"It's the most wonderful time of the year! There'll be parties for hosting,
marshmallows for toasting," and then sickness EVERYWHERE!
It's that time of year, again! And Big Pharma has beyond started their big push for marketing flu shots. After all, it’s “flu season” now through February. Forgive my soapbox for this post, but this is a topic near and dear to my heart. And my stance on the issue may shock some of you. Are you ready??
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “FLU SEASON” I know it may sound ridiculous, but hear me out. These viruses are around all year round. I know plenty of people who had colds, the flu and/or Covid in June. It’s not as if the viruses wait until Fall is upon us and they sneak around and pounce to infect us around Halloween. But there is a major surge in illness this time of year, and there are several reasons that people are more vulnerable to succumbing to viruses right now. But it has nothing to do with the bugs and everything to do with us. (This year more than usual, too, but I'll get into that...)
1. LOSS OF SUNLIGHT
· We are headed towards the shortest day of the year – which in Chicago has only about 9 hours of daylight per day. Compare that with the longest day of sunlight at about 15 hours, who can blame us for getting a little “SAD” (Seasonal Affective Disorder) by January?! Sunlight impacts us in so many ways. Most people say that they feel a significant energy and mood boost on sunny days versus cloudy days, regardless of the temperature. Aside from the pure effect that the light has on our minds and bodies, obviously, the sun is our source of vitamin D. Sources state that at Chicago’s latitude, our bodies can only produce D from the sun June-August. (Ouch!...why do I live here, again!?)
Additionally, the loss of sunlight contributes to that chill in the air. And our bodies have to work much harder to maintain its functions to adapt and keep warm.
· So, between the loss of the sun, and cooling of our environment, our immune systems can easily become stressed. But research shows us regularly that consistent vitamin D intake is more effective at flu prevention than a flu shot! 2. INCREASED SUGAR INTAKE · I just posted a recent YouTube video about sugar, if you want to check it out!
It's a drug - the most addictive at that! And the problem is it's EVERYWHERE. Between all the holidays, parties, and celebrations that this time of year contains, many people give in to the societal and cultural expectations that the holidays = sugar. How much Halloween candy have you eaten so far? Did you know that after consuming even a small to moderate amount of added processed sugar, your immune system function is significantly lowered for a few hours? Even I used to be one that come the first week of November, I'd "write off" the rest of the year nutritionally. That is the worst idea ever.
A health coach once told me, "every day, every meal, every BITE - is a choice." Despite the prevalence of sugar-infused products that are seemingly everywhere, try to keep your intake to a minimum. Just because you have a few bites of chocolate, doesn't mean you need to eat the whole bag, or eat it all weekend. Enjoy treats responsibly. Your body will thank you later!
3. HOLIDAY STRESS · We’ve discussed the importance of managing stress plenty of times before. Short term, increased cortisol can actually boost immune function by reducing inflammation. However, long term, high inflammation due to increased stress and cortisol lead to an overworked and over-tired immune system that can’t properly protect you. Increased cortisol long-term is also correlated with a reduction in lymphocytes, which are the body’s primary white blood cell defense against viruses. (ie: colds and flus).
Stress of gift-giving, feeling over-scheduled, and extended family gatherings will always be here - but let's try to focus on the positives, and things that we are grateful for!
I know I for one, am grateful for Amazon to reduce my shopping stress!
So, what can we do to stay healthy and illness-free during this risky season?
1. Maintain high vitamin D levels through supplementation and/or a safe tanning bed 2. Eat warming foods (soups, stews…etc.) abundant in vegetables and nutrient dense
foods 3. Manage our stress levels through meditation and consistent exercise 4. Keep added sugar consumption to a minimum 5. Continue to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily.
6. Consider supplementation with some immune boosters like vitamin C, (D, as previously
mentioned), Elderberry, probiotics, apple cider vinegar, oscillococcinum, and zinc.
7. Check in with your favorite chiropractor and/or holistic doctor for care to customize
your health strategy! If you happen to get sick, don’t delay in working to fix it! We are all human. I just recently had a virus that my kids gifted to me. It happens to the best of us. I also believe it's much more intense now since covid as we were all avoiding each other and masked - our immune systems depend on practice and exposure to germs to get big and strong!
Either way, when afflicted with something, I act quickly and generally can fight it off with proper rest, nutrition, remedies, and supplementation in a few days rather than a few weeks or months. My misery and time "off" is much lessened, too! But, remember also, when we get sick, our body is giving us a sign to slow down and take notice. If we don't listen to the minor signals, it will speak louder until we cannot ignore it. Give yourself and your body grace, and rest!
I hope that you remain healthy this risky time of year! As always, if you need guidance on more specific suggestions to help you prevent illness or treat yourself once sick, please contact me. I am always happy and willing to support you and your immune system in your journey towards optimal health!
Yours in health,
Dr. Christy Matusiak