#1 Hygiene – wash your hands! This cannot be stressed enough. This is the best-known way to prevent you from transferring bacteria and viruses to yourself and to others. It’s inevitable that we have to touch things that are contaminated; in the words of Jimmy Fallon: “Thank you, bathroom doorknob, for undoing everything bathroom soap just did”! However, a little soap and water can go along way, and since we do come in contact with surfaces teaming with microbes – door knobs, railings, every square inch of the bus, try not to touch your eyes, nose, mouth as these are the perfect gateways for microbes to gain entry into your body.
#2 Catch those Z’s – Sleep! Listen to your body when it tells you it needs to rest. No, this does not mean lying in bed looking at your phone, watching TV, or even reading, this is still not resting. When we sleep this is a time of recovery for our bodies, and when you are exhausted its your body telling you it needs more time to regenerate. Not getting enough sleep can suppress the immune system by lowering our T-cells, an important white blood cell that can destroy cells that are inhabited with germs, and help other immune cells to ingest germs, overall decreasing your chances of getting sick.
#3 Don’t sweat the small stuff – Stress! I know, easier said than done, especially this time of year as we head into the holidays filled with worries of what to buy for our family and friends, how to pay for those gifts, eating way more than we were planning on…the list goes on. But it’s a little known fact that stress can lower our immune system as cortisol, the “stress hormone”, rises. Cortisol’s ability to block T-cells from doing their job ultimately leaves you susceptible to infection. So what to do about that stress? Some great ways to relax and recharge include: exercising, spending time in nature, journaling, calling to talk to a friend, reading, or listening to music. Overall, try not to get so caught up in the hustle of the holiday season that you forget to take time for your own needs.
#4 Eat Healthy foods. These include foods that you can find on the outside perimeter of your local grocery store; organic fresh fruits and vegetables, grass fed local meats, whole grains such as quinoa, and brown rice, nuts and seeds. Not packaged foods that you typically find in the center isles. Processed foods contain sugar, high amounts of salt, artificial flavours, colours and ingredients that you just can’t pronounce. You want to give your body a fighting chance by feeding it healthily with foods that it recognizes and can use to build it better and stronger.
Eating healthy includes avoiding your food sensitivities as they weigh heavily on your body’s ability to defend itself from invaders. Take me for example, my food sensitivity is gluten. I know when I have been “glutened” because not only do I feel as though my brain is trying to navigate through fog, I get a tickle in my throat and that feeling of weakness you get right before getting sick. Many times (especially during my school days of high intensity stress) I have easily caught a cold within the days following a gluten experience. So, to be on the safe side it is important to recognize and stay away from your sensitivities.
Also limit your sugar and alcohol intake. I know, your eyeballs are rolling right now, what are the holidays without spiked eggnog and fruit cake!? But alcohol can increase cortisol, and sugar has an osmotic effect on the throat and mouth meaning it attracts water from the cells lining this area, damaging them.
#5 Fluids – Stay hydrated. The best way to keep your mucus membranes wet during this very dry season is with water or herbal tea. Keeping a water bottle handy or sipping on warm teas such as ginger or Echinacea are great at making sure all of your body’s functions are supported, including your immune system. Considering drinking soups and broths (preferably from scratch!), and avoid juice and drinks high in sugar.
Incorporating these methods on a daily basis can help to ensure that you are giving your immune system a fighting chance this season!
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Godfrey, A. (2005) Deep Immunity: Understanding your body’s immune system