Keeping healthy during the holidays may not be at the top of your to-do list, but after weeks of burning the candle at both ends and extra socializing, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves feeling run down. Now’s the time to focus on our own well-being, and boosting the immune system to fend off winter’s colds and flus should be the priority.
Here are a few steps we can take to keep our immune system strong;
- Wash Your Hands. This may be basic information but Mom was right: washing your hands with soap and water helps prevent spreading the cold or flu virus. Aim to scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. And contrary to what is generally believed, hotter water doesn’t kill germs and bacteria better than cooler water. A recent study by Vanderbilt University found that washing hands well and often is more important than the temperature of the water used.
- Don’t Forget the Vitamins. We know about vitamin C but did you know that recent studies have shown that vitamin D could have the potential to be more effective than a vaccination against the flu? A study published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal pooled the results of 25 separate randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trials involving over 11,000 participants and found vitamin D supplements significantly reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infection. These results bolster the long-held theory that a deficiency in vitamin D increases the risk of catching colds and flus. If taking a multi-vitamin or swallowing pills is just not your thing, vitamin D comes in a convenient no-excuses liquid format.
- Exercise. Not only will regular exercise help balance out the extra calories that we are bound to consume over the holidays but staying active also improves overall health and the ability to fight off germs. The theory is that regular exercise stimulates circulation and blood flow, thus increasing the movement of immune cells within the body. This allows them to better search and destroy invading germs and viruses.
- Get More Sleep. Think of this as preventive medicine. Allowing ourselves to get run down lowers our ability to fight off illness. Many studies have indicated that sleep deprivation lowers the production of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that searches out cellular abnormalities and infections. A 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that poor sleep habits lower our resistance to fighting off the common cold. The subjects who averaged less than 7 hours of sleep every night were almost 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who averaged at least 8 hours of snooze time.
Stay strong! You’ll need it to tackle those New Year’s Resolutions in January!