RBC I It’s a sad statistical fact: The holidays, from Halloween through Christmas and on to New Year’s Day are a treacherous time when it comes to our health.
“There’s a spike in heart attacks and other cardiac issues,” says Dr. John Young, a physician specializing in the treatment of chronic illnesses through biochemical, physiological and nutraceutical technologies, and the author of “Beyond Treatment: Discover how to build a cellular foundation to achieve optimal health” (www.YoungHealth.com).
“The incidence of pneumonia cases spikes—in both cold and warm climates—and deaths from natural causes spike. In fact, more people die of natural causes on Christmas Day than any other day of the year!”
While those numbers are well-documented, the causes are not.
“Stress plays a role, particularly if your immune system is weakened,” Dr. Young says. “If you look at how most of us eat from Halloween through New Year’s, it’s easy to see how the immune system takes a beating and otherwise-healthy people become more susceptible to illness during the holidays.”
It’s basic biochemistry, he says.
“We eat a lot more refined sugar, for instance, which is a carbohydrate that’s been stripped of all the vitamins, minerals and proteins that make up a complete carbohydrate,” he says. “Our bodies can’t use that, so the cells in our digestive organs work overtime, burning up a lot of energy, vitamins and minerals to digest it, and they get nothing back. So, eventually, they grow weak.”
So—can we have a little sugar and good health, too? Dr. Young says we can.
“The occasional slice of pumpkin pie is fine as long as you’re also feeding your cells with the nutrients they need—the minerals, vitamins, good quality protein, amino acids, essential fatty acids—to stay healthy.” He offers these tips for staying healthy through the holidays and throughout the year.
n Get your vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually a hormone, not a vitamin, and one of our best sources for it is sunshine. Unfortunately, many people work indoors all day, so they get little sun exposure. When they do go outside, they wear long sleeves and sunblock to protect against skin cancer. And, of course, in the wintertime, people in cold climes tend to stay inside. As a result, many of us are vitamin D deficient and should be taking supplements.
“Vitamin D is crucial to many physiological systems, including our immune defenses,” Young said. “It helps fight bacterial and viral infections, including the flu. It supports our cardiovascular system; optimal vitamin D levels can reduce hypertension, heart attacks and stroke.
“If I feel I’m coming down with a cold, I’ll take 40,000 units of vitamin D at bedtime,” he says. “The next morning, I usually feel like a new person.”
n Eat your protein—1 gram for every 2.2 pounds of body weight daily. In this country, we think a healthy diet means eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.
“Our immune system is made up of proteins—our bones are 40 percent protein,” he says. “We need protein.” When calculating your protein intake, consider: an egg has about 8 grams, and 8 ounces of fish, chicken, beef or pork have about 30 grams.
Dr. Young does not give any of his patients more than 100 grams of protein a day.
n Get a good night’s sleep, exercise and manage your stress. Rest, exercise and finding effective, healthy ways to cope with stress are simple ways to pamper your cells.
“One of the many cellular benefits of exercise is that it increases the oxygen in our bloodstream. Every cell in our body requires oxygen, so consider exercise another means of feeding your cells.”
It’s also important to manage stress during the holidays. With unchecked stress, our body releases large amounts of cortisol which, among other things, suppresses the immune system.
“Take time out to meditate, listen to music or take a walk in the woods,” Dr. Young says. “It feels good—and it’s good for you!”