No one wants to spend the holidays sick in bed with a cold or the flu, but this time of year can affect more than just your waistline – it can also take a toll on your immune system. From Halloween through the New Year, our immune system can take a hit from a number of different factors, including stress and diet. Most people are overloaded during the holidays – shopping, wrapping, decorating, and parties, not to mention regular daily duties, all crammed into a condensed period of time. And while our bodies are crying out for proper nutrition to keep running at full speed, our holiday diets tend to put us in the slow lane. Social activities are notorious for a plethora of foods high in carbohydrates and sugar. Sugar is pro-inflammatory, which also depresses the immune system. Couple all this with the fact that the holidays coincide with cold and flu season, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect storm.
Follow these guidelines to help boost your immune system, ward off illness, and enjoy a healthy holiday season:
Get your flu shot! An annual seasonal flu vaccine is still the best way to reduce your chances of contracting seasonal flu and spreading it to others.
Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Eat more protein. Folks tend to load up on the carbohydrates and sweets and neglect the protein options offered. Without protein, our immune system becomes depressed, making you more susceptible to a virus or bacterial infection.
Get your Vitamin D. Soaking up vitamin D from the sun isn’t always an option during winter months. Vitamin D is crucial for keeping the immune system operating at its best. It is often advised to take a pill or liquid form of vitamin D during winter months, but check with your doctor first.
Share a laugh. Laughing has short-term effects such as an improved mood, and long-term benefits such as an improved immune system.
Don’t skip the exercise. When the days get busy, unfortunately, exercise is often the first thing to go. Aerobic exercise increases your body’s virus-fighting cells by your nitric oxide levels, which is another way of increasing oxygen in the body. Exercise can also help you sleep better – another key component in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Sleep well. Don’t compromise on letting your body rest and recover. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.
If you take all the precautions and still contract the flu, stay home and avoid contact with others. Most people with flu have a mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If, however, you become very sick or are worried about your illness, contact your healthcare provider for advice.
Submitted by San Antonio Regional Hospital, See Ad on Page 3