The holiday season can mean for many a time of traveling and celebrating with friends and family. Unfortunately, it may also mean an even more hectic schedule on top of spending a lot of time with people in enclosed spaces which can be the perfect set up for getting sick. Ugh.
The good news is there are many things you can do to help your immune system fight off sickness. While following these steps can’t guarantee complete health, it can mean you are supporting your immune system so it is at its peak capacity in keeping you healthy. Even though the holidays can be a busy time of year, it’s worth it to spend just a little extra time this season to make sure you are doing these things to help keep you healthy.
Get Your Zinc
Zinc can be an overlooked nutrient for immune health, but it actually plays a vital role to help keep you healthy. Zinc has been shown in studies to reduce the number of colds per year in children (and researchers suspect this is true for adults as well).
A key to keeping your immune system healthy this holiday season (and all year long) is to make sure you are eating zinc rich foods. Good sources of zinc include: oysters, beef, seafood, legumes, dairy, nuts and oats.
Make Time for Exercise
Even when your schedule gets crazy, do one important thing for your immune and overall health: make time for exercise. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise, just get it in. A good place to start is around 30-60 minutes most days of the week.
Exercise has been shown to:
- Help flush bacteria out of the airways
- Increase body temperature which may help fight off infections
- Slow the release of stress hormones
Interestingly, more is not always better with exercise and immunity. Overdoing exercise can have the reverse effect on the immune system and can actually lower immunity. If you are already sick, consult your healthcare team before exercising.
Have a Strong Probiotic Plan
We all have bacteria in the gut, it’s just a matter if they are helping or hindering your health. Probiotics are considered beneficial bacteria in the gut. Probiotics are all the rage right now, maybe you have heard. Researchers are constantly finding new ways these bacteria can impact our health including how the body deals with stress and anxiety.
These little microbes make up an important part of immune defense: some experts estimate about 70% of the immune system is in the gut.
How can you promote probiotics in your gut and not harmful bacteria? You can eat foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics are considered foods that probiotics eat.
- Probiotic foods include fermented foods such as: sauerkraut, kimchi or other fermented vegetables, kefir, yogurt or kombacha.
- Prebiotic foods include: garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, whole grains, apples and bananas.
Eating a diet high in processed foods can hinder probiotic growth.
Fill Up on Flavonoids
Flavo-what? Flavonoids are a fancy word for substances found in plants that give them their bright colors. When we consume flavonoids, they act as antioxidants in the body protecting our cells from damage and can provide immune support.
What foods are good sources of flavonoids? Fruits, vegetables, tea, nuts, whole grains, spices and herbs are some great sources. Consciously making an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables this holiday season can help bump up your flavonoid intake and other immune-boosting nutrients like vitamins C, E and selenium.
Adding spices like turmeric can also provide powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. An easy way to get more turmeric (and ginger!) this holiday season is making 4 ingredient gold milk mix from Minimalist Baker in place of other hot holiday drinks.
Wash your hands more than you think
What may be the best way to lower risk for getting sick this holiday season is to wash your hands more than you think. Hopefully, you are already washing your hands after going to the bathroom (!) and before food preparation.
Important further steps for stopping germs include:
- Washing hands before eating
- Washing hands after shaking everyone’s hand at the holiday party
- Washing hands after using public transportation or coming home from a store
When you are at home or with friends and family, it can be easy to lower your guard for washing your hands. You don’t need to be overly consumed about washing your hands, just remember to wash hands more than you would normally when with groups of people to stop the spread of germs.