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 The end of 2012 is just around the bend. Holy cow where did the year go? I know many of you are saying that as well. I do hope your year has been fruitful and blessed, and filled with many opportunities to gain growth, experience, and wisdom. As the festivities and celebrations continue I would like to share some suggestions to help finish out the year strong and head into 2013 with gusto and enthusiasm that a healthy, strong body brings.

            With the arrival of the holiday season comes the evil twin brother of the holiday season; the cold and flu season. Colds and flus often rear their ugly heads at the most in-opportune times when celebrations are taking place. The good news is that there are many things we can do to protect our bodies and keep our immune systems strong throughout this season and all year long.

I am sure many of you understand that colds and flus are viruses that have become overactive in our body, creating a multitude of unpleasant symptoms including coughs, runny nose, head congestion, fever, stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea just to name a few. Have you ever stopped to wonder why the body has these symptoms? It is because the body is trying to get ride of the unwanted invaders and get back to normal balance. The body is very good at staying in balance or homeostasis. Any unwanted symptom, or abnormal condition is caused by compensatory physiology, altered physiology compensating to keep you alive. The cold and flu virus is only a small part of the problem. The real problem is that your immune system was so weakened it could no longer fight off the virus.

Therefore, the trick as most of you have already guessed is not to let your immune system wear down. In a fast passed, over worked, over stressed, over sugared society (especially during the holiday season) it is easier said then done. I’d like to share with you some practical, easy to implement strategies to keep you and your family healthy this holiday season and into the New Year.

The first trick is to keep the holiday sweets to a minimum.  Sugar is detrimental to everyone’s health and a major contributor to every health problem. Sugar throws off the blood sugar balance of the body and is a contributor to mood swings.  Cutting sugar down will greatly improve your patience and help you deal with the holiday stresses easier. Sugar also weakens the effectiveness of white blood cells. White blood cells are the army of the immune system, fighting and attacking those viruses and foreign invaders. When you eat too much sugar your immune system can no longer keep the enemy at bay and you become sick. Keep the sugar down by not keeping sweets in the house, do not drink soda, or diet soda especially (aspartame is a whole different problem that will kill you). For a good alternative mix sparkling water with fruit juice for an enjoyable refreshing holiday drink.  When baking your holiday pies, use as many natural ingredients as you can, and if you need to sweeten them use natural sugars (raw sugar, honey, or real maple syrup). I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Exercise is essential for a healthy immune system. As the weather turns cold many people shy away from outdoor activities. Here in Bozeman we have so many opportunities to be active outside in the winter. If you are not into those winter activities outside, get to a gym, do yoga, play basketball, anything to get your body moving and sweating.  As you move so does your lymph, allowing your body to see foreign invaders faster and help mount a quicker attack against them. Exercise also has a powerful effect on your hormonal system, which in turn makes your immune system stronger.

Get your vitamin D daily. Everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line does not get enough sunshine to keep vitamin D levels adequate throughout the year. If you lived in the tropics you could make up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day. I recommend a daily amount of 4000 IU per day for adults and 2000 IU per day for children. Remember vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin; so take it with your good omega 3s for an extra health boost.

Keep the stress down, (ok you can stop laughing). I know the holidays bring a lot of running around, travel and a major social agenda. Plus you have to fight crowds, buy presents, find parking spots, deal with snowy roads, and bad weather. Throughout the season remember to take a deep breath. That’s right keep breathing, it is actually one of the most important things you can do, and you have to do it 14,000 times a day anyway. As we breathe deeply from our diaphragm we are helping to keep air moving and not becoming stagnant in the bottom of our lungs.  Deep breathing also has a major effect on our psychology and emotions and can even lower cortisol levels.  Make sure to take a little time each day for yourself. A lemon bath is a great way to detoxify the body while you are relaxing. Mix 2 cups of apple cider vinegar in your bath water and rub lemon juice from a fresh lemon on your skin. You will be amazed at how good you will feel after.

Staying healthy is not always fun or easy, and it requires a little bit of planning ahead. Start now, keep yourself disciplined, and control your habits and what you put in your body. Do these things and you will be thankful and blessed with a healthy, happy holiday and a great start to the New Year.

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