The holiday season brings cheer to millions even as the northern latitudes grow ever darker. Sadly, the post-season is one that is much less welcome. I refer of course to the cold and flu season. Is the relationship mere coincidence, or is there some insidious connection? We thought it important that you know why you may often get sick around the holidays.
Let us first explore a worrisome dietary trend: Americans, on average, consume 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day. To put that into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men. Since we typically consume significantly more sugar during the holiday season, we often suffer the consequences.
The consequence of primary concern is the immunosuppressive effect of sugar. Upon ingesting sugar, our immune response may be suppressed for many hours. This allows an opportunity for viruses to replicate unchecked.
| The biggest threats to our immune system (in chronological order): |
By the time our sluggish immune system responds, it is facing a much higher viral load and colds can set in.
Add in holiday stress and exposure to germ-ridden friends and family and you’re now in the middle of the perfect storm. Accordingly, avoiding sugar may not be enough.
Some basic nutrients paired with immune-supporting herbs and probiotics can help us weather the storm. This is what I typically recommend:
- Vitamin D3 – a profound regulatory nutrient essential for catalyzing immune response. Vitamin D levels decline throughout the winter months and the only way to ensure a decent level is supplementation. 3000 to 5000 IUs daily for adults, 400 to 3000 IUs daily for children (calculated at 35 IUs per pound).
- Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant and fuel for immune cells. 500 to 1000 mg daily for adults, 250 to 500 mg daily for kids. More may be consumed if you’re currently sick.
- Andrographis – a fast-acting immune stimulant and anti-microbial herb. 100 to 1200 mg daily for adults, 100 to 400 mg daily for kids.
- Umcka (pelargonium sidoides 1x) – an herbal extract for faster recovery and relief of persistent respiratory symptoms. Tincture: 1.5 ml, 3x daily for adults and 1 ml 3x daily for children.
- Elderberry – an antioxidant-rich immune tonic with specific suppressive effects on envelope-type viruses, such as influenza. Aim for 100 to 300mg once or twice daily for adults, 100 to 300mg once daily for older children and 70 to 140mg once daily for young children. Can be increased during colds.
- Probiotics – beneficial bacteria that support immune function as well as digestion. Look for a product with a decent variety of species and a potency of at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per strain.
A Special Consideration for Adults
Many of us like to raise a glass (or two) of liquid celebration during the holidays. While this tradition endures, we should bear in mind that alcohol can significantly decrease our immune potential. In addition to having immunosuppressive effects comparable to those of sugar, alcohol can disrupt the balance of beneficial microbes in our digestive tract, leading to immune dysfunction. Drinking also increases our risk of respiratory infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. If you choose to indulge, consider supporting your immune system in advance with supplements and restful sleep and celebrate good health!
Your Cold Season Cheat Sheet
Key supplements that may help you avoid sickness as well as some of our staff’s cold relief go-to’s.
Essential Seasonal Wellness Advice from Area Specialists
We asked a few area health practitioners for their most important seasonal wellness tips.
Also check out Joel’s article, Natural Treatment Options for Anxiety, if you need assistance dealing with the stresses of the season.