always underestimated.

So many long-term health problems and chronic illnesses originate in our gut, in fact without enough beneficial organisms in your body you could develop a multitude of health problems, including IBS, chronic fatigue, bloating and flatulence, skin disorders, frequent thrush infections and increased susceptibility to colds and flu.”

So there you have it! By adding in the good guys (water and veggies) and taking a probiotic regularly, you’ll ensure that you’re getting the fluids and nutrients your body needs and that there’s a good balance of beneficial organisms in your gut.

2. Keeping your Stress Levels Low

Taking time out is essential to allow our brain to recalibrate and our stress hormones to calm down. A short break allows us to pause and catch our breath, and can actually help you to be more productive – once you’ve refreshed yourself you’ll be able to think more clearly.

Spend more time outdoors: If you can take a break outdoors, even just for five minutes, then do it!

In Japan, there is a huge movement to encourage city workers to spend more time in the outdoors. Shinrin Yoku, translates as forest bathing and means ‘spending time amongst trees.’ It has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and dramatically reduce our stress hormone levels. You don’t even have to do anything! Just go for a quiet walk, calm your mind and let the trees work their magic!

It gets better; research has also suggested that just having a view of nature can improve wellbeing! So, if you can’t spend 10 minutes out amongst the trees, look outside, notice nature all around you – the daffodils growing in the verges, the shades of grey in the rain clouds or the shimmer of sunlight through the clouds.

Ahhhh, we’re feeling healthier already. How about you?

Exercise Regularly: According to Professor David Nieman, Dr.PH., of Appalachian State University:

“When moderate exercise is repeated on a near-daily basis there is a cumulative effect that leads to a long-term immune response.”

Which, in non-scientific terms, basically means that regular exercise can actually improve your chances of fighting off germs and infections by helping to move the immune systems cells round  your body.

Here’s how I works… When you exercise, your heart rate increases, pumping blood around your body, circulating immune cells more quickly and increasing your body’s ability to kill viruses and bacteria.

Exercising also temporarily boosts the production of macrophages, the cells that attack bacteria. So, getting moving is pretty good all round!

What counts as moderate exercise? At least 30 minutes of…

  • Brisk walking
  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Pushing a lawn mover
  • Rollerblading or skateboarding

Remember, balance is the key to a healthy life. Everything in moderation. So if you fancy a cheeky slice of cake with your cuppa this afternoon, go right ahead! Just don’t do it every day.

>> Find out more. Read our blog about the connection between Stress and Exercise

3. Avoiding exposure to infection

Ok, so we know it’s not always possible to avoid potential sources of infection, especially if you have children! But there are ways that you can keep the chances of you catching any infection low.

Keeping your body healthy and in balance: Yes we’re back to step one! Because it’s all connected, if your body is already in good health you’ll be better able to fight off infections that do make it into your body.

Wash your hands thoroughly: This is a big one, particularly after playing with pets, going to the loo, handling food or if you’re taking care of snotty noses or cleaning up after a sickness bug. Washing your hands regularly removes dirt and bacteria and minimises the chances of you moving an infection round the house or catching it yourself.

According to the World Health Organisation, you should wash your hands for about 20 seconds to be sure they are clean.  They suggest this 11-step process.

  1. Wet your hands with water (warm or cold).
  2. Apply enough soap to cover all over your hands. You can use alcohol-based handrub if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water.
  3. Rub hands palm to palm.
  4. Rub the back of your left hand with your right palm with interlaced fingers. Repeat with the other hand.
  5. Rub your palms together with fingers interlaced.
  6. Rub the backs of your fingers against your palms with fingers interlocked.
  7. Clasp your left thumb with your right hand and rub in rotation. Repeat with your left hand and right thumb.
  8. Rub the tips of your fingers in the other palm in a circular motion, going backwards and forwards. Repeat with the other hand.
  9. Rinse hands with water (warm or cold).
  10. Dry thoroughly, ideally with a disposable towel.
  11. Use the disposable towel to turn off the tap.

>> Like this? You might enjoy our blog: The Benefits of an Holistic Approach to Health