Why You Get Sick After the Holidays
The post-holiday months can feel especially challenging. Cold weather, taxes, credit card bills, and an anticlimactic blah, the holidays are over feeling can sabotage your health and happiness during January, February, and beyond.
If all that isn’t enough, the winter months oftentimes incur more sickness. Before you know it, everyone in your house has come down with the latest bug, and you have to call in sick during your company’s busiest winter week.
Feeling bad during the New Year isn’t all in your head. “Many illnesses occur most frequently in the winter months,” writes Emily Sohn in the Chicago Tribute. “And peak season can last through May.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu, common colds, respiratory illnesses, and viruses occur most often during the winter.
We aren’t entirely sure why people get sick more often in the winter, but researchers have some theories. Cold weather can strain your respiratory and cardiovascular systems, constricting your airways and suppressing processes that defend against infection. Shoveling snow only seems to exacerbate those risks.
Ultimately, why you get colds and the flu more often in the cold months doesn’t matter much when you’re sick. You just want to get better, and fast, so you don’t have to miss another day of work, that Saturday outing with your friends, or your daughter’s basketball game.
You can’t completely eliminate your risk for illness, but you can incorporate strategies to minimize your chances of calling in sick. And when you utilize these principles with your family, you’re less likely to have to take your eight-year-old daughter to the doctor or have your son miss his soccer game.
Four Strategies to Get Healthy and Stay Healthy After the Holidays
Think of the New Year as a “back to school” reset to practice healthy habits that optimize immunity. These four principles form a solid foundation to optimize your immune system and, if you do get sick, they can potentially minimize the duration so you’re back in peak form in no time.
Strategy 1: Make Food Your Primary Focus
A healthy diet becomes your most powerful defense against colds, the flu, and whatever other bugs might be going around the office or your home in the winter.
Our Core and Advanced Plans become the ideal way to provide your immune system the nutrient support it needs. Among its benefits, these plans:
- Include whole, nutrient-dense foods. Studies show vitamin and mineral deficiencies impair immune function. In fact, deficiencies in even one of these nutrients can impact nearly every aspect of immunity.
- Focus on immune-supporting nutrients. Optimal amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients including B vitamins and zinc can help keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
- Support your gut. Your gut contains about 70 percent of your immune system, so it makes sense that gut health can impact your immune function and susceptibility to infection.
- Eliminate food sensitivities. Gluten and other food sensitivities can create or exacerbate inflammation and an immune reaction, both of which make you more susceptible to illness. Removing these foods can heal your immune system.
Strategy 2: Get the Right Nutrients
A few key foundational supplements, such as a high-quality multivitamin and fish oil can fill in the nutrient gaps you might not get from food. Beyond that, a few well-chosen supplements can keep your immune system performing well when you’re eating healthy.
A full discussion about nutrients that support immunity would include these key supplements.
- Grass-fed Whey Protein. Whey is, “highly stimulating to the immune system,” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. “Whey protein seems to be the best method for obtaining the building blocks of glutathione, arguably the most valuable antioxidant in the body. [Whey also] contains a number of other proteins that positively affect immune function.” Our raspberry smoothie recipe combines grass-fed whey protein with vitamin C-rich raspberries that’s great for breakfast, snacks, or any time you’re feeling under the weather.
- Vitamin D. This workhorse vitamin – actually a hormone – modulates various immune responses. Deficiencies can increase susceptibility to infection. Many of us don’t get enough sunlight during the dark months or eat enough foods with vitamin D, making supplementation mandatory. Ask your doctor for a 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D Test and work to get your levels in the ideal range. Vitamin D3 + Probiotics combines the most efficacious form of vitamin D (cholecalciferol) with gut-supporting probiotics.
- Vitamin C. This vitamin supports your immune system by protecting against pathogens, environmental oxidative stress, and so much more. A well-designed formula combines efficacious amounts of vitamin C with immune-supporting bioflavonoids.
- Daily Defense. Chronic inflammation is a primary driver for most disease, but being inflamed also makes you more prone to getting sick. Daily Defense is a synergistic formula that combines powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients including Curcumin C3® Complex and N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine into one easy-to-take capsule.
Strategy 3: Find Ways to Boost Your Mood
Research shows that psychological well-being – feeling your best physically, mentally, and emotionally – can boost your body’s immune response. These strategies can support all of those factors.
- Manage stress levels. More than 300 empirical studies over 30 years prove what you already know: Persistent, nagging stressors can adversely impact your immune system. Find something that helps you relieve stress, and do it regularly. Your de-stressors might include yoga, meditation, deep breathing, walking your dog in the park, or playing frisbee with your grandkids.
- Incorporate light therapy. Even a 30-minute walk in the sunlight can improve your mood, but that isn’t always possible. Consider a light box for 30 minutes to an hour daily, which gives out bright light at least 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting.
- Maintain solid social support. Having solid social and emotional support can impact your overall health including your immune system. Surround yourself with optimistic, supportive family and friends.
- Practice gratitude. “Grateful people are reported to feel more optimistic and happy, to better mitigate aversive experiences, and to have stronger interpersonal bonds,” researchers note. “Gratitude interventions have been shown to result in improved sleep, more frequent exercise and stronger cardiovascular and immune systems.” Practicing gratitude might entail journaling, writing thank you letters, a phone call to someone important, or volunteering at your local soup kitchen.
- Cultivate a positive mindset. Maintaining optimism can impact your emotional and physical well-being. When you feel focused and resilient about the inevitable curveballs life will throw your way, you keep your immune system working well and you’re less likely to succumb to colds and the flu.
Please note: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is very real and impacts everybody differently. While occasionally feeling down is normal during colder, darker days, nobody should have to suffer from depression or other mood disorders that impact health and happiness. Consult a healthcare professional if you find mood disorders impair your ability to find happiness and meaning in life.
Strategy 4: Maintain Fundamental Lifestyle Strategies
Creating a healthy foundation to fight colds and the flu goes beyond diet and nutrients. These lifestyle factors can help keep your immune system in peak condition even when everyone around you is sneezing.
- Consistent exercise. “Cold weather may also alter our health-related behaviors,” says Sohn, who mentions “a 2012 study found that people walk less when the weather is bad.” Exercise supports a healthy immune system by increasing T-cells, boosting natural killer cells, and lowering levels of inflammatory cytokines that contribute to cancer and other diseases. Every bit of movement helps; even a 30-minute walk can increase blood flow and support a better mood. To up the intensity and get all of exercise’s benefits, incorporate our MaxT3 program. You can get a full-body, immune-supporting, fat-burning workout in just 12 minutes a day.
- 8 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep nightly. Research shows what you probably already know: You’re more prone to colds, the flu, and other illnesses after a night of subpar sleep. Conversely, getting optimal levels of shuteye supports your immune system, improves your mood, and gives you the sustained energy you need to get through the bleakest January day. Use our Sleep + Mood formula if you have trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Visit your chiropractor regularly. Getting sick less often when you visit your chiropractor is no coincidence: Studies show chiropractic adjustments – specifically, in the upper thoracic region – can positively impact your immune response. Your chiropractor can also help design a nutrition and lifestyle plan that works for you to optimize immunity during cold weather and beyond.
- Reduce your toxic exposure. Environmental toxins – everything from the food you eat to the beauty and household products you use – can impact your immune system, increasing your risk for inflammation and diseases including cancer. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides excellent guides for:
Shorter days and colder weather can impact your mood and well-being, but keep in mind that warmer, brighter weather will be here soon (have a positive mindset).
One last thought: Give yourself something to look forward to. If you can’t schedule a week trip to Maui in April, find a swimsuit or great-fitting pair of jeans that will inspire you to stay the course, give you something to look forward to, and keep your goals on track.