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  • Dr. Katie O'Connor

Got Germs? 5 ways to boost your immunity this holiday season!

Yep, it's that time of year again. Where everyone's starting to hack and sniffle. You hole up in your house, practically buy the store out of hand sanitizer and avoid touching anyone but your cat.

Let's talk some truth about why people really get sick this time of year. Germs are everywhere. All the time. So why is "cold and flu season" a thing? Some main reasons are decreased levels of vitamin D, increased levels of stress, drier air quality and a massive increase in sugar intake. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to illness because of the body's natural drop in immunity during the prenatal period.

Vitamin D3 is vital to many cellular functions but plays some particularly important rolls in keeping our immune system up. We tend to get more sun in the summer months than we do in the winter, which is our main natural source of vitamin D. Increased use of sunscreen has led to many people (as many as 1 in 3 Americans) being deficient in this crucial vitamin. Those that live closer to the equator will have an easier time keeping their levels up than those of us living farther north or south.

Starting with back-to-school and continuing into the holidays, this time of year can have a lot of added stress. Stress affects our body in many ways, a big one being decreased immune function. It not only decreases the amount of immune cells produced, it also prevents proper digestion which means we don't absorb all the important nutrients our immune systems need!

Unless you live in a fairly warm climate, it's likely that you will have turned your heat on by this time of year. That cozy feeling of warm fingers and toes comes at a cost of having the air in your house much drier than normal. Static anyone? The dry air can cause us to have less functional mucus (yes I'm discussing your mucus) in our airways. Since the function of mucus is to trap those pesky germs and help us expel them out of our bodies, less fluidity to our mucus means more bugs get to stay and hang out.

This festive season also accounts for a huge increase in the amount of sugar most people consume due to all the fun and fabulous parties and family get togethers starting at Halloween and finally ending as the last of the Christmas leftovers hit the trash. Sugar wreaks havoc with our body's immune system, decreasing its ability to function and feeding the incoming germs all at the same time.

It is really important if you are pregnant or nursing to take extra good care of yourself during this season as your body is already physically stressed. Using the tips below you can avoid adding illness to the list of pregnancy complaints!

5 Ways to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

1. Increase your vitamin D3. If you don't live where you can get some sun, you'll need to take supplement in order to keep your levels high enough for your immune system to function at its best

2. Add in some immune support! Since it's pretty hard to decrease the stress of the season, adding in adaptogens such as rhodiola, ashwaganda or immune boosters like elderberry, echinacea and garlic can help to mitigate the nasty effects of stress. Adding orange or lemon to an immune boosting tea is a great way to add vitamin C to a few extra supports!

3. Use a humidifier. Especially where you sleep, adding a good humidifier can help to keep those airways more moist (yes, moist) so you can get the germs out!

4. Decrease sugar. I know, it's tasty and part of the fun of the season! We don't recommend completely depriving yourself of a good time during the holidays, instead we advocate for the 80/20 rule. Try to keep 80% of what you eat and drink fairly healthy, and then feel guilt free over the 20% indulgence!

5. Don't over do it on the sanitizing. Believe it or not, our skin's surface harbors a ton of healthy natural bacteria that helps us to balance and fight off the icky bacteria that can make us sick. Using too much antibacterial soaps and wipes can kill off too much of this helpful bacteria. We recommend washing hands thoroughly with warm water and regular soap to mitigate germs while maintaining a good balance of bacteria.

Let us know what you do to boost your immune system this, or any time of year!!

Dr. Katie O'Connor is the expert prenatal chiropractor at Life Naturally Chiropractic, an Orland Park, Illinois based chiropractic office specializing in the care of women before during and after pregnancy. Contact Dr. Katie O’Connor at Life Naturally Chiropractic for more information today.

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