There are a lot of ways to make sure you stay healthy, especially during the holidays when viruses tend to run rampant. Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts to help keep your immune system in good working order.
Do carry disinfecting wipes
If you travel during the holidays, adopt this practice before you settle in for your flight, train or bus ride: run disinfecting wipes over the armrests, tray table and latch, air vent, seat-belt buckle, or anything else you think you might touch and let it air dry. These surfaces are likely teeming with germs. Studies conducted at the University of Arizona, Tucson, have turned up flu virus and even the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA on airline tray tables.
Do stay hydrated
Winter’s low humidity and blasting heat in cars, trains, airplanes and buses can dry nasal and throat passages, making airways more vulnerable to bacteria and circulating viruses. Keeping well hydrated helps mucous membranes stay moist and undesirable bugs at bay. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight ounces of water every one to two hours during the day. Liven up your glass with a fresh squeeze of lemon or lime plus a pinch of unprocessed sea salt to increase mineral absorption, alkalinity and nourish the adrenal glands.
Do keep your hands to yourself
You’re probably not even aware of how many surfaces you touch when you’re out in public, especially when you’re shopping. Make it a practice to keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers in your purse and car and use them as often as possible.
Do treat yourself to a massage
A relaxing rub down might have more benefits than soothing sore muscles! A study conducted at Cedars–Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles concluded that a single Swedish massage session lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and increased several types of white blood cells that help protect the body against germs.
Do get enough sleep
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that people who slept at least eight hours a night were almost three times less likely to catch a cold than those who snoozed for less than seven. It’s thought that growth hormone released during sleep prompts the immune system to stimulate growth and repair of your body.
Do let go and laugh
Studies show that laughter boosts the immune system for at least 24 hours, so don’t hold back from a good belly laugh when a hilarious opportunity presents itself!
Do include more protein in your meals
Did you know that your immune system is built on protein? Without it, the immune system can become depressed and not function to its potential.
Do get out and exercise
There really is no downside to exercise. One of its biggest benefits is waking up the immune system to fight viruses.
Do refresh your natural medicine cabinet
Go through the immune, herbal and homeopathic supplements you already have and check the expiry dates. Make a list of what you might be missing and restock as soon as you get the chance. Having remedies on hand at the first sign of a cold or flu may enable you to help lessen symptoms right away should you get hit with a virus in the middle of the night.
Don’t pretend your symptoms will go away
It’s best not to ignore symptoms that get worse. If you feel more lethargic or come down with a fever, start to vomit or develop a pounding headache, call your doctor. These signs might indicate something more serious than a common cold and medications or other treatments prescribed by a health care practitioner might be needed.
Don’t drag yourself to the office
It’s best to stay home when you’re sick unless you absolutely have to go to work. You’re most contagious during the first few days of a cold, so if you really must go, avoid your coworkers as much as you can. Take enough time to recover from your symptoms so you can enjoy your holidays and the other employees can stay healthy for theirs!
Don’t indulge in a lot of sugar, carbohydrates or alcohol
Carbs turn to sugar and sugar is pro-inflammatory, which means that your immune system can be suppressed for eight to twelve hours after eating something sweet. Processed foods, alcohol, sugar and starches keep your white blood cells from being able to battle germs, so pass on the box of candy and stick to only a glass or two of wine.
Don’t sit through a violent movie marathon
A Harvard University study showed that watching violent television and movie scenes tended to weaken the immune system, but on the flip side, watching loving images stimulated it.
Don’t think you can function when you’re in chronic stress mode
Chronic stress elevates cortisol levels, and too much cortisol prevents the immune system from working the way it should. Look for healthy ways to decompress during the holidays: try to incorporate more exercise, go for a massage, take a hot bath, keep going to yoga class, and learn to meditate with the help of apps or CDs. Adaptogenic herbs like Ashwaghandha and Rhodiola can also be helpful in lowering elevated cortisol and managing stress.
What to Stock at Home
Taking a high potency probiotic and good quality daily multivitamin and mineral supplement helps to ensure adequate nutrient support which can build up the immune system. But it’s important to know that it takes most people two to three months of supplementation before the immune system gets stronger. It’s very challenging to obtain sufficient nutrition from food alone since the majority of our food today is over processed and devoid of many essential nutrients.