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8 Ways to Protect Yourself from Getting Sick
Written by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci
The holidays are here, and once again it’s time to hit the shopping malls, enjoy family get-togethers, and party, party, party. All of this is a blast, but it also exposes us to tons of germs—and nothing can dampen a festive occasion like coming down with a cold or the flu. Luckily, there are ways to lower your chances of being laid low by a bug. Here are eight powerful strategies to protect yourself from getting sick during the holidays. The more of these strategies you adopt yourself, the more likely you’ll be to stay sniffle-free through the New Year.
Get some daily D.
Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic these days, and it’s even more common in the winter because we’re all bundled up in coats, scarves, and sweaters. That’s why I strongly recommend taking a vitamin D supplement, especially if you don’t get out in the sun during the day. Research shows that having enough vitamin D may help protect you from the flu or at least make your symptoms less serious if you do come down with it.
Keep zinc lozenges handy.
If you do come down with a cold, a little dose of zinc may banish your symptoms more quickly. Zinc appears to work in two ways: by interfering with a cold virus’s ability to reproduce, and by blocking its ability to attach to cell membranes. Don’t overdo it, though, because taking too much zinc can alter your sense of taste.
Eat probiotics and prebiotics.
Eighty percent of your immune system is in your gut—so if you truly want to ward off winter bugs, you need to keep that gut healthy! Get in the habit of eating probiotic foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, refrigerated pickles, and coconut kefir to load your gut with healthy bacteria. Also, eat prebiotic foods like asparagus, onions, garlic, bananas, and Jerusalem artichokes to provide a healthy “mulch” for those bacteria.
Make time to de-stress.
Are you constantly feeling stressed? If so, your body is cranking out large amounts of cortisol. We tend to think of cortisol solely as a stress hormone, but it also plays a key role in fighting infection—and a constant overdose of cortisol is bad news when it comes to fending off germs.
Researcher Sheldon Cohen explains, “Stressed people’s immune cells become less sensitive to cortisol. They’re unable to regulate the inflammatory response, and therefore, when they’re exposed to a virus, they’re more likely to develop a cold.”
To lower your stress levels, set aside a little time every day to meditate, do yoga or Tai Chi, or simply relax in a warm bath with a good book. Even a few minutes of de-stressing can have a major impact on your health.
According to a Flu Survey conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, doing at least two-and-a-half hours of vigorous exercise each week can dramatically cut your risk of getting the flu. The researchers who analyzed the survey data estimate that 100 cases of flu per 1,000 people could be prevented this way.
Drink bone broth.
Bone broth is loaded with gelatin and anti-inflammatory nutrients that keep your gut strong and healthy—and as I said earlier, a healthy gut is one of the best defenses against cold and flu germs. Besides, what’s cozier than a steaming mug of bone broth on a cold winter day?
Eat your fruits and veggies.
The phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables help keep your immune system working at its best. Include non-starchy veggies like spinach and kale in every meal, and add nutrient-rich fruits like berries and apples to shakes and smoothies. Remember, however, that fruit is high in carbs, so don’t overdo it. A serving size is half of an individual piece (for instance, half an apple or orange) or a closed fistful of berries, grapes, or tropical fruits.
Do what grandma said!
We all know the grandma rules when it comes to staying healthy: Wash your hands. Don’t share glasses or utensils. Get plenty of rest. Keep your kitchen and bathroom clean. There’s a reason why this advice gets passed down from generation to generation: It works!
I can’t promise that these eight strategies will keep you cold- and flu-free, but they’ll definitely improve your odds. And even if you do catch a bug, they’ll help you recover quickly so you can get back to shopping and partying faster.
So put them all into action—and best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season!
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