‘Tis the season to be sneezin’. Why is it so many people get sick around the holidays? No doubt we all have additional tasks on our to-do list and feel pressure to make this season merry and bright. Besides looking for ways to simplify the season so it fits your lifestyle and values, rather than the expectations of others (which could be an entire series of blog posts), I wanted to share five simple things you can do right now to stay off the cold and flu medicine and feel your holiday best.
1. Wash Your Hands – Often
According to the CDC hand washing can reduce the number of respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 21%, and reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%.
When you go to holiday gatherings, open doors, touch handrails and shake hands, then eat or touch your face, you put yourself at risk of sharing everyone else’s germs. Make every effort to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if you’ve touched anything others have touched. And wash your hands before eating. Also try eating with your left hand if you’re shaking hands with your right.
2. Go Easy on Sugar
This time of year, everyone loves baked goods, sweet drinks and holiday goodies loaded with sugar. Even organic agave and grain syrups are refined sugars that can make your immune system tank, especially if you’re stressed or already a little under the weather. According to Rodale News, sugar is dangerously sweet, addictive and toxic. Every time you eat it, you suppress your immune system. Stick to whole fruits when you’re craving something sweet or try a stevia sweetened beverage. Save the sugary treats for infrequent, special occasions. Or try treats like these raw, vegan cookie dough balls, sweetened with dates.
Keep in mind, alcohol is not only sugar, but according to drinksmarter.com, “too much alcohol deprives the body of valuable immune-boosting nutrients such as Vitamin A, and can make white cells – your body’s defense against illness and disease – less able to kill germs.” Limit your alcohol and try replacing those extra drinks with sparkling water with a little fresh lemon or lime juice for a lighter, healthier holiday drink.
3. Get Some Fresh Air and Sunshine
If you live someplace that stays warm during the holiday, getting a little fresh air and sunshine should be easy. If you live in a cold climate, bundle up and go outside anyway. According to myhealthwire.com, Florence Nightingale was right. Fresh air actually destroys pathogens and sunshine provides vitamin D. This combo even tops antibiotics for curing many ailments. And if you can take a few breaths near trees, even better – they make oxygen and clean the air from pollutants.
And walking for as little as 30 minutes a day can reduce coronary heart disease, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels, enhance mental well-being and so much more. Look for a Walk With a Doc™ program in your area where you can join doctors and others looking to improve their heath.
4. Take in the Holiday Fragrances
Smell some fresh pine. A study from Japan’s Kyoto University found that participants had a greater feeling of relaxation after being surrounded by the scent. Other holiday scents can make you feel great too. The scent of cinnamon enhances concentration and enhances circulation. Vanilla is said to soothe inflammation, promote relaxation, lower blood pressure and protect the body from free radicals and infection. Chocolate can stimulate your memory. And peppermint boosts memory and alertness.
5. Eat More Plant-Based Whole Foods
I can attest to this one personally. Ever since I can remember, I always got sick around the holidays. I could never sing carols because I had a nasty virus and usually lost my voice. I actually dreaded the holidays because it meant feeling crummy. When I decided to eat a plant-based diet, I have enjoyed the last three holidays without so much as a sniffle!
Fruits, veggies, whole grains and spices are immune boosters. And with so many wonderful recipes and a huge variety of foods to eat, I don’t feel deprived at all. My plate is colorful and I feel amazing. Plants and fruits naturally contain vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, omega 3’s and probiotics.
And don’t let the rush of the season prevent you from getting healthy nutrients. Aloha.com has vegan, gluten-free, gmo-free healthy, whole foods and supplements, ready to take with you on the go. They also share recipes here.
Still not sure about eating plant-based? Don’t just take it from me; here are some great websites endorsed or written by doctors recommending plant-based foods to boost the immune system, some even share recipes of their own.
Forks Over Knives