No one wants to spend the holidays sick in bed with a cold or the flu, but the fact of the matter is that 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. Any doctor will tell you that when you take in a high level of carbohydrates, they turn into sugar, and sugar by definition, is pro-inflammatory, which also depresses the immune system. Couple all of this with the fact that the holidays also 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!
Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. An annual seasonal flu vac¬cine (either the flu shot or the nasal spray flu vaccine) is still the single best way to reduce your chances of contracting seasonal flu and spreading it to others. The Centers for Disease Control recommends an annual flu shot for everyone over the age of six months old, especially those over 65-years of age and those with compromised immune systems.
Practice good hand hygiene.
Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It’s especially important to wash up before preparing food, eating, touching your face, after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing, or being around someone who is ill.
Eat more protein.
During holiday parties, 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. So skip the cheese and cracker platter and grab an extra portion of turkey or roast beef and a side of vegetables.
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 make sure to check with your physician first as Vitamin D can raise calcium levels. Foods high in Vitamin D include salmon, tuna, eggs, and mushrooms.
Share a laugh.
Believe it or not, laughter is the best medicine. Laughing has short term effects such as an im¬proved mood, and long-term benefits such as an improved immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thoughts also help to release neuropeptides, which help prevent stress and more serious illness.
Power up with power foods!
Diet plays an important role in how you feel and how your body functions. Foods such as mush¬rooms, sweet potatoes, garlic, yogurt, and shellfish can help your body build the power it needs to ward off infections. Minimize the foods that compromise your immune system like soda, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, foods and drinks high in sugar, and alcoholic beverages.
Don’t skip the exercise.
When the days get busy, unfortunately, exercise is often the first thing to go. Movement is key to keeping healthy. Aerobic exercise increases your body’s virus-fighting cells. It raises your nitric oxide levels, which is another way of increasing oxygen in the body. The more oxygen, the better the body runs. If a full workout isn’t in the cards, try to squeeze in 10-minute power walks during your lunch hour or after work. Exercise can also help you sleep better—another key component in maintaining a healthy immune system.
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 mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If, however, your symptoms become more severe or you are worried about your illness, San Antonio Urgent Care is well equipped to treat most cases of the flu, with three convenient locations throughout the Inland Empire.
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