With the stress of holiday season and all of the shopping centers and airports that ensues, it is an active season for our immune systems. With our parents’ voices in the back of our heads nagging “wash your hands” and “keep your hands away from your face,” I am confident that we are all hand sanitizer-toting, vitamin C-popping, flu season warriors. While we know best practices for eliminating germs on the surface, here are a few lesser known health hacks to keep you a lean, mean, pathogen-fighting machine this season. Note, there is no substitute for keeping your sneezes to yourself and washing your hands in human-dense areas. These hacks are really year-long projects to keep your immune system fit and ready to fight when viruses are abound.
1. Jump up, jump up, and get down!
Jumping jacks, jump squats, jumping on a trampoline, or the fan favorite; burpees, are all great for keeping your lymphatic system in tip-top shape. Aside from our front line of defense, including our protective layer of skin and hair, the lymphatic system is a key player in our immunity. Unlike our circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to keep the lymph, which houses white blood cells needed to fight illnesses, circulating through our bodies and flushing out toxins. Lymph relies solely on physical movement, which is why full body motions such as jumping and inversion yoga poses can act as a lymphatic pump. Aside from rebounding up and down, staying hydrated also allows the lymph to flow freely through the body. So Drink up!
2. Remind yourself that health is an investment, so invest in a mid-week massage
The day after travel, or the day after a family filled event, treat yourself to a full body rub down. Relaxation activates interleukins, which are important powerhouse cells for the immune system. We know that physical and mental stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, so choose active relaxation at the peak of a stressful holiday season. Not only are you awakening your immune system, but a massage also assists the movement of your lymphatic system, flushing out harmful toxins.
3. Feed your immune system
There might be more to the age old “vitamin C’” trick than meets the eye. Our gut houses more than 70 percent of our immune system, so building up a powerhouse of healthy gut bacteria is essential to maintaining a strong immune system, which is easier said than done, especially during the holidays with all of the champagne toasts and sugar cookies floating about. Our hearts say gravy but our gut says kale. Eating plant foods rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals will nourish your healthy gut bacteria and act as a strong arm for your immunity. Add in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt and kombucha for a boost of probiotics.
4. Step away from the sugar cookies
Your immune system basically runs for cover when you overindulge in sugar. A sugar dump can leave your immune system in a depressed state for several hours after consumption, leaving your white blood cells unable to fend off bacteria and viruses. Without tapping into the laundry list of other negative side effects too much sugar can cause, know that going back for a second serving of pumpkin pie might be the tipping point for your immune system. So if you indulge, keep it small.
5. Cut out the junk – but keep the calories
That’s right, keep the calories. Restrictive dieting may seem like a good idea when you’re trying to remain weight conscious throughout the holidays, but it may actually be harming your immune system. In a modern western diet, restricting calories may also mean restricting nutrients necessary for sustaining the production of immune system properties. The effects of a weakened immune system during caloric restriction is even maximized if you participate in strenuous physical activity, so to contradict all of the immune system benefits of exercise. In short, cut out the saturated fats, the excess sugar and salt, and load up on all things fruits and vegetables.
We hope these tips help keep you able-bodied to enjoy all of the holiday festivities coming your way!
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