Q&A: How Will My Immune System Survive The Holidays?
With winter and family holidays fast approaching, I am constantly asked about what can be done to bolster the immune system and reduce stress. Here are some easy tips to get you through the rest of the year.
Q: I’m travelling a lot over the holidays, what can I do to boost my immune system?
A: A recent study used elderberry to prevent the onset of influenza during air travel. The study looked at 600-900 mg of elderberry extract containing 90-135mg of anthocyanins. Study participants took 2 capsules per day for 10 days before air travel. Two to four days before departure, the dosage was increased to 3 capsules per day, until 4 days after arrival at their destination (1).
Anthocyanins belong to the flavonoid group of phytochemicals; commonly found in teas, wine, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and cocoa. They add vibrant color to these foods, along with a potent antioxidant capacity. Recent research into the human effects of anthocyanins has revealed their ability to strengthen blood vessels, balance the immune system, and combat inflammation (2,3).
Of the 312 participants taking the elderberry extract, 29 developed a cold. The group taking the placebo treatment had greater symptom severity and over twice the duration of illness compared to the elderberry group.
For more information on how you can best avoid the cold and flu this year, click here
Q: I’ve heard sugar can compromise my immune system. What lifestyle behaviours can help me with my sweet tooth?
A: Sugar is a contributing factor when dealing with illness over the holidays. Try structuring your meals with a low carbohydrate content, and increase your consumption of proteins from meat and vegetable sources. Some good vegan sources of protein include pumpkin seeds, lentils, black beans, almonds, and tempeh.
Munching on high protein snacks will help to keep your blood sugar stable, increase feelings of fullness, and make it less likely for you to grab extra holiday treats.
Q:What about stress and my immune system? My family drives me crazy over the holidays, and I know I’m going to get sick because of the added stress…
A: Stress is an inevitable part of everyone’s lives. Unfortunately, you can’t pick your family, but you can build your resilience to the added stress that comes with holiday get togethers.
Daily yoga is an excellent way to tone your nervous system and help you keep a cool head when dealing with added stress.
A recent systematic review of 11 studies found that yoga enhanced the production of the body’s own antioxidants vitamin C and glutathione in healthy, diabetic, prediabetic, hypertensive, and renal disease patients. As a result, there was a significant reduction of oxidative stress after a session of yoga (4).
The great thing about yoga is that you don’t need to go to a class to reap the health benefits. A quick search of youtube will get thousands of results for many different types of yoga; one for every person’s unique needs.
Have a safe and happy holiday!
- Tiralongo E, Wee SS, Lea RA. Elderberry supplementation reduces cold duration and symptoms in air-travelers: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):182.
- Lila, Mary Ann. “Anthocyanins and Human Health: An In Vitro Investigative Approach.” Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2004.5 (2004): 306–313. PMC. Web. 2 Nov. 2017.
- Youdim K, Martin A, Joseph J. Incorporation of the elderberry anthocyanins by endothelial cells increases protection against oxidative stress. Free Radic Biol Med. 2000;29(1):51–60.
- Pal, R. & Gupta, N. (2017). Yogic practices on oxidative stress and of antioxidant level: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 0(0), pp. -. Retrieved 2 Nov. 2017, from doi:10.1515/jcim-2017-0079.