We know listicles are kind of cliché. We don’t like all the clickbait-y stuff that floods our Facebook feeds. We also know that the points that are on this list will make people go, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it before.”
But this information is important. In fact, it’s so important that it can’t be ignored. There is a BIG reason these tips are recommended for practically everything. Unlike the claims made by many natural products, these steps will actually “boost” your immune system and make you healthier.
It’s our job to tell it like it is to keep our customers healthy. So, here’s a seemingly generic clickbait list filled with our snark, of course, and a dose of actually helpful information.
Here are our Top 5 Tips to Stay Healthy for the Holidays!
Tip 1: Drink More Water
Fluids are crucial. Staying properly hydrated can help solve lots of the problems people seek our help for.
Our advice: think of water as a macronutrient along with protein, fat, and carbohydrates. If you suddenly stopped eating proteins, it wouldn’t be long until your body began to let you know what a bad idea that is. The same goes for water.
We think of our thirst mechanism as our “low fuel” indicator, and it totally is. However, if you ignore it for long enough, your body just gets sick of the alarm being on. It gives up on you and shuts off.
The systems that depend on proper hydration start running low and then start throwing off their own alarms. Cramps, headaches, joint pain, and even irregular heartbeats (yep!) can be caused by dehydration. Don’t ignore them!
A good rule of thumb for proper hydration for most people should be half your body weight in ounces, with a minimum of 64 ounces a day.
For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, you should be drinking 100 ounces. NO JOKE! This will, of course, vary (i.e. your doctor has you on a fluid restricted diet). But this number takes into account our different needs based on our different sizes and an overall activity level.
One caveat—for every caffeinated beverage you consume, you should drink an additional equal amount of water.
Do the math: If you drink 3 cups of coffee and add it to the 20 ounces of water you have daily, that means you are “in the hole” by 4 ounces.
We recommend staying hydrated because it’s a free fix and most people don’t know they’re running low.
If you exercise regularly, it is recommended that you have about 16 ounces an hour or two before exercise, then replenish your fluids during and after your workout to avoid dehydration. Check out our hydration article for more info!
Staying properly hydrated helps flush out bacteria, circulates nutrients, and keeps you feeling more energized, less cranky, and clearer headed. Water also makes you feel more satiated and full feeling.
Maybe it will help prevent me from eating a dozen or so cookies every day over the holidays! Probably not.
Tip 2: Wash Your Hands
The season for socializing brings you in close contact with plenty of germs. Keep them at bay with hot water and soap. Lather, rinse, repeat, and so on. We can’t stress the importance of this enough.
Watch out for kids. Especially kids. They are little Petri dishes. Many people aren’t exposed to all the goodies kids spread around unless of course, they have young kids. They are always putting their hands on people’s faces, in their mouths, on everything else, and they aren’t the greatest at staying on top of hygiene.
As if using soap and water on your body regularly wasn’t enough, we’ve got a new sanitation problem to address. Cell phones, tablets, and technology are harbingers of illness.
They’re up to our faces. In our hands. We talk into and spittle all over them. Let’s be honest, many of us use our cell phones in the bathroom… gross. Wonder why I grimace when a patient hands me their phone to speak to their spouse or doctor? No thanks.
Anyway, how many of us disinfect them with rubbing alcohol ever, let alone frequently each day?
The generic “Wash Your Hands” advice needs to be more modernized.
I recommend universal precautions:
- Assume everyone is carrying an illness that you don’t want.
- Wash your hands after contact and frequently throughout the day.
- Clean surfaces and devices as often as you can.
- If you travel, wash up, and be careful putting your hands to your face without first applying sanitizer or hand washing.
If you do get a scratchy throat, we recommend zinc lozenges and more. I’ve got a handout I give my pharmacy patients to help them manage colds found here. Otherwise, check out our blog on the subject.
Tip 3: Sleep Well
The typical advice here stands: get plenty of sleep, preferably 7 to 8 hours a night, to keep your mind and body happy and healthy.
What we can add is a deeper understanding of how bad sleep deprivation is. Did you know the CDC considers sleep a public health problem? Poor sleep can affect everything: concentration throughout the day, energy levels, safety (motor vehicle or workplace accidents), and even your immune health.
Little sleep can increase your risk for heart disease and Alzheimer’s. No joke.
This time of year, we have hectic schedules, lots of travel time, and sleepless nights worrying if your mom is going to guilt you into getting married, or if your drunk uncle (your drunckle) is going to make a scene again this year.
If you need help sleeping, I’m your guy. We had an excellent sleep podcast with Dr. Neil Stanley, renowned sleep expert.
Great sleep hygiene is essential!
- Get into a healthy schedule: sleep and wake at set times each day
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine close to bed
- Get the yaya’s out as our friend Tara Sanders said on the podcast. Exercise, stretch, whatever!
Falling asleep, as Dr. Neil Stanley says, requires three factors: a calm mind, a calm body, and a comfortable environment.
Any and all advice is derivative of that trinity. Any medicine or supplement will calm your mind and or your body. The differences between them is how strong/potent they are, how long they last, and their risks.
My favorite to calm your mind and body? CBD. It’s short-acting. You can titrate your dose. It works within 15-60 minutes. It’s subtle. It lacks all the liabilities of the other stuff. Call the staff and we’ll help you navigate the confusing and often misleading CBD landscape.
The other problem people have with sleep is waking up at night. This usually points to something medical, whether it be hormonal, a mild apnea or breathing obstruction, or bladder or urinary health, to name a few. Get expert help if you wake up in the night frequently.
Once you’re up, you then have to fall back asleep. This is where CBD is awesome. If dosed right, no hangover effect.
Some people wake up at night because they might be having some nutritional stress. Try a small protein and fat combo before bed—like apples and peanut butter. This may help you stay satiated and prevent dropping of blood sugar in the early morning hours. This works GREAT for young kids!
The Eagle Scout part of me recommends something many outdoorsy people already know: camping will reset your biological clock. If your cycle gets screwy, go away for the weekend without any electronics and get back on track.
We recommend this for those who have cared for a relative (four-legged or human) who wakes frequently at night. It’s free, fun, and healthy! Just don’t feed the bears.
Tip 4: Watch Your Booze Intake
Scotch is awesome and certainly helps with holiday stress. But, most people don’t realize that alcohol is a general central nervous system depressant and an immune system suppressant. This affects your energy and susceptibility to the germs we told you to avoid earlier in this article!
Alcohol is dehydrating as well, so drink 8 ounces of water for each serving of alcohol to combat those effects and stay hydrated.
Frequent or heavy alcohol consumption is very taxing. If you enjoy it, drink up—but know the wider implications and how to counteract those negatives.
Tip 5: Ignore the Urge to “Boost” Your Immune System
The idea that you can take something to “boost” your immune system typically is a bunch of baloney. Your body doesn’t work like that. The products promoted for this couldn’t possibly achieve these ends.
On top of this, our immune systems benefit radically by just following rules 1-4 above. Eat good, real foods. Exercise. Stay hydrated. Don’t over-indulge.
Probiotics, a Vital 5, are crucial to help support a healthy normal flora. Your immune system is mostly in and around your gut. Pair it with some Collagen Peptides and a prebiotic and you’ll have the happiest, most bad-bug-proof gut you’ve had in years!
Elderberry is great to have in the house in the event of a real, diagnosed flu. Just watch for all the sugar.
Skip the fad products: Vitamin C, oscillo-whatever-the-heck, and Airborne are all gimmicks.
If you are still looking for something to help once you’re good on all the above points, we recommend a mushroom supplement!
A well made mushroom supplement may help support your immune system. We’ve written about how most mushrooms aren’t real mushrooms and we’ve even spoken with a mushroom expert. My recommendation: 5 Defenders from Real Mushrooms is rich in beta-glucans, which have immune-supporting effects that you can write home about.
Managing chronic stress is difficult. I have some resources for ya’ though! I spoke with my personal therapist on our Mindfulness and Meditation podcast. (It was one of my first, so go easy on me!)
Taking the above simple steps will keep you healthy this season.
Remember, stay in the moment. The holiday stress typically comes from a fear of situations that haven’t actually happened yet. Holding on to the past or setting expectations (too high or low) is another way to create some anxiety. Mindfulness and meditation for the win!
Our advice: sit back, clear your mind of the fears (the future) and the tears (the past). Just live in, and enjoy the moment. And breathe.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth