5 ways to boost your immunity this Christmas

By Nutrition Consultant, Jess Robinson

Whilst the holiday season can be a time of excitement and joy, it can also leave our immune system jolted by germy airplane travel, stress from family or Christmas shopping, excessive alcohol intake and lack of sleep. Thankfully, there are ways to strengthen our immune system, combat those pesky bugs and maintain your health over the Christmas period.

1. Don’t skimp on sleep

Sleep should always be a priority, especially during the leadup to Christmas and New Year, when we need sufficient energy levels more than ever. Research has indicated that lack of sleep or quality sleep lowers our immunity, making us more susceptible to infections and slows our recovery process. When we sleep, our immune system produces proteins called cytokines, which help to induce sleep. These same cytokines are also secreted when our body has to combat an infection or inflammation. If we become sleep deprived, cytokines are not produced and we are more likely to become sick when attacked by bacteria or a virus. If you struggle getting to sleep or staying asleep, you should take magnesium, a powerful mineral that helps to promote healthy sleep.

2. Maintain your exercise regime

Just because you are busier than usual and your gym may have reduced trading hours, this is no excuse to halt your exercising over the festive period. A walk around the bicycle track, outdoor run or bike ride, is not only good for maintaining fitness levels, it also boosts energy levels, releases endorphins and strengthens your immune system. In saying this, if you are stressed out, opt for low-intensity exercises as strenuous activity may place further stress on the body. If you exercise regularly, you may benefit from taking glutamine; a natural amino acid that is vital for new muscle growth and assists muscle recovery after exercise.

3. Drink wisely

During the Christmas period, there are of course plenty of occasions that revolve around the consumption of alcohol. But rather than go too crazy, try and exhibit some form of discipline by choosing lower-calorie options and having a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is very toxic to the liver and can kill off brain cells, impair your immune system and interfere with digestion and sleep. While alcohol may initially alleviate anxiety, alcohol is actually a depressant. Rather than turning to wine when you’re feeling down, do something to make you feel good like getting a massage, taking a yoga class, or watching re-runs of your favourite show. You may benefit from taking tyrosine, an amino acid that stimulates the reward system of the brain and reduces cravings for addictive foods and alcohol.

4. Stress less

During the lead up to Christmas you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by work deadlines, last-minute Christmas shopping, financial issues or family problems. High levels of stress can really compromise your immunity, due to high levels of the “fight or flight” hormone cortisol, building up in the body. Minimise stress by getting yourself organised. Sit down and work out what things need to be done, and by what time. Write a list of achievable steps to take each day to achieve them. Online shopping is a great way to get great presents in the comfort of your own home, while also avoiding the impossible car parking and manic shoppers. You may benefit from taking magnesium, which improves the physiological response to stress and helps to promote relaxation.

5. Don’t overindulge

When it comes to watching your alcohol intake, the same goes for the plentiful amounts of rich, creamy, sweet foods that often surround us during the Christmas period. Just cos there are an array of foods available, it does not mean you need to gorge yourself silly. Choose a small plate to serve your food on, and have small amounts of the food you really want. The majority of your plate should consist of vegetables or fresh salads. Another tip to avoid overeating is to place yourself away from the food table, so you are less likely to overeat. Like the saying ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. Focus more on engaging in conversation rather than thinking about your next course.

Following these five simple steps is a great way to have a healthy and happy Christmas. It’s crucial to have good immunity, so your body is sufficiently armed against the many microorganisms that are apparent in our everyday environment.

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