Let’s first acknowledge that there are only four seasons [Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall] of which only some of us are lucky enough to live in a place to actually experience them! Let’s also clarify that the flu is not a season. The flu is a virus that mysteriously goes around and infects people. I repeat, the flu is not a season. But, it is a real thing that some people end up experiencing that can be extremely debilitating and uncomfortable. So please, do not get me wrong, the flu is a bad thing if you happen to experience it, but let’s not give it too much credit here.
Now that we understand the flu is not actually a season, we can take a serious look at some contributing factors that coincide with more people getting sick around this time of year.
1. Decreased Sun Exposure: The sun is extremely important to your health! Sun exposure to our skin without the use of sunscreen provides us with vitamin D, which plays a huge factor in our immune system strength and function. As fall rolls around, our days get shorter, the overcast weather tends to settle in and we are exposed to less and less sunlight as a result. If we are not supplementing with a high quality Vitamin D, this lack of exposure has a direct effect on the suppression of our immune function.
2. Holiday food: You knew I had to bring it up! The candy, the pies, the stuffing, the cookies! Guess what? Holiday food plays a huge role in our seasonal colds and illnesses. Let’s face it, most of us eat a little extra candy starting around Halloween, and it’s downhill from there until our new year’s resolutions kick start us in January. From Halloween candy and school party treats, to thanksgiving feasts, potato pancakes and Christmas cookies, our diets sometimes take the back seat. This increase in sugar dramatically decreases our body’s natural immune system thus increasing our susceptibility to sickness.
3. Stress: Any one experience a little more stress in the fourth quarter of the year, or is it just me? Again, holiday parties, school back in session, family in town, travelling to visit family, shopping for gifts, handling finances. On average, there is an increased amount of activity taking place during what we like to call the holiday season. With more to do, there is more on our minds and the stress continues to build. If you are lucky enough to get a break from work or school over the holidays you may stress less, but those break are usually when we indulge in holiday food (see previous paragraph!).
This is what I like to call the seasonal trifecta: Decreased immune function, decreased fuel efficiency, and increased exposure to internal and external stress. You see, your body does not get sick because of germs, bacteria or even viruses. If this was the cause, we would all be sick when exposed to the same thing. You must ask yourself, why is one person in the same environment sick, while the other is not? The answer is because of how well our immune system is working and how well our bodies are able to adapt to stress. As our immune system decreases its ability to fight for us and toxins bombard our system, it gets to a point where we start to feel sick. So, what can we do?
One, get in the sun as much as possible, and consider a vitamin d supplement. Two, plan your meals or be mindful of how many healthy meals you are eating per day. You don’t have to cut out the candy and cookies completely, but make sure you are actually nourishing your body with greens, good fats and fruits when you can. Three is simple, MOVE. Our brains and bodies are fueled by movement. Keep that body and those joints moving as much as possible. We often hear that “the cold weather makes my joints hurt.” The cold weather isn’t usually directly affecting your joints. The cold is decreasing your desire to get outside and move and this decreased motion in your joints cause stiffness and inflammation and that is making those joints hurt. Find yourself a good chiropractor to keep those joints moving, a fun gym community if it is too cold outside, and set alarms at work to get up and move as often as possible.
We may not be able to control the germs, bacteria, viruses or even stresses in our lives, but we can control how well we naturally prepare ourselves. Health only happens one way, and that is from the inside out. We’re designed and born to be healthy all year round. Let’s focus on health promotion and the illness prevention will take care of itself!
Dr. Derrell Blackburn is the founder and owner of Connection Café Chiropractic in Union City, CA. He is the founder and owner of Pure Juice & Smoothie Lounge, as well as a post-graduate professor at Life Chiropractic College West.