December 7, 2010 [Volume 4, Issue 25]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Cold and Flu Defense
Healthy Holidays
Reduce Your Stress Burden

Cold and Flu Defense

If you're looking to gear up for the cold and flu season without subjecting yourself or your family to the potential dangers of the flu vaccine, take heart: There are natural ways to boost your immune system and reduce your risk of getting sick. Here are a few to discuss with your doctor.

Vitamin C: A study of 715 people showed that flu symptoms were decreased by 85 percent when people took 6 grams of vitamin C as a one-time loading dose, then continuing with 1 gram three times a day, compared with people taking only the 3 grams daily. The message here is to take a lot of vitamin C the first day you feel symptoms or the first day people around you are getting sick, and then take 3 grams daily after that. Keep in mind that vitamin C can loosen stools, so be careful if you are predisposed to this.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D has exploded in research and popularity the past few years. Most of us are familiar with its bone-building properties, however new research suggests it improves the immune system as well. Have your doctor test your vitamin D levels before supplementing. Research suggests 2,000 IU daily is safe for most adults and children. Higher doses are safe and effective, but must be monitored by your doctor.

Elderberry: Elderberry (Sambucus) was researched in a group of 60 people and found to alleviate symptoms four days earlier compared with controls. Elderberry helps boosts the immune system and is great-tasting for kids. Start taking as soon as symptoms manifest.

Gingseng: Panax quinquefolium (ginseng) was studied in a large group of 323 patients as a preventive natural medicine. The group that took panax experienced 30 percent less colds compared with the placebo group (people who didn't take ginseng), and average number of sick days were 11 compared with 16 in the non-treatment group.

Oscillococcinum: Last, but not least, the well-known oscillococcinum is a homeopathic flu treatment that is created new every year. Tough to pronounce, but effective; a Cochrane review of all oscillococcinum studies showed that it reduces the length of illness compared with placebo.

Talk to your doctor for more information about these and other natural ways to boost your immune system and ward off colds and the flu.

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Healthy Holidays

Five pounds, 10 pounds, 15 pounds or even more: How much weight do you gain in an average holiday season? This year, buck the trend with some simple planning. Take these suggestions to heart and enjoy the holiday season the healthy way.

1. Family Fitness: What better way to counterbalance the extra calories you're sure to consume this holiday season than with some calorie-burning, cardio-benefiting exercise that involves the entire family? Reminiscing with relatives is great, but why not bond with them and stay in shape at the same time with a game of touch football, a snowball fight or even a long walk around the neighborhood?
2. Portion Control: We're not saying you can't sample the vast array of cakes, pies and other holiday treats heaped on the table; we're just saying don't overdo it. Portion control is important all year, but it's vital when faced with a daunting supply of high-carb and even higher-sugar foods. So indulge a little and feel good that you've indulged; but don't overeat and end up spending the holidays immobile.
3. Holiday Helper: Whether you're at home or away for the holidays, taking an active role in holiday preparation can be better than a trip to the gym; getting the house in order, preparing the food and cleaning up (hopefully with some help) afterward will burn plenty of calories. And remember, you can prepare your own entree or side dish and ensure you have at least one healthy item to eat.
4. Safety in Numbers: Keep in mind that when faced with the holiday season, you don't have to face it alone. Whether it's splitting up the holiday shopping with your spouse, recruiting a few family members to help cook a (semi) healthy holiday meal, or making a pact with your best friend to stick with your exercise program during the hustle and bustle, do it together and you'll be more likely to get it done.

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Reduce Your Stress Burden

Pay attention when people talk about sudden onset of bizarre and unusual ailments. When you hear people say things like, "I did not eat anything different yesterday and today my guts are going crazy" or "This is the type of situation I can usually handle, but for some reason I am not processing it well this time," your ears should perk up. 

The answer can be found in a little word with big implications: stress. Our bodies endure stress, which can be simply defined as anything that causes a reaction. There are three main areas in which we experience stress: physical, emotional and chemical. Stress involving any of these areas can affect us profoundly. Here are some of the common signs of stress, along with ways to reduce your stress burden. Talk to your doctor for more information.

Stress Signals

Unusual fatigue: Stress weighs on you physically, emotionally and mentally. It wears you down and drains you. Can't get out of bed in the morning? Stress may be what's keeping you there.
Sleeplessness: You may feel like sleeping for a day or two, but stress tends to keep you up at night, pondering how to pay that bill, meet that work deadline or heal that broken friendship.
Impulsivity: If you find your eating habits changing suddenly, you may be turning to comfort foods to deal with stress. The same is true with impulse buying, particularly when it involves items you don't really need.
Anger/impatience: Stress can make you short-tempered and easily roused to anger, even if your demeanor is normally calm, quiet and reserved.
Lack of concentration/forgetfulness: Stress usually occupies our mental time, so much so that we can have trouble remembering things or make more mistakes. Never forget your keys in the morning? When you're stressed, you just might.
Physical ailments: Back pain, neck pain and pain in general that doesn't have a clear cause (e.g., an injury) is often related to stress. The same is true for colds and flu; stress can lower your immune system, increasing your risk of developing illness.

Ways to Reduce Stress

Work it off: No, we don't mean spending another five hours a day at the very location that may be a major source of stress; we do mean finding the time to exercise. Whether it's an a quick trip to the gym, a peaceful run or a brisk walk with family or friends, exercise puts the focus somewhere else for a while. Biochemically, exercise has a big anti-stress benefit: It helps reduces levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) and increases your "feel-good" hormones, endorphins.
Get away from it: This can be challenging, especially if your stress has reached near-obsession levels, but doing what you can to distract yourself can go a long way toward reducing stress. Schedule a vacation, visit old friends, take a long walk; whatever it takes to remove yourself from your stress environment.
Smile about it: It's much harder for stress to exist in a fun, laughter-filled environment, so put yourself in a position to smile when you're under stress. Watch your favorite sit-com, get tickets to a comedy show, organize a fun night out with the family or friends. After all, laughter truly is the best natural medicine.
Talk about it: When you're stressed, your mind can be a continual stream of negative, overwhelming, stressed-out thoughts. Don't keep it all to yourself; talk to your significant other, closest friend or even a trusted co-worker about what's bothering you. Sometimes the best way to reduce your stress is to vent about it and get a neutral perspective, rather than staying in a bottled-up, stressed-out state.

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The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. MPA Media is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.

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