It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for some, it can be a very stressful time. Preparing for Christmas parties, over-eating at those same holiday parties and of course, that dreaded holiday shopping can leave your immune system open for attack. Here are 7 ways to boost your immune system for this holiday season.

Take Vitamin D

Vitamin D is made by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, in the north, beginning in October and throughout the winter until March, the amount of vitamin D that we are able to make is drastically reduced. This is mostly due to the fact that during the fall/winter season, the sun enters the atmosphere at a sharp angle leaving much of the UVB rays blocked. This time period, coincidentally, also corresponds with the rise of the flu in our population. Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins to consider taking. According to the Vitamin D Council, maintaining levels of 120nmol/L year-round can drastically reduce your risk of cold and flu. Your vitamin D levels fluctuate based on your race, the time of year and your sunscreen use. As a result, it is important to get your levels checked yearly by your health care provider.

Vitamin C Foods

Vitamin C won’t necessarily prevent the cold and flu, however, according to scientific studies, it can shorten the duration of your illness so that you can return to your holiday festivities in no time. Furthermore, vitamin C reduces the physical and p¬sychological effects of stress on the body. In one study, the people who had the higher levels of vitamin C in their blood reacted better to stressful challenges and bounced back from stressful situations faster than people with low levels of vitamin C in their blood.
Foods high in vitamin C include: kiwi, red peppers, chili peppers, dark green vegetables and citrus fruits.

Get Some Zs

If you don’t get enough sleep, your immunity can be lowered. When sleep is missed or when your sleep time is reduced, your white blood cell count can also be reduced which can make you more prone to catching the flu. Avoid the all-nighters and try to establish a regular and consistent sleep pattern. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep; but this can be less or more depending on the individual.

Wash Your Hands and Use Sanitizer

The flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, therefore one of the simplest preventative strategies is to wash your hands with soap and water throughout the day. Opt for an alcohol-free hand sanitizer that you can keep in your pocket or purse for easy access. The repeated use of alcohol-containing sanitizer can lead to dry, cracked hands. Avoid touching door knobs and faucets in washrooms without the use to tissue paper and remember to clean your cell phone regularly with an alcohol wipe or mild detergent often.

Consider Echinacea

I consider Echinacea the once extremely popular herb that a lot of people have come to forget about. Echinacea is a very useful anti-viral and when taken during cold and flu season, it may reduce your risk of developing a cold and reduce the duration of your cold by up to 4 days. It may also reduce your risk of developing cold sore outbreaks. However, it is important to choose the correct type of echinacea and a good quality source of the herb that is not contaminated. In practice it is dosed frequently during the early stages of upper respiratory infection in liquid extract, capsule or tea form.

Keep up Your Exercise Routine

Exercise is a great stress reliever. Unfortunately, when life gets busy, it’s one of the first activities to leave off your to do list. This year, make a point to take a break from the festivities and head outside for a brisk walk. Not only is exercise a great way to improve your mood and balance stress, the increase in your respiration rate may help eliminate bacteria from your lungs and the increase in your body temperature may halt bacteria and virus growth.

Watch Your Sugar Intake

The combination of sugar, stress and the running around that happens during Christmas shopping season creates a breeding ground for bacterial and viral infections. While shopping in the busy, crowded malls, you may be tempted to quickly down a sugary beverage or your favourite sweet treat while you browse. Well, this is a cold or flu waiting to happen. 75 to 100 grams of a sugary beverage (about the same as in two 12-ounce bottles of sodas or 4 level tablespoons of sugar) reduces the ability of white blood cells to seek and destroy viruses and bacteria, and this effect can last for up to 4 hours after your indulgence. Save your treat consumption for the Holiday party and instead of the sugar, stay hydrated with warm herbal tea, water and balanced meals.


About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit -