Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
Holiday Season 2022 and Immune System Health
With the holiday season fast approaching, it's time to start thinking about how you'll celebrate. While making your plans, you should also consider how to support your immune system health during this busy time of the year. After all, the holidays occur during cold and flu season, and you don't want an unexpected illness to get in the way of the festive fun. Read on to learn how to support your immune system naturally during the holidays and beyond.
Impact of Stress on the Immune System
Many people come down with colds and the flu during or immediately after the holidays. Parties and get-togethers create the right environment for germs to spread. When functioning at its best, your immune system can fight off many of the microbes you encounter when hugging, chatting, caroling, and dancing with others, but holiday stress could lower your defenses.
When you're feeling stressed, your body produces an inflammatory response in an attempt to protect you from threats. This inflammation can make you more vulnerable to germs. In addition, stress raises levels of the hormone cortisol, which has been shown to increase the risk of infections. Knowing how to boost your immune system during the holidays can help to counteract some of the effects of holiday stress.
How to Support Your Immune System Naturally
To support your immune system during the holidays, follow these tips.
Take steps to reduce stress.
Busy schedules and the potential for conflict with relatives can make holiday stress inescapable. While you may be unable to avoid it, you can take steps to ease tension. Try deep-breathing exercises or use a guided meditation app to relax and unwind. Devote at least a few minutes daily to doing something you enjoy, such as listening to music or reading a book. And remember that it's okay to establish boundaries during the holiday season. If you're feeling overwhelmed by your social calendar, consider turning down a few invitations.
Cut down on your sugar intake.
Christmas cookies, pumpkin pie, and rum-spiked eggnog might get your mouth watering during the fall and winter holidays, but try not to overindulge in sugary foods. Sugar has been shown to dampen the immune system. Plus, overeating sugar can contribute to holiday weight gain, as excess sugar that your body can't burn becomes stored in the form of fat.
Exercise helps to keep your immune system functioning correctly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week, but this doesn't have to mean spending the holidays in the gym. Brisk walking is a great way to stay active, so consider taking walks through holiday light displays or beautifully decorated neighborhoods. Just five 30-minute walks per week will be enough to meet CDC guidelines. Not only will all that walking benefit your immune system, but it can also help to relieve holiday stress.
Get plenty of rest.
Sleep is vital to immune system function; many American adults don't get enough of it during the holidays and the rest of the year. To improve your sleep during the holiday season:
- Stick to a consistent bedtime and wake time as much as possible.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals close to bedtime.
- Limit exposure to blue light from televisions, phones, and computers.
- Take earplugs and an eye mask with you if you travel.
- Reduce the risk of jet lag from holiday trips by gradually adjusting your sleep-wake schedule by 10 or 15 minutes daily during the weeks leading up to your travels.
Up to 60% of your body is water, and every cell in your body needs it to work correctly. To avoid dehydration during the holiday season, make sure that you drink plenty of fluids. Water is the best option, but other beverages will do in a pinch. Ensure you don't try to hydrate with caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, as they can worsen dehydration.
Try immune-boosting supplements.
Immune-boosting supplements like Body Kitchen Mega NAC + Quercetin can help support your immune system during the holiday season and beyond. The supplement contains the antioxidant Quercetin and n-acetyl cysteine (NAC), which your body needs to manufacture the antioxidant glutathione.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of antioxidants for immune system health. Antioxidants help to break down free radicals that damage cells. By bolstering your defenses, antioxidants may reduce oxidative damage and support a healthy inflammatory response to benefit your immune system.