With Christmas just around the corner, and most people still rushing around trying to prepare, it’s no wonder that many of us go down with a nasty bug or cold just as the big day arrives.
It’s an all too common problem and the key to keeping well this Christmas is prevention.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five tips to keep you feeling happy and healthy this Christmas.
Support your immunity
The immune system takes a battering at this time of year. It’s under threat from a wealth of bugs from crowded, centrally heated spaces with poor ventilation and less access to fresh air. Busy shops, public transport and burning the candle at both ends all take their toll. However, it’s possible to protect yourself against all these nasties.
Even if your usual healthy diet has gone awry during party season, try to make sure you’re taking in as many immune-boosting nutrients as possible. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to make up a juice or smoothie in the morning. Fruits and vegetables are all loaded with vitamin C, beta-carotene and many other immune-boosting antioxidants. Plus you can add ginger, also great for the immune system, to many different juices or smoothie recipes. Beetroot, apple, berries, bananas, avocado, mango, carrot, pear, spinach – the list goes on. Just throw in your favourites, the more the merrier. Even if you only manage this, it will really boost your nutrient levels.
Manage your stress levels
High stress levels can really impact on the immune system and energy levels. This is because high cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, dampens the body’s normal inflammatory response, which is one of the ways the immune system does its job. High cortisol also reduces production of the body’s white blood cells that kill off unwanted invaders.
If you’re feeling wrung out right now, then try taking the herb Rhodiola. It’s known as an adaptogen, meaning it adapts to what’s going on in your body. It can really help calm feelings of stress and anxiety. Take it in the mornings and you’ll get a boost of energy too!
Keep sugar to a minimum
Sugar is the immune system’s enemy. Part of the reason is that high sugar levels stop the body utilising vitamin C (our main immune-boosting nutrient) in the right way. Plus, it stops the body fighting off infections as it should. Sugar is sugar in all its forms will all have a detrimental effect on immunity. This includes honey, artificial sweeteners, natural fruit juices and processed, sugary foods and snacks.
Instead load up on immune-boosting foods (alongside your morning juice or smoothie). Mushrooms, natural yoghurt, whole grains, garlic and chicken soup are all great choices.
Take time for relaxation
It’s amazing how much less stressed you feel when you take even a short time away from everything and enjoy some relaxation. Most importantly, this can have a really positive effect on stress levels, which in turn helps the immune system.
Even 20 minutes each day can make all the difference. There are so many relaxation apps available which you can download or why not just take time out to read a book. Watching TV or looking at your phone just before bed are not conducive to relaxation as they simulate the brain, plus their blue light may prevent you from sleeping well.
Get some fresh air
The wintry weather makes us all huddle indoors, meaning germs are more likely to spread. But breathing fresh air, perhaps taking a brisk walk, can feel wonderfully restorative. Indeed, moderate exercise helps stimulate the immune system.
Even if you must endure some wind and rain, the health benefits will be worth it. If you enjoy walking, there are many groups you can join if you want some company. If you climb a few hills, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing scenery as well; the world looks very different from up high.
So, sail through Christmas and New Year in the best of health with these easy lifestyle tips – enjoy!
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