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San Clemente Journal

Handling Holiday Stress & Boosting Your Immune System

Nov 01, 2009 11:20AM ● By Don Kindred

by Dr. Bradley Shapero, D.C.

Having a stress free holiday season can sound like an oxymoron. Although sailing through the holidays entirely stress free may truly be unrealistic, having a virtually stress free holiday is certainly very doable. 

Avoiding stress is the first step and this can be helped by proper planning. The two areas of stress for many are both time and money. One key thing to plan first is your holiday calendar. Choose what functions you are going to attend and when the calendar is full politely decline any additional invites. This means talking with friends and family early so you can plan events that allow you to fully enjoy the season. Next, plan your budget and stick to it! Figure out who you would like to acknowledge with gifts, create a budget and then do not violate it. Spend money you have now and do not borrow on credit. This should help you sleep better well into the New Year.

Now let’s talk about the body

It is no wonder that more people get sick around the holidays than any other time. Many have speculated that holiday illness is caused by a virus; apparently this virus also enjoys the holidays and then mysteriously disappears. Some blame the weather; however numerous studies have shown that this theory does not hold up. So what could this be, this ambiguous force that wrecks havoc year after year. It can truly be summed up with one word – STRESS.

This is the time of year that your body gets assaulted in many ways. Along with the added stress of over extended schedules and stretched budgets, in many cases we often include sweets, alcohol, too little sleep, and other changes to our routine that assault our immune system. Additionally, we usually spend the holiday season with family, and family dynamics can be a tremendous stress, as can the emotions from the loss of loved ones, broken relationships, or fragmented families.

Image titleAlthough we have methods for reducing or eliminating most stressors on the body we are not able to completely eliminate all stress exposure. This leaves us needing to help our body to become as resistant as possible to stress. A fairly consistent amount of sleep will be powerful in reducing stress. Our bodies need sleep to promote healing from day to day irritations, 7-9 hours in most cases. Drinking plenty of water is also important along with maintaining a balanced diet with enough protein. 

Nutrition and Immunity

Vitamin C, one of the most talked about and studied nutrients, plays an important part in helping protect the immune system. It may surprise you to know that vitamin C is not just ascorbic acid. Ascorbic Acid is actually just the outer protective layer to the vitamin molecule. A high quality vitamin C isolated from a whole food source and has all components is the best. Vitamin C has been shown to have a dramatic impact on increasing the activity and function of the white cells known as leukocytes. A recent review of 20 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials suggest that vitamin C does appear to help shorten the duration of a cold and reduce the severity of symptoms. According to this analysis, vitamin C given in therapeutic doses (from 1,000 to 8,000 milligrams per day) at the onset of a cold may help reduce the duration of cold episodes by as much as 48%.

Zinc also plays an important role in the immune system. A deficiency in zinc is known to impair immune response, markedly increasing susceptibility to infection.
Echinacea is one of the most highly regarded immune supporting herbs available. Indigenous to North America, Echinacea was traditionally used by Native Americans for a variety of ailments such as colds, coughs, sore throats, infections, and snake and insect bites. Today, Echinacea is commonly recommended to help prevent and treat cold and flu infection and conditions associated with it.

Goldenseal, also indigenous to North America, is commonly used in conjunction with Echinacea for the treatment of colds and flu. Native Americans traditionally used goldenseal for a wide range of ailments, including the treatment of skin diseases, ulcers, gonorrhea and other infectious conditions. It is often recommended for infectious diarrhea, gastritis, infections and inflammation of the mucous membranes, and for digestive disorders. b