I have seen so many friends and co-workers get sick leading up to and during the holidays. As the stress of Christmas shopping and elaborate holiday meals came into full swing, so did coughs, colds and the flu. Here are some tips to boost your immunity over the holidays and the rest of the winter months.
- Bust the stress: stress plays a major factor in your ability to ward off pathogens like the flu virus. It’s no coincidence that we get sick during periods of high stress (such as the holidays!). Manage your stress by taking time for yourself by taking a bath, catching a class at the local yoga studio, catching a funny movie with friends or family, or practising cleansing breaths and meditation.
- Brighten up your plate: eat a wide variety of colorful, whole fruits and vegetables. Foods such as red peppers, eggplant, blueberries, carrots etc. are chock full of vitamins, minerals and compounds called ‘phytochemicals’ that help in immune support and disease prevention.
- Load up on probiotics: did you know that the majority of our immune system resides in our gut? Move past the sweetened yogurt and grab fermented foods such as sauerkraut, sprouted grains, miso, tempeh, kefir and kombucha (fermented tea). If you can tolerate diary, opt for the unsweetened Greek yogurt instead of the sugar-laden flavored yogurts. The fermentation process actually increases the vitamin content of foods. Better yet, fermented foods not only help restore the good bacteria in your gut but also help the body absorb nutrients from other foods.
- Soak up the Vitamin D: this nutrient packs a punch when it comes to protecting your body against infection. Cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna and mushrooms are a great source of Vitamin D. In the winter months consider taking a Vitamin D supplement (800-1,000 IU/day) to keep the flu at bay.
- Avoid immune suppressants and inflammatory foods: sugar, soda and baked goods not only cause inflammation in your body but also suppress the activity of the immune system, leaving your body crippled to fight any new pathogens. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as cold-water fish, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds help combat inflammation.
- Nix alcohol and coffee: alcohol and caffeine dehydrate the body, leeching it of nutrients and compromising your immune system. Try herbal and green tea instead to help detox the body and keep the immune system running at an optimal level.
- Cook yourself healthy: add anti-microbial spices such as garlic, ginger, cayenne and turmeric to your meals. These flavourful spices will pack flavour into your hearty winter meals and boost your immune system at the same time. Now that’s having your proverbial cake and eating it too!
And remember, this time is for us to relax and spend with loved ones. Don’t lose sight of that. Simplify your holiday traditions to make more time for rest, relaxation and quality time with special people in your lives.