Beat the Winter Break Cold
Americans contract a whopping 1 billion colds every year. And educators are especially susceptible since they’re constantly exposed to sick kids, germs and end of semester stress. As soon as winter break starts, your immune system goes on vacation and you end up in bed.
“The period right before winter break is fraught with excessive work,” explains Amy Hendel, PA, health coach, medical expert and author of the forthcoming book the Four Habits of Healthy Families. “You’re staying up late, signing off on work that has to get done before the winter break and you’re not eating healthfully because you’re constantly on-the-go.”
But what if you could forgo the sniffling, coughing, stuffy head, fever stuff and get through the end of the semester—and winter break—unscathed? Experts claim that with a little rest and a lot of prep, you can give your immune system the juice it needs to stay well through the season. Here’s how:
Extra rest allows you to focus all of your energy on boosting your immune system and staying healthy. Can’t take off work right before the end of the semester? Try slowing down your regular activities. Rather than hitting all of the holiday parties, shopping until you drop and baking like you’re Martha Stewart, try relaxing and reading a good novel. “Parties and holiday festivities can be stressful in themselves if they’re done to excess,” says Tom Houston, M.D., clinical professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the Ohio State University. If you’re worn out from holiday activities, you’re immune system takes a hit.
The easiest way to boost the immune system is to load up on healthful foods—and fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list. “Color is an indicator of healthful phytonutrients, so it’s important to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables,” says Hendel. Along with adding fruits and vegetables to your dietary equation, you might consider cutting out some of the sugar. Studies suggest that between 75 and 100 grams of refined sugar (about 2 12-ounce cans of soda) reduce the ability of white blood cells to engulf foreign bacteria by forty percent. Having trouble avoiding the buffet table? Drink more water. Not only will it curb your appetite, but drinking mostly clear liquids can also help flush out any toxins that are preying on your system.
“This is not the time of year to drop exercise,” says Hendel. “Exercise boosts immunity, so you really need to get 30 minutes of brisk activity 6 days a week.” You don’t have to do all 30 minutes at once, but you do need to find an activity that gets your heart rate up. The theory: If you raise your core body temperature (through exercise) you might actually ward off viruses and bacteria (they don’t do well in a warm environment). The caveat: You have to use the exercise advantage before you get sick. “If you’re sick, your body has already raised its core temperature to fight off the cold and exercise could make it worse,” says Hendel. What’s more, too much exercise can negatively impact the immune system and result in more frequent illness.
Experts argue that it’s best to get the vitamins and minerals we need from food. Unfortunately, a lot of people are skipping meals, eating on the run and missing out on vital nutrients. “Supplements can be helpful as long as they’re not used in place of a good diet,” says Julie Wood, M.D., family physician and medical director of Goppert-Trinity Family Care in Kansas City, Missouri. And while the jury is out on whether supplements like vitamin C and zinc can help prevent a cold, many experts argue that most people aren’t getting the recommended amount of these nutrients at the start. Hendel recommends supplementing with 500 mg of vitamin C, but some experts argue that higher doses can more effectively stave off the cold. As for zinc, studies show that it can help reduce the duration of a cold by three or four days (try taking one zinc gluconate lozenge like Cold-EEZE every two hours when you feel a cold coming on).
Any medical information provided on NEAMB.com, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on NEAMB.com (“Health Content”), is for informational purposes only. More information.
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