Why do I always get ill over Christmas?
You’ve planned the Christmas dinner, you’ve wrapped all the presents and you’re finally getting into the holiday mood, but while coughs and colds are often inevitable over winter, finding yourself with full-on flu-like symptoms as soon as you pop your out-of-office email on can really put a downer on the festivities.
“Some health professionals argue that the increased stress accompanying the party season and gift buying, along with social pressures to see and entertain people, can take its toll on our immune system and weaken it so that even a relatively mild virus/bug can affect us during this time,” says Dr Deepak Ravindran, a specialist in pain management, holistic health and author of The Pain-Free Mindset.
There are different reasons why you might get ill over the Christmas period, but luckily, there are things you can do to help prevent you from having to miss out on all that festive cheer.
5 reasons you get ill over Christmas
You’ve been socialising indoors
As the weather gets chilly, indoor get-togethers become more of a priority. While this is great for keeping us warm, there’s less air circulation indoors, which can lead to viral illnesses spreading.
“More indoor gatherings and changes in temperature can certainly put you at risk of more exposure to viruses,” says Deepak. “This can activate the immune system, which will mount a robust response to stop you from getting ill.”
Your vitamin D levels are low
“Some people’s internal clocks react differently to the changing weather and the shorter days, reduced sunlight or natural light can impact their mood, contributing to what we recognise as seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” says Deepak.
A study conducted by the Pennsylvania State University found that negative moods can change the way our immune response functions, and increase the risk of inflammation. Low vitamin D levels can also create a weak immune response. Studies show that vitamin D is critical for our immune health, so making sure that you take a supplement in the winter to top up your levels can help prevent you from getting ill. We particularly like the handy oral sprays from BetterYou for topping up on vitamin D levels – use LIZLOVES for 15% off your order.
Your stress response is set to high
End-of-year deadlines, rising costs and a full social calendar can make us feel stressed over the Christmas season. Some health professionals believe that it’s this increase in cortisol (the stress hormone) that leads us to fall sick.
“Many people seem to fall ill after they have gone on holiday and this is because high-stress situations can disrupt the delicate balance between our sympathetic system (fight or flight and adrenaline system), our hormone system (cortisol) and our immune system,” says Deepak. “When we do finally take a break, our fight/flight hormones and our adrenaline levels drop. This causes an imbalance, as our cortisol levels are still high and our immune system becomes weakened, so even a run-of-the-mill bug can cause us to become ill.”
While we might not be able to eliminate holiday season stresses, we can reduce them by planning self-care activities that will help our immune and nervous systems. Holistic and natural ways to manage stress include meditation, breathing exercises, journaling and mindful therapies, such as yoga or Pilates.
You’ve changed your diet
If you eat healthily most of the year, the influx of sweets and processed food over Christmas can dysregulate your body. As well as playing havoc on our digestion, which, in turn, impacts our immune health, eating less nutritious food can mean your body is less able to produce immune cells and antibodies.
Making sure that you balance out your festive indulgences with nutritious-packed food is key to staying healthy during the winter, so make sure that you can incorporate lots of leafy green vegetables and fruits.
Your immune system has taken a hit
Disrupted sleep and an evening tipple can also impact our immune response. According to a study by Alcohol Research, alcohol disrupts immune pathways, which impair the body’s ability to defend itself against infection.
If you often get ill over Christmas, then it might be best to opt for non-alcoholic drinks in the run-up to the festive season or swap your glass of fizz for a healthy kombucha alternative, which will also boost your gut health. In need of some inspiration? Take a look at our gut-friendly kombucha collaboration with Mighty Brew here.