The Halloween Candy Crash, and How to Counteract it
Many chalk this up to the weather - November is when fall really sets in to stay. It tends to rain more and be a bit gloomier (hence the prevalence of SAD, as well), leading to chills and a general feeling of exhaustion.
But I have a theory, and it may shock you: I think cold & flu season in November has very little to do with the weather.
I think it's all about Halloween. Namely, the after-effects of Halloween candy.
A Sugar Hit on your Immune System
Now hear me out - I'm not anti-Halloween, anti-fun, or even anti-candy.
I am, however, cautious when it comes to refined sugar. The occasional sweet treat isn't a problem for a health adult who otherwise eats a healthy diet and exercises regularly. But when you look at the consumption of sweets LOADED with refined sugar on Halloween, especially by children, you have to wonder what we're doing to our bodies.
Sugar has been shown to suppress the immune system, especially in high, continued amounts. When your immune system is suppressed, you're more susceptible to viruses, and slower to recover from them.
So take a bunch of children, eating a consistently high amount of sugary candy for a week or more, who are less likely to recover quickly from viruses, and then put them all together in a building where they're almost guaranteed to share germs with other children.
Then send them home to their parents.
Starting to see how this might breed a ton of colds & flus in November?
How it Happens: Sugar vs. Vitamin C
Why, exactly, does sugar have such a negative impact on your immune system?
Turns out it's actually about Vitamin C.
Our white blood cells require vitamin C to fight off and kill bugs and viruses. Believe it or not, refined sugar is structurally very similar to refined sugar, and the white blood cell can't tell the difference. It absorbs the sugar and, as a result, has significantly less room for vitamin C.
The less vitamin C the white blood cells have, the less effective they are at warding off viruses.
Immune system = suppressed.
How to Fix it: 5 Supplements for a Healthier November
It seems obvious, right? Up your vitamin C!
While this will help, you should be careful how much vitamin C you're consuming, in what form, and combined with which foods.
There are also a host of other supplements you can incorporate to boost immune function, and kick the candy's after-effects.
The echinacea plant is part of the daisy family. Extract of echinacea has shown to have a very positive impact on the immune system - remember those white blood cells we were talking about that are full of sugar? Echinacea will actually up the number of new white blood cells, giving you a whole new fighting chance against viruses.
Zinc is a mineral that's been found to reduce the severity of the common cold, and possibly even shorten its duration. The crazy thing? Because the immune system is so complex, scientists aren't really sure why zinc had such an observable impact.
Recent research shows that zinc helps the immune system regulate and balance itself, strengthening its response but keeping it from going overboard with inflammation. They think this may have something to do with the positive results of taking zinc.
What hasn't changed in the research is that zinc will improve your immune system's response, and help fight cold & flu symptoms.
3. Vitamin D
The research is pretty conclusive: people with lowered vitamin D levels are more likely to get the flu. If you're suffering from post-Halloween sniffles and don't have ready access to the sun (aka if you live in British Columbia or the Pacific Northwest), supplementing with Vitamin D will help prevent an otherwise sickly time.
Believe it or not, the health of your gut directly relates to the health of your immune system.
The food we eat is what feeds our cells, and our cells are the ones fighting the good fight against viruses.
Ergo, if you're not digesting your food properly or reaping all the benefit nutrient-dense foods have to offer, you're short-changing your immune system.
Probiotics help to generate good bacteria and healthy gut flora in the digestive system, meaning you get max bang for your buck when you eat.
Elderberries grow on trees, and pack an immune-boosting punch.
First, the berries are high in Vitamin C - even more so than strawberries and blueberries.
Secondly, they contain potent anti-viral compounds and high amounts of bioflavonoids, both of which combat the flu.
Third, they're tasty (when cooked - DON'T eat them raw)!
If you feel a cold & flu coming on, by all means - start supplementing with Vitamin C, and up your intake of things like red & yellow peppers, leafy greens, and citrus fruit. Vitamin C will definitely help.
But if you want to go the extra distance and beat the post-Halloween Crash, any one of these five additional supplements will up the ante, and get your through cold & flu season (hopefully!).