Is my im­mune sys­tem shot?

First For Women - - Health -

Q:

I love spend­ing time with friends and fam­ily, but ev­ery time I go to a gath­er­ing, I end up with a sore throat and snif­fles. It’s like my im­mune sys­tem can’t han­dle

any­thing. What gives?

A:

Many women I see in my prac­tice come down with a cold soon af­ter the hol­i­days be­cause the joy­ous sea­son can be hard on the im­mune sys­tem. It starts with sea­sonal in­creases in stress and sleep­less­ness, both of which in­ter­fere with the body’s abil­ity to pro­duce in­fec­tion-fight­ing an­ti­bod­ies. Add in­creased ex­po­sure to germs dur­ing ex­tended fam­ily time and you end up with a fairly re­li­able recipe for ill­ness.

That’s why I rec­om­mend ded­i­cat­ing at least 10 min­utes of ev­ery day to self-care. So many of us are burn­ing the can­dle at both ends, but tak­ing some “me time” to pam­per your­self—per­haps by ap­ply­ing a face mask, do­ing some stretches or sim­ply tak­ing an ex­tra five min­utes af­ter a shower to ap­ply lo­tion—can re­ally go a long way to­ward re­duc­ing stress lev­els so the body can ramp up its im­mune de­fenses. And if you start to feel the be­gin­nings of a cold com­ing on, dou­ble down on your self-care. Stay home, make sleep a pri­or­ity and just take care of your­self. I also sug­gest in­cor­po­rat­ing foods that sup­port im­mune func­tion, like fish, greens, beans, olive oil and nuts, as well as vi­ta­min C–rich foods like red pep­pers and citrus fruits.

That said, I also have to note the num­ber-one de­fense against germs: Wash, wash, wash your hands. Soap and wa­ter is the best way to re­move mi­crobes and avoid get­ting sick, but an al­co­hol-based hand san­i­tizer that con­tains at least 60% al­co­hol works in a pinch—just make sure you con­tin­u­ously rub the gel into your hands un­til all of the san­i­tizer has evap­o­rated to en­sure you’re pro­tected.

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