This time of the year is filled with social events, parties, and spending time with friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, this time of the year is also filled with germs… particularly the cold and flu, which are transmitted from person to person when in close contact… like at social events and parties. Getting sick is the worst, but there are a few actions that can help you get through the flu season without being laid up in bed for a few days.
1. OJ is a liar:
As OJ Simpson’s lawyer once said, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Well, even though he wasn’t talking about the same OJ I am talking about, it still applies! Orange juice is marketed as an immune-boosting drink to have with your breakfast. However, in most cases, the glove DOES NOT fit. Orange juice has the nutritional equivalent of soda. Ounce for ounce, orange juice, and soda both have a similar amount of sugar. Sure (along with all refined carbohydrates) suppress your immune system for hours after consuming. While oranges, and fresh-squeezed orange juice, maybe loaded with vitamin C which does help to boost immune system function; orange juice loses that benefit significantly when it is produced with a large amount of refined sugar. This flu season skips the OJ if you are looking to boost your immune system.
2. Train don’t drain
Working out is meant to result in getting you stronger and healthier. However, when you overtrain it actually weakens your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to contracting the cold or flu. By no means am I saying to not workout hard and push yourself while in the gym, but definitely make sure that you are listening to your body. Take more rest and recovery days during the winter months. If you are feeling fatigued, lower the intensity of the workout so that you are not pushing your immune system past its point of a maximal function. I know that some of you can’t fathom not working out as much, especially when we are cooped up inside all winter, but taking a day off to recover can help you not miss an entire week or two because you are sick!
3. Suns out Guns out
If you live in the Northeast as I do, this time of year brings significantly less sunshine. The days are shorter because of daylight savings, and the weather is not as conducive to spend time outside. Even if you do participate in winter sports, you are usually covered from head to toe to protect from the winter weather. This lack of sunlight lowers the levels of Vitamin D that you are taking in. Vitamin D helps many important functions in our body, including boosting immune health. When your vitamin D levels are low, you have a greater chance of getting the flu. There is also some research that shows that vitamin D actually has a direct influence on where you are more susceptible to getting the flu. They show that if your vitamin D levels are high enough, you have a much less chance of getting sick from the flu. Speak to your doctor about getting tested for your vitamin D levels, as most people in the Northeast will have lower levels. Supplementing with vitamin D is the most efficient way to get your levels up, and I would recommend taking a minimum of 5,000iu per day.
4. Sleep In
Sleep is another natural process that helps boost your immune system. Most adults sleep less than six hours per night, which has a big impact on your immune system health. Sleeping is a process that your body uses to rebuild and repair your body. If you are not getting adequate amounts of sleep (6-9 hours) your body will not have a chance to rebuilt itself and strengthen areas such as your immune system.
5. Wash your hands often
This is an obvious one, but I couldn’t write this without including it in. Most germs are spread through contact. Whether that contact is from human to human via a handshake, or from a human to an inanimate object such as a handrail, which is then touched by another human. Our hands come in contact with a lot of surfaces that carry germs such as the cold and flu virus. If you don’t wash your hands often, you may be carrying around those germs on your hands without realizing it. Touch your face, your mouth, or your food, and you are just inviting those germs into your body!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor am I trying to give medical advice. Also, consult your physician before making changes to your lifestyle and health.