Chronic Illness  
 December 12, 2014

Winter Health Tips

Tis the season folks, and while this time of year is filled with holiday celebrations, festive decor, and the exchanging of gifts, I am actually referring to a quite different type of season! One that can make this joyous, merry time of year seem quite the opposite; the sick season! You know how it goes. It hits you when you least expect it, usually at the worst possible time, knocking you right off your feet and into your bed where you remain until your body decides it is time for you to re-enter the world as the fully functioning being you were prior to the overtaking of the illness.

Sometimes getting sick is inevitable, but there are actions we can take to put ourselves in the best possible position to avoid getting sick! Preventing the spread of germs to others, and ourselves really is so basic, yet can be so difficult to remember as the hustle and bustle of everyday life can be consuming. So what can we do to prevent these disease causing bacteria and viruses from becoming the gifts that keeps on giving? We can start by taking care of ourselves as best as we possibly can!

Proper nutrition and exercise are engrained in our heads for a reason. With balance in each area, they do wonders for our entire existence. Getting the proper micro and macronutrients our body needs, provides us with the essentials needed to fight off these germs. At a cellular level, they enable our bodies to create and utilize immunity to disease causing pathogens. A body without adequate nutrients is like a car trying to thrive on an insufficient amount of fuel, antifreeze or oil…inevitably it will no longer be able to function properly to say the least. Staying hydrated is just as important! Water not only helps eliminate toxins, but also is vital to building a healthy, well functioning immune system. Exercise does wonders in preventing disease by increasing fluid output, thus also helping to eliminate toxins, enables the lungs to get rid of germs more efficiently, speeds up the rate of which your white blood cells (immunity cells) flow throughout the body, and also gives us those lovely endorphins and helps us breathe more deeply both of which promote stress relief. Which brings me to my next major way in which we can armor ourselves from illness!

Take care of that stress level! I am well aware that this can be much easier said then done. I know that for me taking those few precious minutes necessary to help eliminate stress can actually in itself seem stressful, yet inevitably when I commit to taking care of myself in this way I always reap the benefits, and so does my immune system. Stress causes the body to release a hormone called corticosteroid, which decreases the amount of white blood cells in the body. Stress relief can be as unique to the individual as our personality traits. For me yoga and meditation work wonders for coping with stress, whereas some of my close friends use weight lifting or writing as a main tool to deal with theirs. It’s all about finding what works for you! Also, it is okay to allow yourself those extra gifts of kindness whether it’s a massage, aromatherapy, a pedicure—whatever it may be, you deserve it! Taking care of yourself not only makes you well but also prevents the spread of disease to others.

In the spirit of protecting others while taking care of ourselves, hand washing is one of the best ways to shield others and ourselves from getting sick! This is such a minuscule action that can actually be life saving. In nursing school they had us use a black light to test how well we washed our hands. It was incredible seeing how much bacteria was left over even after singing row-row-row your boat twice and scrubbing viscously as we made sure we cleansed every nook, crevice and cranny of our hands. Think about how many things we touch even in a 30 second period of time, and how often we subconsciously touch our nose or mouth (two patent orifices serving as a direct route for infectious pathogens). Hand sanitizer is a fantastically convenient alternative if you are not coming in contact with body fluids.

Lastly, this is my own personal belief but I am a huge proponent of vaccination. Research continuously shows strong evidence that benefits of vaccination far outweighs the risks and helps greatly reduce disease transmission. All of this is especially true for those that are immunocompromised including the elderly, babies, those with chronic disease related issues, and people taking medication that decreases their immunity.

Taking care of ourselves puts us in the best position to ward off those nasty disease-causing germs. We have the opportunity to give ourselves the best chance of having a sick-free sick season! Staying well can allow us to fully enjoy this winter and holiday season and all of the associated festivities and feelings of warmth and joy. So as you deck those halls, trim those trees, or celebrate in whatever way suits you, don’t forget to give yourself the ultimate gift of being the healthiest you possible!