Is there perhaps a general time of the year when you perhaps eat a little less healthfully than usual? Does it coincide with maybe drinking a little more alcohol than usual? And getting a little less restful sleep than usual? And being among more crowds and attending one or two more parties than usual? And if so, is this also a time you experience slightly more stress and anxiety than usual? Yes, it’s the holidays.
But there are some simple things you can do to keep your immune system happy and energetic and still fully enjoy your pumpkin pie and family-related panic attacks.
The imminent danger of touching contaminated surfaces is ever present -- doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails in any public place, pharmacy, doctor’s office, or restroom. So remember to wash yours hands, and wash them often. Use warm water, scrub for at least 30 seconds, and be thorough -- get between your fingers and under your nails.
And dry thoroughly too! Survivor germs will thrive on damp hands, which will also sap body heat and force your body to work overtime when it’s already working overtime.
And just in case, keep some hand sanitizer close by at all times.
There will, of course, be times when you simply don’t think to wash your hands 30 times per day, and that’s fine. Just remember to keep the environments that are under your control clean too. Keep disinfectant wipes at the ready at your desk and at home -- especially if you have kids. Read these 10 Worst Germ Hot Spots and keep your sanitizing tools locked and loaded.
There’s nothing controversial about the conclusion that getting less than seven hours of sleep per night will negatively affect your short- and long-term health. Allowing yourself to get into the habit of having a sleep deficit can make you up to three times more likely to get sick. Plus, being all sleepy and fuzzy-headed might result in forgetting to wash your hands, wipe off all those nasty surfaces, and touching your face without those filthy hands.
Why is this so? According to the Mayo Clinic:
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. ... So, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases.
Not the world’s reigning champion of sleep? You might just be lacking in sleep hygiene. Luckily, the American Sleep Association has listed out the essentials of healthy sleep habits that’ll keep you and your immune system ready for the day every day.
To get your immune system battle ready, you have to arm it to the teeth. With your teeth.
Garlic is nature’s antibacterial and antiviral, and it comes packed with an immune stimulant called germanium. So start adding garlic to your winter cooking. If you’re really concerned, chop up a clove or two into swallowable chunks and swallow the garlic as you would a pill. If you’re worried this will deter people from getting near you, be comforted by the fact that those people are probably harboring bacteria.
Try to incorporate ginger and turmeric too, either as teas, recipe ingredients, or nutritional supplements. Both are great for lowering inflammation , stimulating circulation, and relieving congestions.
For more ideas on foods to load up on, check out this article on the 14 foods to add your diet to shield your body against infection.
And you’re going to have to cut back on sugar. According to WebMD:
Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks. Eat more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients like vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc.
Hydration may be the most underrated “health hack” in the toolkit. Sufficient hydration increase oxygen saturation in the bloodstream, cleanses toxic waste from the body and carries it to the liver and kidneys for removal, lubricates joints, alleviates arthritis (it is cold outside, after all), and allows for efficient cell repair.
In other words, lacking sufficient hydration makes every process in your body just slightly more difficult, which means that less energy is being directed at fighting off the wintry barrage of infectious diseases.
Use this hydration calculator to find out how much water you need per day to keep the cold and flu bugs away. And if you really want to get fancy, this water bottle tracks how much water you drink per day.
STAY HOME (ONCE IN A WHILE)
There are plenty of reasons to stay in and get hygge during the winter months, but staying healthy is at the top of the list for a few reasons.
First, you want to keep stress at bay as much as you can. Stress essentially shuts down the immune system. Not only that, it’ll screw up your sleep, which is yet another mark against it. Of course, it’s the holiday season and none too easy to stay away from the stressors of life and the season. But what you can do is develop a routine of techniques to center yourself, incorporating deep breathing, meditation or yoga on top of all the social time you’ll soon have.
Second, you want to keep warm. It takes extra energy for your body to warm itself, energy that’s being redirected away from the immune system. Not good. So bundle up, eat and drink warm things, take warm Epsom salt baths, gather your loved (clean) loved ones into a cuddle puddle, and click here to learn how to keep your home warm on a budget.
The third reason to be liberal with your work-from-home days is to avoid exposure from potential carriers at work, on public transportation, and in restaurants and coffeeshops. Just because no one seems to have symptoms, keep in mind that around 8% of healthy-looking people are carrying and can unknowingly gift their infectious passengers to anyone who gets in range. Which reminds to come full circle and remind you to wash your hands. Again.
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