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5 Tips to Fight Sickness this Holiday Season

Amanda Cofer, MPH

The holiday season is special for a lot of us. We spend time with friends and family, decorate, and celebrate. But it can also be a busy, stressful, cold-filled time of year. You know, when one of your kids or spouse comes home with a runny nose and sore throat, and then before you know it, you and everyone in your home has it, time of year (yikes!). Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones keep the colds away throughout this holiday season.

1) Eat balanced meals

We may know what we need to do, but this time of year it can be tough to, well, do it. Since we get important vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat, our nutrition can have a direct impact on our immune system and its ability to fight infection. Try to enjoy sweets and packaged foods in moderation (we know those cookies look tempting…) since processed items, particularly sugar, have been shown to weaken your body’s cold fighting mechanisms. Not only that, but these foods can lead you to eat more now and crash later. Make your meals colorful with fruits, veggies, and healthy carbs. Give a new veggie recipe a try and make something you and your family can enjoy together!

2) Watch your drinks

This time of year your social calendar is probably packed full of parties and celebrations with your office party, neighbors inviting you over, traditions with friends, and meals with family. Managing alcohol intake, while important in terms of calories or just keeping your food judgement sound, can also be a key player in your immune system’s health.  One study found that one night of binge drinking (5 or more drinks in 2 hours for men and 4 or more for women) can disrupt the immune system by making it less active, compared to drinking in more conservative amounts or not all. These effects can last up to 24 hours afterwards, creating the perfect opportunity for a germ invasion. Learn more about how to keep to healthy drinking habits here!

3) Catch your ZZZs

Sleep is a key player in staying healthy and fighting infection. We need sleep to keep our immune systems strong. When we don’t get the sleep we need, the production of certain protective cytokines (a type of hormone at the control center of the body’s defenses) decreases, making us more susceptible to illness. So, now you’re probably thinking, “Well, Noom, how much sleep do I need?” It’s recommended that adults shoot for 7 to 9 hours each night. It’s also important to note that more sleep isn’t always better – so make sure you’re catching quality Zzz’s. Create an evening routine to help you wind down to help ensure you’re in bed on time to get some quality beauty rest.

4) Stay active

Physical activity can be hard to keep in the picture this time of year. It’s getting dark earlier, the weather can start to take a turn towards the rainy, snowy, or just plain cold, and those holiday gatherings eat into your time. But this could be the time of year we need exercise the most because it can help support our defenses against getting sick. When we’re active and increase our heart rate, circulation increases. This gives our white blood cells (these are like the immune system’s worker bees) the chance to catch a virus or bacteria red handed, before it rears its ugly head into a full blown illness. Exercise also keeps stress hormones, that can wreak havoc on the immune system, at bay. All in all, remember to keep things moderate for optimal benefits. Check out these tips to help you keep active this holiday season!

5) Don’t let your own self-care slide!

This is a great time of year to give back, whether that’s to your family or community. Most importantly though, especially for the sake of fighting off and preventing illness, remember to give to yourself and don’t let your own self-care slide to the backburner. Plus, when we take better care of ourselves, we tend to be better at taking care of others, right? You may take care of yourself by eating something that makes your mind and body feel good. Opt for water instead of another glass of wine, politely decline an extra outing to get some sleep, or take a break to get in a 20 minutes of walking or stretching (see what I did there?). Remember that YOU are a priority this holiday season too! Check out some of the Noom coaches’ favorite self-care practices and see if any may work for you!