The 12 Days of Christmas Health, Day 7

Tips for Avoiding Getting Sick Over the Holiday Season

It is horrible to be sick during the holidays. But when we are surrounded by people with a cold or the flu, what steps can we take to try to avoid getting sick ourselves?

We all know how important it is to practice good hygiene.  Hand washing has been shown as one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. This is particularly important when we visit high traffic areas or crowded places, like malls and airports.

It’s also important to take steps to build our immune system. Read on to learn how eating well, getting enough sleep and even taking a few select supplements can help.

Eating well

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It is always a challenge to follow our usual health routine at this time of the year. Sugary treats seem to be everywhere. Day One of my blog focused on a few ideas to swap out some of the ingredients in recipes for healthier ones, but in addition, including some healthy superfoods in our diet over the holidays can help provide some needed energy and immune support. Golden milk is a delicious immune-boosting tea (see the recipe I have included below).

Probiotics: Although research is generally not conclusive when it comes to the benefits of supplements, probiotics are increasingly used to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal ailments. Studies suggest that they may also help prevent respiratory infections like the common cold. Probiotics can be found in natural sources such as yogurt and kefir. But not all of these products are created equally. Check the label to make sure the actual strain(s) of probiotics used in the product are listed. And avoid any with added sugar. Kefir and yogurt can both be easily added to a breakfast smoothie, used in salad dressings, or as a topping on granola. Probiotic supplements are available in the refrigerated section of most health food stores – look for a brand that contains at least 10 billion CFUs of a variety of strains.

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Ginger: Ginger has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of several ailments, such as colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines, and hypertension. Its anti-inflammatory properties are reputed to strongly support the immune system; its anti-nausea properties make ginger a comforting herb when we do get sick.

Vitamin C: Research shows that vitamin C supplements may help to reduce the length and severity of the common cold.  Looking for a natural source of vitamin C? Look to lemons. They may be too sour for a snack, but lemons are the ultimate winter power fruit. Rich in vitamin C, they promote healthy blood vessels, gums and skin; and studies show that they may boost the immune system. Lemons can easily be added to your diet, by squeezing some fresh juice into your water or green tea. Lemon juice also makes a great salad dressing.

Zinc: Zinc is another nutrient that has been shown to have positive benefits against the common cold. It also helps to support the immune system. Zinc supplements and lozenges are readily available at most health food stores, but as with any nutrient, it is best to find it in a whole food source. A serving of pumpkin seeds contains about 30% of our recommended daily allowance, and can be added as a topping on salads, an ingredient in homemade protein bars, or even to smoothies in the form of pumpkin seed butter.

Sleep: Ensuring that you have adequate sleep helps to provide your immune system with the energy it needs to fight off offenders, such as cold and flu germs.

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Stay hydrated. This cannot be over-stated. One of my previous blogs focused on the importance of hydration to sports performance, but it really does impact every single aspect of our health. Water can be a bit boring, especially with the many other temptations around us, so try a flavour boost by adding fruit, such as berries or lemon, or vegetables. At a friends' dinner recently, she filled a water infuser with raw vegetables left over from a dish that she prepared. It was a great idea!

Sources: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/flucold.htm; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23775705

 Recipe: Golden Milk (Turmeric tea)