Why does the holiday season always seem to coincide with flu and cold season? Dr. John Young, a physician specializing in the treatment of chronic illnesses says it has a lot to do with holiday diets. Check out his tips to ward off getting sick:
Get your vitamin D! Vitamin D is actually a hormone, not a vitamin, and one of our best sources for it is sunshine.
"Unfortunately, many people work indoors all day, so they get little sun exposure," Dr. Young explained. "When they do go outside, they wear long sleeves and sunblock to protect against skin cancer."
And, of course, in the wintertime, people in cold climes tend to stay inside. As a result, Dr. Young says many of us are vitamin D deficient, and should be taking supplements.
"Vitamin D is crucial to many physiological systems, including our immune defenses," the expert explained. "It helps fight bacterial and viral infections, including the flu. It supports our cardiovascular system; optimal vitamin D levels can reduce hypertension, heart attacks and stroke.
"If I feel I'm coming down with a cold, I'll take 40,000 units of vitamin D at bedtime," he said. "The next morning, I usually feel like a new person."
Eat your protein - 1 gram for every 2.2 pounds of body weight daily. In this country, we think a healthy diet means eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. We've forgotten protein, Dr. Young stressed.
"Our immune system is made up of proteins - our bones are 40 percent protein," Dr. Young noted. "We need protein."
When calculating your protein intake, consider: an egg has about 8 grams, and 8 ounces of fish, chicken, beef or pork have about 30 grams.
Get a good night's sleep, exercise, and manage your stress. Yup, some doctors' orders never change. Rest, exercise and finding effective, healthy ways to cope with stress are simple ways to pamper your cells.
"One of the many cellular benefits of exercise is that it increases the oxygen in our bloodstream. Every cell in our body requires oxygen, so consider exercise another means of feeding your cells," the expert explained.
It's also important to manage stress during the holidays. With unchecked stress, our body releases large amounts of cortisol which, among other things, suppresses the immune system.
"Take time out to meditate, listen to music, or take a walk in the woods," Dr. Young says. "It feels good - and it's good for you!"
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