I get this question often.
People are always worried about getting sick during the dreaded "flu season" and especially around the holidays. The flu doesn't have a season but rather a time when our immune systems are weaker. Our body's very own immune system is our defense against everything, including bacterial and viral infections, the flu and all forms of colds. It is only when our immune system is suppressed that the invading agent will overcome in our bodies. When the immune system is functioning at its highest levels, it will fight off all threats without you ever getting sick. Some of the contributing factors that weaken your immune system and the solutions I highly recommend include:
1. Sugar - As we approach the holidays, the irresistible sweet treats most of us can't deny will lead to an increase in sugar consumption. Excess sugar consumption leads to more inflammation in our bodies and suppresses the immune system. Sugar not only promotes viruses but it causes bacteria to grow and replicate, making it harder for our bodies to fight off infections. Also, excess sugar (sugar we don't burn for fuel daily and/or exercise) in our bodies gets stored as fat, thus being the reason many will put on a couple extra pounds during the holiday season!
2. Stress - Stress can be the culprit of many health issues. Most importantly, it will alter your hormone levels, raise your blood sugar and also deplete your nutrient stores thus suppressing your immune system. There are many ways to combat stress; planning and preparation to limit unexpected events, deep breathing techniques, a positive mindset, yoga, regular massages, naps and exercise.
3. Sleep - Your body heals when you rest. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep is critical. Listen to your body when you are tired.
4. Water - Our bodies are made up of over 70% water and we as Americans simply don't drink enough H2O. Water helps detox naturally by passing nutrients through the bloodstream and expelling toxins through the liver and kidneys. A general rule of thumb is to take your body weight and divide it in half. This would be how much water in ounces you should be consuming (200 lbs. divided by 2 equals 100 ounces of water) on a daily basis.
5. Vitamin C - This can only be acquired through your diet or supplementation. Oranges and other citrus fruits are well known for their Vitamin C levels. However, they are very high in sugar and high in acidity. Try strawberries and red peppers for a lower glycemic, Vitamin C packed option.
6. Vitamin D - Emerging research is showing that this potent nutrient is critical in preventing our risk of many diseases. Many experts now say that the average person needs 5000 IU's per day. Since us Illinoisans don't see the sun much during the winter, maintaining adequate levels is crucial. If you are supplementing, make sure it is Vitamin D3, which is the active form you need.
7. Exercise - Not only is it a healthy stress reliever, but exercise triggers an increase in production of your immune system cells. However, if you are already sick, I would recommend not exercising as this would produce an opposite result and add stress to your body's immune system.
8. Chiropractic Adjustments - Don't miss your regular Chiropractic adjustments! An adjustment helps our bodies' nervous system function better and as we all know, our nervous system controls every function in our body, including the immune system.
I know it's hard to pass on Grandma's apple pie or chocolate chip cookies so my best advice is to not overdo it. And don't offer to take the leftovers home! Stay hydrated, work out and get plenty of sleep.
We hope you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and hope to see you in the office soon.