Colds and the flu escalate dramatically during the winter months; a period spanning from about Thanksgiving to almost Easter – the protracted Holiday Season. Some of the general flu symptoms include fever, chills, nasal symptoms, lack of appetite, increased sleep, malaise, fatigue, and generalized pain. Why do so many people feel these symptoms? Why do people feel less motivated, have less energy and increased achy-ness during the Winter months? We can call this conglomeration of symptoms the “Winter-Time Blues” and they come from different sources.
First is the decreased activity of many people. During the Spring, Summer and Fall, people want to be outside in the fresh air; playing, laughing and running around. These activities are good for cardiovascular fitness, immunological function and emotional well-being. Also, the increased amount of sunshine is good for Vitamin D production and overall mood enhancement. During the Winter months, people tend to not want to go outside because of the frigid air. They tend to want to bundle up with a blanket, drink a cup of hot cocoa and watch a movie. This inactivity actually leads to de-conditioning which can lead to headaches, low back pain and even sickness. It is a well-known fact that a sedentary lifestyle can cause: (1) decreased muscle tone (2) decreased cardiovascular function (3) disease processes such as obesity and Type-II diabetes. Ever wonder why so many people are sore in the Spring or injure themselves in the Spring; it could be that “hibernating” in the Winter has set them up for a future problem.
Second is the stress of the holiday season. Ever person handles stress differently and what may stress out one person may not bother another. There are two types of stress: (1) Eustress- which is good stress and (2) Distress – which is bad stress. Now, the holiday season should be a type of “eustress” because families are getting together, people take time off work, etc…but for many, the added stress of the holidays is “distress.” This added stress dramatically changes our body’s ability to fight off infections. The problem is that prolonged distress can lead to many health concerns including chronic fatigue, pain and countless other diseases. Hans Seyle, MD famously stated, “It is not stress that kills us; it is our reaction to it.”
Third, and I think most important, is the increase in our dietary intake of omega-6 fatty acids (decrease in Omega-3 fatty acids) and sugar. From Halloween candy to Santa’s cookies & milk to chocolate Easter bunnies everyone should be aware of the potential harmful effects of an excessive dietary intake of sugar. These include but are not limited to: (1) hyperglycemia (2) diabetes (Type II predominately) (3) “sugar highs & lows” (4) increased production of inflammatory chemicals (i.e cytokines, prostaglandins and interleukins). Omega-6 foods include all grains (breads, pasta, cereal, packaged foods). Omega-3 foods include green vegetables, fish and flax seed. The omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio should be 1:1, no more than 4:1, but this ratio is doubled, tripled or even quadrupled during the holiday season. Why is this important? Because an excessive intake of omega-6 leads to an increase production of inflammatory chemicals which can lead to increased amounts of pain. Conversely, Omega-3 foods are anti-inflammatory in nature.
During this “protracted” holiday season, give yourself a fighting chance. (1) Stay active as much as possible (2) Let the hussle and bussle of the season be “eustress” not “distress” – enjoy family and friends (3) Give yourself a nutritional adjustment by eating minimal amounts of omega-6- and sugar-rich foods, and instead continue to drink water & eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
And here is helpful anti-inflammatory tea. We call it OOOSSS Juice.
OOOSS JUICE (anti-inflammatory tea)
Boil 1/2 gallon of water. Turn off and keep off.
Add 2-4 organic green tea bags.
Add ½ lb of ginger (sliced, not peeled).
Add 1-2 tablespoons of raw, local honey.
Steep for 2-3 hours. Strain out tea bags and ginger, place juice in jar and cool in fridge.
Serve hot or cold. Both are great!