How to Avoid Getting Sick During the Holidays — 12 Tips from Doctors Slideshow
December 7, 2016
Don’t let a cold or the flu sideline you this festive season
Gorging yourself on holiday treats leaves you sluggish and a little heavier, but Dr. Neilanjan Nandi, gastroenterologist and assistant professor at Drexel University College of Medicine, warns that overeating for one meal can lead to severe acid reflux. Nandi suggests that if you are prone to reflux to take your time and consume smaller portions, drink more water, and chew your food slower.
“It’s easy to forget to exercise during the holidays, but being active — especially when you are ingesting a lot more calories on average — is key in staying healthy,” notes Dr. Joseph Mosquera, a medical and health expert for Consumer Reports Health and a practicing physician in Newark, New Jersey. He recommends finding unconventional ways to exercise, such as dancing to your favorite holiday soundtrack.
But if dancing isn’t necessarily your thing, try some of the most popular exercises of 2016.
Boost Your Vitamin D Levels
The frigid winter months keep many people indoors and out of the sun. Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, author of What Doctors Eat, warns that reduced sun exposure could lead to a vitamin D deficiency. “Consider adding in a supplement of vitamin D to your diet,” he says. “Studies have shown that vitamin D plays a vital role in our immunity and ability to fight off germs and viruses.”
Flu shots are still one of the best ways to fight the flu this holiday season. Although it’s already the beginning of December, it’s not too late to get vaccinated, says Dr. Jack Dybis, a Chicago-based trauma and general surgeon, and founder of IVme Wellness + Performance of Chicago. “A flu shot can usually reduce your chance of getting the flu by 50 to 70 percent. And the more people who are vaccinated against the flu, the less likely it is to spread to others, which is something we refer to as herd-immunity,” Dybis points out.
Monitor Sugar Intake
In 2016, sugar was declared the villain of the nutritional world, but this ingredient is still an inevitable part of the holidays.
Since sugar is an immune suppressor, Bhatia recommends establishing a sugar “budget” as the holidays approach. “Be intentional about how much sugar you’re consuming,” he advises.
Schedule Mental Health Breaks
It’s no secret that the holidays can be a stressful time of year. Though there are foods that can help lift your mood, you should also find time for mental health breaks, says Dr. Mark Khorsandi of the Migraine Relief Center. Stress can cause migraines and headaches, Khorsandi says, “and sometimes the best remedy is to put time aside for yourself, and practice relaxation and deep breathing techniques.”
Sleep a Full 8 Hours
Sleep is especially important when attempting to stave off sickness. Dr. Partha Nandi, creator and host of the Emmy Award-winning medical lifestyle television show Ask Dr. Nandi, explains that “those who get eight or more hours of sleep are less likely to get a cold than those who snooze seven hours or less.”
Having trouble going to bed? Try eating some of these nine foods that help you sleep.
Stay Home When Sick
This article explains the many ways to avoid getting sick, but if you do happen to catch a cold or the flu, Dr. Tanya Altmann recommends staying at home. “If possible, keep kids home from school and stay home from work when sick to help prevent the spread of sickness to teachers, classmates or coworkers at this busy time of year,” Altmann says.
Drinking water is one of the first steps to changing your health, but staying hydrated is especially important during the holidays.
Mosquera notes that during Christmas and New Year’s Eve, people tend to drink a lot more alcohol than usual. “Alcohol is going to make you dehydrated,” Mosquera says, “and lead to a worse night's sleep, so it's important to combat the negative effects of alcohol by drinking water. Try drinking a glass of water for every holiday cocktail.”
Strengthen the Immune System With Magnesium Supplements
Many people don’t get the proper amount of magnesium in their diet, but this mineral is essential in fortifying the immune system. Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health, notes that “magnesium increases the activity of the part of the immune system involved in the formation of antibodies (immune response) and acts on cells making them more active in protecting themselves from microbial, bacterial and viral attacks.” She argues that magnesium supplements are necessary because modern farming methods have depleted the natural magnesium from the soil.
Take 1 Dropper of Astragalus Every Day
You may never have heard of the astragalus, but this plant has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries as a remedy for a weakened the immune system. “Astragalus root is an adaptogen, which means it works with your system to help return you to homeostasis and protect the body from stressors,” Bhatia notes. “With antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, Astragalus root preps your immune system to stave off common colds and germs.” Astragalus root can be purchased as a tincture from natural food stores.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
The old adage remains true today. Dr. Kristine Arthur, internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, warns that you’re especially susceptible to germs when out holiday shopping, “as germs love to hang out on door handles and faucets, and are easily spread when you touch your face or eat food with your hands.”
Washing your hands is also one of the 10 tips to avoid getting food poisoning.