Fall is now in full swing, and with it come many of our favorite holiday traditions. We at Concho Valley Chiropractic are dusting off our winter clothes for the cooler San Angelo weather to come, and starting preparations for Christmas celebrations. But around this time some other trends tend to pop up, especially pertaining to healthcare. Sometimes dubbed cold and flu season, the end of the year tends to be a time of more sickness as well as celebration. Our bodies get sick when outside pathogens outcompete our body's natural immune defenses. So, while the increased travel and time inside can cause us to be exposed to more germs, we try to challenge our patients into thinking about what things they are doing that in turn are lowering their bodies defenses. With that being said, this blog is going to be about four easy things to do that can help increase our body's immune function, and help prevent pesky colds.
Two of the biggest players in our dietary immune health are vitamin-C and Vitamin -D. Both play roles in our immune system, and are widely recommended for preventing disease. Vitamins are naturally occurring compounds that our bodies cannot make on their own. Instead of taking additional supplements we try to encourage our patients to add these to their diet in their natural form. For vitamin C, make sure to be eating fruits such as citrus or strawberries, and vegetables including spinach, bell peppers, or Brussel sprouts. Vitamin D is found in a little bit different source, good dietary places for vitamin D are fish, eggs, and mushrooms. Making sure to eat foods like these regularly helps your body have all the tools it needs to fight off infections.
It should come as no surprise that the strongest keys to health are diet and exercise, but understanding that exercise is helping your immune system might be that added motivation to get up and exercise. What's interesting is that exercise not only helps our immune system in the short term, but also has significant lifelong effects. As we age our immune system diminishes, but research shows that individuals that maintain a higher level of physical fitness retain their healthy immune function much longer than their sedentary counterparts. Usually, our exercise routines dwindle into the colder months with worse weather conditions, and summer activities being closed. Some home-based exercise this fall and winter would go a long way, try finding an indoor exercise bike, or doing some calisthenics such as squats and pushups.
One big misconception about health is that the cold causes a cold. There's nothing inherent about the temperature that makes our body sick, however the lifestyle changes and activity changes that are leaving us as targets for disease. In fact, getting outside might be one of the best defenses your body has. Now don't be reckless, bundle up and dress appropriately, but studies have shown that increasing time outside has a myriad of health benefits. Being close to nature has been documented to show a decrease in depression, anxiety, heart disease, cancer, muscle aches and pain, migraines, diabetes, and even vertigo. So, as we budget time for family and friends this holiday season, make sure to set some aside for your health and get outside.
At CVC sometimes we feel like a broken record stating that sleep is the unsung hero of health. All too often it is where we take necessary time out of for other tasks, but sleep is massively important to our health. This is no different for immune health and disease prevention. Studies have shown that sleep is important for all of the major cells involved in the immune system, but also has further indirect effects. During sleep our body downregulates the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of our stress response. During periods of prolonged stress our immune system is suppressed leaving us vulnerable to those seasonal bugs. A good night’s sleep is essential for managing stress and in turn keeping our defenses working their best, so make sure to get 7-8 hours these holiday nights.
The idea of chasing wellness instead of running from disease isn’t new, but it is difficult. So many of our holiday traditions are deviations from healthy lifestyle and it can be incredibly tough at this time to maintain those health habits from earlier in the year. If you are feeling sick or unwell, make sure to seek care from your trusted healthcare provider. And if you're feeling great, don't take it for granted, make sure to be proactive this holiday season and come see us at Concho Valley Chiropractic to talk about more wellness lifestyle choices.