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Sick Before The Break? How To Whip Your Immune System Into Shape

'Cos ain't nobody got time for that.

12/12/2016 5:32 AM AEDT | Updated 12/12/2016 11:01 AM AEDT
Zachary Scott
This is not OK.

There is truly nothing worse than getting sick right before the holidays.

There you were fantasising about G&Ts on the blow-up unicorn pool toy and then BOOM, your immune system takes a hit.

"When we become stressed our cortisol levels become raised, and when we're they are chronically raised for a prolonged period of time there a number of long-term effects, including a lower immune system," Fiona Tuck, an accredited nutritional practitioner, told The Huffington Post Australia.

It's not until the moment our body relaxes, and in a sense, lets its guard down that we're hit with the ramifications of this imbalance.

"Stress plays a huge role in physical sickness, which is why managing our stress throughout the year is incredibly important for overall health and will ensure we don't crash and burn," Tuck said.

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Learn to manage your stress

In the short-term, cortisol plays a crucial role in protecting us from a threat through the fight or flight response. But too much of it, over a long period of time can be detrimental.

"While it might seem like we're going about our regular lives, getting up for work, taking the kids to school, getting through our emails once we've put the kids to bed and so on, many of us are suffering from long-term stress," Tuck said.

Having time out to be mindful and setting boundaries, like learning to say 'no' to people is key.

"Most people will over-commit and then stress out about all the things they have to do, which doesn't help," Tuck said.

Look at the foods you eat

"Some foods put more stress on the body than others," explains Tuck.

Eating whole, unprocessed foods are less stressful and supply the body with the nutrients it needs to deal with stress.

Basically, you want to try to ensure fresh veggies make up the majority of your plate and remove any processed foods, especially those high in sugar and trans fats (that means margarine!).

Non-negotiable nutrients your body needs

Vitamin A - "Strengthens the immune system and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Look for orange or yellow fruit, as well as green leafy veggies."

Vitamic C - "Aids in stress by helping the adrenal glands. Look for berries, citrus fruits, parsley, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and red chilli."

Zinc - "A mineral that many can become deficient in. Choose red meat, oysters, eggs and nuts."

B Vitamins - "We need them to support our nervous system, particularly B6 which helps keep the body calm. Look for turkey, salmon, nuts and chicken."

Minimise alcohol, coffee and sugar

"When we're stressed our body metabolises things faster -- which means we need higher amounts of nutrients -- rather than higher amounts of coffee and alcohol which only deplete these nutrients," Tuck said.

As for the alcohol, Tuck advises to eat a light meal like a smoothie or salad before heading out to ensure your blood sugar levels don't spike, which will ensure you don't feel the need to devour the buffet after a few drinks.

"Also, don't allow your drinks to be topped up and have water in between," Tuck said.

Remove any stress from your life

"Sometimes we can create stressful situations for ourselves and often that comes from other people in our lives," Tuck said.

Whether they are negative or just mentally draining, Tuck said surrounding yourself with people that benefit you is going to be far more helpful and far less toxic to your environment.

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