The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone with all the last-minute shopping, cooking, decorating, and family gatherings, but it can be particularly difficult to deal with if you’re immunocompromised.
Holtorf Medical Group specializes in immune dysfunction and empowering people who struggle with such difficult-to-treat conditions to restore their sense of health and feel like their best selves again.
We’ve compiled an easy-to-follow list of tips to make the holidays a little less strenuous on your immune system, so you can enjoy the holiday festivities to the fullest.
What Does It Mean to be ‘Immunocompromised’?
Simply put, immunocompromisation is when your immune system isn’t working as well as it should protect you against infections and other invaders.
There are a couple of different ways your immune defenses can be falling short. One of the most common ways is when your body’s cells and foreign cells. This is considered an autoimmune condition. Examples of this include:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Lyme disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
Other factors that can contribute to immunocompromised include:
- Medical treatments: Some cancer treatments impair immune function by destroying both healthy and cancerous cells.
- Organ or bone marrow transplant: You’re more susceptible to infection in the first several weeks after a bone marrow or organ transplant due to a lower white blood cell count.
- Age: With age, you are more likely to develop an underlying condition that hinders a healthy immune response.
- Smoking: Studies show people who smoke are more likely to contract an infection.
Tips to Support Immunity During the Holidays
Ensure Your Space Has Good Ventilation
During cold and flu season, viruses and other pathogens are often transferred through the air, so when possible, it is advisable to have gatherings in a well-ventilated space. Opening windows and using a high-quality air filter can be the small change needed to make a big difference when it comes to your health.
Avoid Candles & Unnecessary Chemical Exposure
Scented candles are a staple of the holiday season and fill our homes with nostalgic scents and are popular gifts during this time of year, but are candles really good for you?
Unfortunately, when candles burn, they can emit undesired chemicals which can be harmful. Lead and other metals were originally added to candle wicks to help them stay straight as they burn. But after evidence showed that burning lead-based wicks resulted in increased lead concentrations in indoor air, most candle manufacturers voluntarily stopped using lead-based wicks in the 1970s. Since then, candle wicks manufactured and sold in the United States are required to be lead-free, however, imported candles can still contain lead.
Moreover, in addition to the risk of lead exposure, burning candles can expose you to potentially hazardous chemicals, such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein.
Given that many who are immunocompromised are dealing with chronic inflammation additional chemical exposure can take an unnecessary toll on the immune system, so it is best to opt for candles made of natural waxes, such as soy or beeswax. Alternatively, get rid of candles altogether and opt for essential oils and an electric diffuser.
Budget Your Energy & Prioritize Sleep
“Budget your energy” is a common phrase for those who are dealing with a chronic condition and for good reason. By taking the time to make a schedule to ensure you’re not having to do all your last-minute shopping on one day, booking social events back-to-back, and prioritizing recovery time, you can feel a world of difference compared to when you force yourself into a state of burnout. It feels unfair that your friends and loved ones can pull off late nights and hectic schedules during festivities, but you set yourself up for a happier and healthier holiday season when you listen to your body.
On a similar note, sleep is one of the best assets you have when supporting immunity. Poor sleep is associated with lower immune system function and reduced numbers of germ-fighting cells. In fact, according to Dr. Matthew Walker, neuroscientist and author of Why We Sleep: The Power of the Mind and Dreams, a lack of sleep decreases the activity of natural killer T cells (immune cells) in the body by ~30% drop.
During sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Some cytokines help promote sleep, while others need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation or when you’re under stress. Researchers in a 2012 study found a dramatic difference in immune response in subjects who slept four to six hours per night compared to those who slept seven to nine hours.
It is important to note that a lack of sleep may also compromise the efficacy of your immune system in the long run as Dr. Walker’s research shows that “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer.”
Learn more about the importance of sleep here
Schedule & Prioritize the Small Stuff
Again, planning is key when you are prioritizing your health during a busy time of year like the holidays. On days like Christmas morning, it is easy to get wrapped up the events of the day and forget to take your supplements, medications, and other key components that help you feel your best. However, this time of year is really when you need them the most. Below are some of the top supplements you can take during the holidays:
- Glutathione: To combat oxidative stress and inflammation.
- NAD+: To support mitochondrial health, cellular function, and overall energy
- Probiotics: To promote a healthy gut lining and reduce gastrointestinal inflammation, which is essential for immunity as 75% of the immune system is located in the gut
- Adrenal Repair: To prevent and combat adrenal burnout and support a healthy stress response
- Vitamin D: A key building block in a healthy immune system. Learn more here
Indulge but Limit Your Sugar Intake
Studies have shown spikes in sugar intake suppress your immune system. “Too much” sugar allows for bacteria or viruses to propagate at a faster rate because the sugar can compromise the innate immune system. More specifically, white blood cells, or “killer cells,” are hindered by sugar.
So what is “too much” sugar? A nutritional study showed that about 75 grams of sugar daily is when the immune system begins to weaken. And, we now know, that once the white blood cells are affected, it’s thought that the immune system is lowered for about 5 hours after. This means that even if you sleep eight hours, take supplements, and exercise, your immune system function can still be hindered by surgery desserts or candy eaten throughout the day. can seriously damage their immune system function by drinking a few sodas or having candy or sugary desserts throughout the day.
Lastly, for anyone worried about the holiday season taking a toll on their health, we recommend Ozone Therapy to prep and recover from the festivities.
Ozone Therapy is a whole-body healing treatment that is often a core component of an integrative medical plan for those dealing with chronic infections Lyme disease or is immunocompromised.
This is because all pathogens die in the presence of oxygen, making Ozone Therapy a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral.
Ozone Therapy works by introducing ozone into the bloodstream, typically through an IV. Ozone, which consists of three oxygen atoms bound together and is nicknamed a “supercharged” form of oxygen, then encourages bio-rejuvenation. This process is associated with numerous potential benefits including:
- Stimulating the immune system
- Improving detoxification
- Increasing circulation
- Enhancing energy levels
- Reversing signs of aging
Interested in enjoying this incredible service or have questions for our board-certified medical experts? Contact us today