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Staying healthy during the holiday season
The holiday season can bring unwelcome guests, including colds and flus, extra stress and the effects of overindulgence. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands – shopping, cleaning and entertaining – to name just a few.

To prevent the feelings of overindulgence and stress, and to support your immune system this holiday season, there are a few easy things to integrate into your daily routine that will keep your joy alive this winter.

Stop a Cold or Flu in its Tracks

From vitamins and minerals to herbs and spices, there are several simple ways to safely and effectively reduce our susceptibility to catching a cold or flu.

Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses; a deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to infection. It becomes even more important to take in a supplement form as our exposure to UV light from the sun diminishes come November.

An important mineral to help in the development of white blood cells, which ensures your immune system is functioning properly, is zinc. It can be found in foods such as beef, oysters, poultry, pork, fortified cereals and yogurt, and can also be taken in lozenge form, which not only helps boost white blood cells, but also has a topical anti-viral effect.

In the culinary field, several foods and spices have been used for centuries to help ward off and treat cold and flu infections. With recent research into these potent plants, we now know which species and extracts have the greatest therapeutic effects in our bodies.

Garlic has powerful anti-viral, antibiotic and anti-fungal properties and boosts the immune system in general. Studies have shown that those consuming garlic daily are two-thirds less likely to catch a cold.

Oregano of the species Origanum vulgare is antimicrobial, antiseptic and antibacterial due to it high content of carvacrol. The oil extract is too potent to be used full strength, so a blend of oregano oil with olive oil in a one-to-four ratio is ideal to allow proper assimilation in the body.

Keep Calm and Carry On

With the stress of overindulgence and added pressures of the holiday season, cortisol levels can surge. Safe natural supplements for combating stress include herbal adaptogens, which are natural metabolic regulators that help stabilize our physiology by promoting homeostasis in the body. These support our ability to adapt and avoid damage from stress and cortisol, which can be physiological, biochemical, mental and emotional in nature.

Two herbs that I often recommend are Rhodiola and Ashwaghanda. Rhodiola is a herb that not only supports the stress response in the body, but also lifts mood. Ashwagandha is one of the most studied adaptogenic herbs; it lowers cortisol – the stress hormone – and restores the function of the adrenal gland, preventing burnout.

Get your ZZZZs

One of the best ways to prevent the physiological and emotional effects of stressful events, and to keep your immune system healthy is getting enough quality sleep. To help you fall asleep, melatonin is a safe and widely used supplement that induces sleepiness and correctly resets your Circadian clock. To help you stay asleep, a serotonin precursor – 5-HTP – can be used to maintain quality of sleep and depth of sleep cycles.

For those with “monkey mind,” L-theanine can get that hamster off the wheel so your brain can move from busy to calm, and therefore allow you to fall asleep more easily.

Holidays are meant to be a time to spend with family and friends.

Unfortunately, stress and pesky colds are often part of the package. Remember to take time for yourself, don’t over-stack your plate, and give your body the foundation it needs to keep this a joyous time of year.

Dr. Jennifer Dyck is a naturopathic doctor, health educator and public speaker with a passion for empowering her patients to achieve their optimal health. Dr. Jen has expertise in the treatment of digestive complaints, hormone imbalances and brain-related health conditions.