By Janis Graham
'Tis the season...for colds, flu, stomach bugs, and all those other ills that spread when people come together — whether by choice (at holiday parties) or circumstance (on airplanes). But don't start calculating your sick days just yet. This year you can do more than wash your hands and cross your fingers. Recent research, some of it sparked by the scary H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009, has uncovered new steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. Most...
Ongoing stress, such as being in a difficult relationship, living with a chronic disease, or being a caregiver can take its toll on your immune system. Over time, it can make you more vulnerable to illnesses, from colds and flu to chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Chronic stress seems to age the immune system, studies show, making you more likely to get a cold or the flu, chronic diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.
Everyone goes through stress. What matters is how you handle it. Getting better at managing stress can help. Even something as simple as deep breathing can lessen the effects of stress. Or try other relaxation techniques, such as:
Other types of exercise
Counseling can make a big difference, too.
Myth: Getting a flu shot weakens your immune system and makes you more likely to get the flu.
Totally untrue. Getting a flu vaccine prepares your immune system for the flu.
A flu vaccine teaches your immune system to recognize that virus as a threat. While some people may still get the flu after having a flu shot, they'll probably have a milder form of the illness -- and it's not because they got the vaccine. A milder form of the flu is still possible despite getting vaccinated because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can still provide some protection.
So why do people swear a flu vaccine gave them the flu? Some may mistake the occasional side effects of the vaccine (fever, aches) for flu symptoms. And the time of year people are most likely to get the vaccine is when colds and other respiratory illnesses are common. If you get the vaccine and then get sick with an unrelated bug, you may assume, incorrectly, that the vaccine caused the illness.
Fact: What you eat has an effect on your immune system.
While no single food will upgrade your immune system, poor nutrition can have a negative effect on the immune system. What counts is having a balanced diet.
Just about everyone could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables. They're rich in vitamins and minerals that are good for you. If you’re thinking about getting supplements to cover your nutritional needs, check with your doctor or a dietitian. Chances are, you’re getting what you need from food, unless you're on a strict diet, are pregnant, or have certain medical conditions.