Why Are We All So Sick?
Emma St. Aubin
estau255@uwsp.edu
You have a date with the library, so you grab a Poptart as you quickly scramble to get everything together and run out the door.

Once you return from cramming what seems like five years worth of material into your brain, those monsters in your belly start rumbling and tell you that it is time to eat again.  Lucky Charms it is!

Many students find themselves repeatedly eating these quick and convenient meals once the semester gets rough and midterms roll around.  However, this mixture of quick meals and overwhelming stress is the perfect recipe for a snotty nose.

Good nutrition can reduce the risk of developing an illness, like a cold.  Antioxidants and phytonutrients in vegetables, fruits and whole grains can boost the immune system, so eating approximately seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day may reduce the risk of developing a cold. 

Instead of skipping class because of a runny nose, keeping healthy allows you to attend your classes and possibly score higher on that next exam than you would have if you had to miss lecture.

Besides our frightening eating habits, stress shadows our every move as we attempt to balance school and work.  Although stress can work as a motivator for us to get things done, there is nothing good to be said about too much stress. 

Have you ever noticed yourself carrying around a box of Kleenex the week after finals?  How about over winter or spring break? I give you full permission to blame that on stress.  When we surround ourselves with stressful situations, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol.  Cortisol decreases the production of cells that fight off viruses and leaves our bodies more prone to developing illness.

When we allow stress to get the best of us and neglect to supply our bodies with the proper nutrients, the outcome is usually a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a pile of moist Kleenexes.

More often than not, you won’t catch a virus solely because that girl sneezed behind you in class; chances are it’s because she sneezed on you the morning after you spent all night cramming for an exam and you weren’t providing your body with the proper nutrients to build cells that fight off viruses and infections. 

The easy answer: eat like an Olympian.  Consume the daily recommended amount of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein while avoiding stress at all times. Easier said than done, right?

So why don’t we all eat like Olympians?  Plain and simple – we are college students struggling to fork out the cash that provides us shelter on top of the tuition bills.  Spending six dollars on a box of quinoa sounds absurd when a pack of hot dogs only costs two dollars.

Also, it’s much quicker to grab a bowl of cereal or a granola bar when you’re running out the door to class, practice, meetings and everything else.  For many, it is difficult to find enough time in the average school day to cook nutritious meals.

And why don’t we avoid stress?  We can’t control the situations around us. However, we can control whether or not we perceive a situation to be stressful, and we can find healthy ways to manage our stress.

Although it may seem impossible, stay healthy and stay in class, folks.