It’s beginning to look a lot like…cold and flu season? How to stay healthy through the Holidays
It’s that time of year. Seasons change and the dreaded coughs, sneezes, and allergies start. Flu and cold season is upon us.
With so much to do, you don’t have time to get sick. So how can you stay healthy? By following a few simple steps you can decrease your chances of getting sick and boost your immune system.
- Stay away from sugar.
Did you know that sugar can suppress your immune system by preventing white blood cells from fighting bacteria and viruses? It seems like we are destined for failure with all the holiday parties providing yummy treats full of sugar. A good rule of thumb is less than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons of sugar a day for men. Read your labels to discover hidden sugar in your foods. Or simply follow #2.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Ever wonder why fruits and vegetables are seasonal? Did you know that some of the best veggies to eat to fight off colds and flu are found in the fall? Squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin are packed with vitamins and nutrient rich health boosters. God is so cool to provide just what we need at just the right time. Just don’t load those veggies up with brown sugar or marshmallows. Keep it simple. A baked sweet potato, some pumpkin soup could be just what the doctor ordered.
- Wash your hands often.
What’s the first thing a doctor does when he walks in the room to see you? Wash his/her hands. Why? Hands are the quickest way to spread germs. And everything we touch carries germs. I’ve long been a proponent of carrying my own pen and not using the ones handed to me. The CDC says “Handwashing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine—it involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy.” Keep a little bottle of hand sanitizer with you for the times when a sink isn’t near.
- Keep exercising.
According to NIH, “Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.” If you aren’t exercising, start now. But don’t over do it. Start with three 10-minute walks a day. Or join an exercise class. Body & Soul has classes all over the country. To find one near you check out www.bodyandsoul.org.
- Take time to chill and unwind.
Let’s face it stress is inevitable. We all have it in our lives at some level. Our bodies are not designed to live in a “fight or flight” stage all the time. Doing so weakens us and makes us prone to chronic inflammation, colds, flu, or long term illnesses. Scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This scripture packs a punch for us – sit down, relax, meditate. It’s as if God is saying, ‘Stop trying to control everything and let me be your source of strength. Let me help you through your day. But start by sitting with me and being still.’ Give your body the chance to unwind especially during the holidays when schedules get busier than ever.
- Get more sleep
Studies show that sleep matters. Lack of sleep depresses the immune systemand increases our chance of getting sick. According to Diwakar Balachandran, MD, director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, “It is an old wives’ tale that if you don’t sleep well, you will get sick, and there is some experimental data that shows this is true…Sleep loss not only plays a role in whether we come down with a cold or flu. It also influences how we fight illnesses once we come down with them.”
All of these tips are things we already know. So let’s put them into practice. By following these six practical steps you will be on your way to a healthy, sleep-filled, stress-free holiday season.
Which step seems the easiest to follow? And which one is the hardest? Share any additional tips you’ve found to keep yourself healthy through the holidays?
Mary Ward is Director of Marketing and the Northern Virginia Area Director for Body & Soul. She has taught Body & Soul classes since 1997 and is certified through American Council on Exercise.