By Donna Gates, as seen on:

The holidays are a time of celebration, family and friends and travel. Unfortunately, this time of merriment is also when we are most likely to catch a cold or come down with the seasonal flu.

During the winter season, it is a good idea to strengthen the immune system so that it can successfully fight off any infection that you may pick up while traveling or visiting family.

Certain foods and irregular sleep patterns can affect the strength of the immune system.

While sleep, food and stress may seem completely unrelated to the health of your immune system, keep in mind that body works as a unit. This means that all the many systems within the body communicate with each other. For example, the endocrine, the digestive and the immune system are constantly in dialogue with one another.

When one system sends out a signal, say a stress signal, this notifies the other systems within the body that a change in fuel and resources is about to occur.

For example, when the body experiences an irregular sleep pattern or stress from fluctuating levels of blood sugar, the immune system receives less resources. What causes blood sugar to rapidly rise and fall? Excessively sweet or carb-heavy foods will cause dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar. So will skipping meals.

On a physiological level, stress weakens immune function. Stress can be emotional, psychological or physical. When the immune system becomes weak, the body’s immune cells perform less efficiently and work in fewer numbers.

How can we strengthen the body’s ability to protect itself?

Sometimes, especially during the holidays, we put the body through more stress than it is used to.

Research has shown that good bacteria and a hearty inner ecosystem provide unparalleled support to the immune system. This is because the beneficial organisms in our digestive tract can actually communicate with the immune system and the nervous system. This means that good bacteria not only help you digest your meal, they also calm down the stress response!

When our stress response is constantly turned on, we become inflamed and open to infection.

Good bacteria are found in fermented foods like yogurt and kefir. Often times, a probiotic capsule will give only a fraction of the good bacteria found in a fermented food.

This is why it is so important to eat fermented foods on a daily basis. When we constantly nourish the inner ecosystem, we provide a buffer of protection against occasional high-stress events.

Remember, preventive medicine is key! You can fortify your immune system and modulate stress levels with a hearty inner ecosystem.

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