Preventing the Christmas Flu!
The holiday season is upon us. It is a time filled with joy, excitement and good cheer. Unfortunately, it is also a season that often brings with it the hustle and bustle of stressful shoppers, cold weather, and lots of sugary treats. Christmas time is renowned for colds and flu but why are we so susceptible to them at this time and how do we prevent getting sick?
Christmas time is filled with both “good” and “bad” stress. Remember that good stress is still a stress and our bodies react to any stress in the same way. It is for these reasons that our well-deserved and coveted Christmas vacation can so easily become several days of sniffling, sneezing and chicken soup. The key is to minimize the “bad” stressors and support our bodies throughout the festive season to ensure the healthiest, happiest, holiday possible.
Our Adrenal glands go into over drive during the holidays. Our adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol helps us meet these challenges by converting proteins into energy, releasing glycogen and counteracting inflammation. For a short time, that’s okay. But at sustained high levels, cortisol gradually breaks your body down. People with high cortisol levels are very much weaker from the immunological point of view.
Cortisol suppresses white blood cells, natural killer cells, monocytes, macrophages, and mast cells. It also suppresses the immune system response to foreign insult, thus making us more susceptible to infections. As you can see it is very important to prevent high levels of cortisol from reaking havic on our bodies. The good news is that there are many simple things you can incorporate into your life to balance cortisol levels.
Let’s take a look at the Do’s and Don’ts for a flu-free holiday season.
- Don’t skip meals: skipping meals drops blood sugar and stresses your adrenal glands to fix it. It can also lead to symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, food cravings, and light-headedness.
- Do not drink caffeinated beverages like coffee of pop: High caffeine beverages and foods will make your already tired adrenal glands work harder. They also deplete many B-vitamins, which are essential in supporting adrenal function. Coffee may appear to give you energy in the short term but it actually drains the body of energy in the long term.
- Do not do excessive strenuous exercises during the holidays: Excessive vigorous exercise stresses the adrenal glands. Enjoy exercise for relaxation purposes during the holidays. Regular walking, and lighter exercise is more appropriate during this time.
- Do not drink or smoke excessively: Alcohol and nicotine will also raise cortisol levels initially. Longer term use has been shown to lower hormones such as DHEA, Testosterone, and Progesterone.
- Get regular sleep. This is probably the most important thing you can do to help lower cortisol and repair your body. Getting to sleep by 10pm is optimal. Our adrenal glands are working hardest from 10pm – 1am, so by resting during this time we can avoid any excess stress on them.
- If possible sleep in until 8am. Our adrenal glands are most active in the morning from 6-8am so resting through this time will also avoid excess fatigue on the adrenals.
- Light Exercise for 20-30 minutes/day is an excellent way to increase blood flow, normalize cortisol, insulin, blood sugar, growth hormones and thyroid. Fast walking, swimming, stair climbing, light weight lifting, yoga, and tai chi are all excellent options.
- Increase garlic either cooked or raw into your diet. Garlic is a great natural antibiotic. Eating a few cloves/day will help prevent colds and flu’s.
- Vitamin C in doses of 2000mg/day or more can be a great way to support your immune system as well as your adrenal gland.
- Licorice root extract is a great botanical to help support both your immune system and adrenal gland. Licorice is contraindicated in anyone with high blood pressure.
For any specific supplementation and appropriate dosages it is best to see your Naturopathic Doctor to help create an individualized program that best suits your needs. Supplements never take the place of the nutrition and lifestyle modifications necessary…this is why they are called supplements. They supplement the real work that you must do with lifestyle and nutrition. Take these suggestions to heart and enjoy a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday.