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It’s the season of giving, but I bet getting the flu isn’t on your Christmas list this year. With the holiday season in full swing, you may find yourself out and about shopping, visiting family and enjoying the Christmas decorations. You want to spend time with your family enjoying the holidays and last thing you want to do is get sick!

I’ve got some simple tips to help you boost your immune system so that you can do everything from watch Christmas Vacation to spend Christmas with your Aunt Sally down in North Carolina.

As you read the article, keep in mind that I am not providing specific medical advice, but giving general health tips. Each person has a unique health situation and should consult their physician or pharmacist before implementing any new regimen or advice.

Some facts about the flu virus; the flu is a virus that is spread through respiratory droplets like sneezing or coughing. Common symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion and fatigue.

About 5 to 20% of people will get the flu each year.1 Over 200,000 hospitalizations occur due to complications of the flu. Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or busy professional, we are all susceptible to getting sick around this time of year.

Are we all doomed to be part of a statistic or can we beat the odds? The good news is that you can decrease your chances of getting sick! Follow these 5 simple, natural prescriptions to boost your immunity and prevent getting sick this flu season!

1. Prioritize self-care. That means taking care of yourself physically and mentally. Holiday time means added stress to decorate, shop, cook and wrap gifts. Set healthy boundaries when possible to create five to ten minutes of self care.

Taking time out to decrease stress through exercise, meditation or even getting some alone time is key. Get plenty of rest – atleast 8 hours according to a recent Carnegie Mellon study. The study found that sleeping 8 hours a night can make you 30% less likely to develop a cold—a sign that sleep plays an important immune-boosting role.

2. Keep your immune system strong. Add some immune boosting herbs and vitamin-rich foods to your cooking and baking. These herbs contain antioxidants and antimicrobial action to fight off infection. Examples are cinnamon, garlic, ginger, turmeric and echinacea.* Food is medicine and getting enough vitamin C, D and E is imperative to keep up your body’s natural defense mechanism.

In the winter, we have less exposure to natural sunlight and as a result, we tend to have lower vitamin D levels, which can impact mood and energy.  Some ideas to obtain these vitamins from food – citrus fruits contain vitamin C, leafy greens contain vitamin E and eggs or dairy products contain vitamin D. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if you need a supplement.

3. Watch your portions.

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According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans gain an average of 7 to 10 pounds over the holiday season.2 Yes, SEVEN to TEN pounds! You can use The Plate Method (see above) to balance out your meals and watch portion sizes. Create your plate with 1/2 the plate being leafy green vegetables and the other half being divided into lean protein (turkey, chicken, beef) and complex carbohydrates (sweet potato, rice, whole grain bread). This method will keep your blood sugar balanced (even if you aren’t diabetic) and prevent holiday weight gain.

4. Get your flu shot. Of course, this is a personal choice and it is up to you to make the decision for you and your family. If you do not get flu shots, skip to tip #5.

Getting the flu isn’t fun and ensuring you minimize your risk means getting the flu shot. Flu vaccines protect against the main viruses that research from the year prior suggests will be most common. This year the quadrivalent vaccine is available, which contains four dead strains of various viruses to protect you. Since the vaccine is not live, it cannot give you the flu. It takes about two weeks for your body to build up an immunity, so be sure to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

5. Wash your hands. It seems simple, but even if you are washing your hands, you may not be doing it long enough. Lathering the soap and washing your hands with warm water for 20 seconds is recommended. Also keep hand sanitizer in your car and at home. Flu viruses are spread by droplets from infected people when they sneeze, or wipe away secretions from their nose or eyes. During flu season, everyone should be encouraged to keep their hands out of their mouths, avoid rubbing their eyes and wash their hands thoroughly several times a day, especially before meals.

Ultimately, these tips will help keep your immunity high so you can enjoy the holidays with family, friends and good food! Happy Holidays!

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control. The Flu Season. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm
  2. Yanovski, Jack et al. A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. N Engl J Med 2000; 342:861-867.

 

**Medical disclaimer for Enlightened Wellness Solutions: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Advice and recommendations given in this website or in personal consultation by phone, email, in-person, online coaching, or otherwise, is at the reader’s sole discretion and risk. You should see a qualified, licensed doctor before starting any skin care, nutritional, diet, stretching, and/or exercise program. Information presented on this website is not to be interpreted as kind of attempt to prescribe or practice medicine. You should always consult with a competent, fully-informed medical professional or health practitioner when making decisions having to do with your health. You are advised to investigate and educate yourself about any health related actions and choices you make.

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Christina Tarantola
Dr. Christina Tarantola, PharmD, CHC, CHt is a licensed pharmacist, certified health coach, certified hypnotherapist and Founder of Enlightened Wellness Solutions, a wellness company geared to empower people to take charge of their health.

Christina’s passion is helping women overcome food addiction and reclaim their health through self-hypnosis, mindfulness, using food as medicine and self-care.

Dr. Christina is also a passionate author of three paperback books, Revealing Your Inner Radiance: Healing through the Heart, Reclaim Your Power: A Roadmap to Re-energizing Your Life, and Lighten Up! 7 Weeks to Release, Recharge and Revitalize.

For the last 6 years, Dr. Christina has been providing educational health talks in the NYC and Pittsburgh area and creating relevant, informative health articles, YouTube videos and newsletters to empower her clients to live healthy lives!