Love it or hate it, the holidays are upon us. Add holiday stress to what has become known as “cold and flu season” and the odds of coming down with something are pretty good.
Unless you’re me. I’ve got a pretty healthy immune system. I didn’t always though.
I used to hate winter because, for me, it was ear infection season. Now I just don’t like it because I don’t like being cold. But I digress.
So how’s a person to avoid catching everything that’s going around at the moment?
1. Minimize sugar and alcohol consumption.
I know this is a sacrilege. No cookies?! No festive drinks?! Before you have my head, go back and re-read that. I didn’t say NO sugar or alcohol, I said MINIMIZE. And no, I’m not trying to be a Grinch.
Our immune systems live in our digestive systems. Sugar and alcohol throw off the balance of good bacteria to bad by directly feeding the bad bacteria. This, in turn, opens up the door to viruses that want to get in and wreak havoc on the rest of the body.
Besides keeping consumption down, you can help yourself by getting probiotic-rich foods into your diet on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be a lot (actually, it shouldn’t be a lot – there is such thing as too much of a good thing with this), a couple swigs of kombucha (I recommend GT’s Organic or homemade because there isn’t sugar added to it) or a fork-full of raw fermented sauerkraut with a meal is all you really need.
2. Prioritize sleep.
What’s this sleep I speak of? This might also land me with a Grinch label but not going to every single party you’re invited to helps twofold: it minimizes your exposure to viruses in the first place and it means you’re able to get a good night’s sleep more often than not.
Why is sleep important? Because it’s when the body heals. There is also mounting evidence to show that lack of sleep directly correlates with increased cortisol production (our primary stress hormone) which also directly affects our immune system. So lack of sleep + excess sugar and alcohol = virus breeding ground.
Set yourself up for good sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene: keep the temp down while you sleep, turn off your electronics at least an hour before bed, develop a routine that encourages rest. Ideally, you’d not have ANY electronics in your bedroom but even I can’t do that as I use my phone as an alarm clock. Just do the best you can.
3. Get outside.
Our grandmothers knew what they were talking about when they said fresh air does wonders for the mind and body. But it’s more than just fresh air; getting into direct sunlight for a Vitamin D boost is great for our immune systems. Going for a walk does a wealth of good for the mind and body but even if all you have is ten minutes to stand outside (with a cup of tea or coffee maybe), do it. Your immune system will thank you. You’ll appreciate the psychological boost as well.
Look, I’m not trying to be a killjoy, I promise. But you have a choice here, sort of a choose your adventure kind of choice. You can either continue business as usual and come down with a cold or 3 and be miserable, or say no more than yes, realize you’re not actually missing out on anything (it’s about discernment here – is the possible outcome worth the indulgence) and sail through the season, if not completely healthy, catching fewer of the creepy cruds and healing faster. Because there’s nothing worse than being sick on Christmas.
*I didn’t say EASY 😉