In offices around the country are bottles of hand sanitizer on employee’s desks and signs reminding employees to wash their hands. Managers tell employees to stay home if they’re feeling under the weather and employees cautiously stay away from anyone coughing or sneezing. Flu season is upon us and nobody wants to get sick. But does avoiding germs really work?
It seems like everyone is careful to avoid germs but everyone is still getting sick. So what gives?
Avoiding Germs Is Not the Answer
Even if an office were truly free of germs, people would still encounter them everywhere else they go – shopping carts, passing people in grocery store aisles, kids, church, parties. No matter how hard you try, you can’t escape every germ. And if you do actually try, your immune system will only weaken. Research shows that people who are exposed to germs regularly actually have better defenses against them.
So if avoiding germs isn’t the answer, what is?
Improving the immune system is the key to avoiding illness (or at least having less severe symptoms when you do get sick).
To boost immunity we need to make healthy lifestyle choices. But health is a lot more than eating kale and going to yoga class. It’s a holistic approach that won’t keep us from getting sick 100% of the time but will drastically reduce the number of times that we get sick.
By training employees in what it actually means to be healthy, we can not only prevent illness at work but help them live a happier, more productive life.
Rather than simply recommending that employees go home when they’re sick or wash their hands frequently at the office, try offering some of the following tips and, if possible, giving employees the time and resources to make some of these changes.
Healthy Living Tips to Prevent Illness
Eat a diet high in nutrients – One nutrient like vitamin C, for example, isn’t going to make you immune to the flu, but deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can make you more susceptible to illness. Focusing on a silver bullet is not the key, but eating nutrients in our foods, all day, every day, and taking a multi-vitamin can help ensure that we’re not deficient.
Avoid excess sugar – Sugar affects our bodies in many ways. It alters hormones and causes inflammation. I always tell my kids to only eat sugar if you’re moving. If you’re actively burning a lot of calories, then go ahead and have some sugar, otherwise, eat food instead.
Reduce inflammation – Inflammation is readily understood to be the underlying cause of many diseases. It damages tissues and impairs the immune system. The American diet, tendency towards overeating, and inactivity is at the root of chronic inflammation. Many staple foods that Americans eat are inflammatory and these replace the more natural anti-inflammatory food choices. Foods that contribute to chronic inflammation are fried foods, factory farmed meat and cheese, trans-fats, and sugar. Anti-inflammatory foods include green vegetables, berries, fish and shellfish, almonds and olive oil, and so many more natural foods. Additionally, avoiding cigarettes, getting exercise, and eating less all help reduce inflammation.
Exercise regularly – Exercise actually strengthens our immune system. It helps to flush out harmful bacteria and improves the number of white blood cells and killer cells in our bodies so that we can better fight infection.
Reduce stress – Actually reducing stress is not really the key. You could have a demanding job, be a single mom taking care of sick family members, and have an active social life and handle everything just fine. You don’t really need to reduce stress but you do need to control your reaction to the stressors in life. Easier said than done, I know. But it is possible. Exercise, a healthy diet, and personal hobbies can help to improve our resistance to stress.
Avoid anti-bacterial soaps – Anti-bacterial soaps were recently banned by the FDA. They have been proven to be ineffective and harmful. Hand sanitizers are not as effective as simply washing hands but if running water and soap are not available and you have reason to believe that you have come into contact with bacteria that could make you sick, alcohol based hand sanitizers can be helpful.