Are you a parent that has decided to skip Halloween this year? Or do you feel trick-or-treating is one of the few normal fall activities that can be done safely?
Whatever decision you’ve made, a great deal of thought probably went into your choice as you may feel especially nervous about your family’s health this year. It makes sense that you would have these concerns as we are in the midst of a pandemic, and the start of the dreaded flu season will soon be upon us soon!
Many people go through the flu season each year just hoping that their family will stay healthy, and this year the stakes seem even higher. But what if you could reframe your perspective and take back some of the power over you and your loved ones' health?
Let’s begin by reconsidering “flu season.” By understanding some of the underlying causes of the season, you can begin making the best choices for yourself (and your family).
The Flu Season Myth
It is true that there are more cases of the flu diagnosed during December and February, but germs for the flu are around all year. If these germs are always around, why do we see an increase in the number of flu cases during the fall and winter months?
I really like the way that Dr. Angie Elliot explains this phenomenon in her article “There’s No Such Thing As ‘Flu Season’.”
“Think for a moment about what would happen if you planted a seed in the ground. You covered it with soil, didn’t water it, offer it sun, or supply it with air. Would the seed grow? NO! Why not?
The answer is that the condition of the soil was not ideal for the seed to take root and for the plant to flourish. Now, consider your body equivalent to soil and a virus or bacteria as the seed. If you planted that seed in your body right now, could it grow?
Many people get sick with colds or the flu this time of year because the condition of their body is primed for pathogens to thrive and grow.” - Dr. Angie Elliot
Tis the Season
When you look at it this way, it is easy to see why you are more likely to get sick in some seasons than others. Once you identify factors that impact our immune system, you will be empowered to create an environment where germs can NOT thrive.
Some of the things that cause stress to your body are obvious, while other things are more subtle. Often we are so used to these things that we don’t even realize that they are causing our bodies harm…
Lack of Sleep
Mental & emotional stress
Vitamin & mineral deficiencies
As the holidays approach, these factors tend to increase. The busyness of the holidays may keep you from getting the proper rest as you rush to plan celebrations, buy gifts, and enjoy the festivities. This year especially there can be a great deal of stress to make the holidays special in spite of the pandemic. Relationship tensions can rise as expectations of how to celebrate may not match up with your loved ones. Financial pressures may be heightened if your income has been affected by the pandemic.
Starting at Halloween your sugar intake may also increase. Your kids' Halloween candy (or the candy you bought and didn’t pass out) starts calling your name. Soon a couple pieces of candy turns into a whole bunch! This is followed by Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, and sweet stocking stuffers. Before you know it your body is under a great deal of stress and its defenses are down. While all of these factors are important, let’s look a little closer at the effect those sweet treats have on our body.
How Sugar Wreaks Havoc
Sugar contains no nutrients and often replaces nutrient dense foods in our diet. This leaves your body lacking in nutrients necessary for your health. Sugar also stresses your hormonal system which can cause adrenal fatigue, thyroid conditions, and other hormonal disruptions.
In addition, sugar causes an inflammatory response in your body. When the body is chronically inflamed, it suppresses the immune system leaving you vulnerable to infection and disease. Sugar also creates unbalanced gut bacteria, which affects your immune system. Since 70-80% of your immune system is based in your gut, it is crucial to have a balance of healthy gut bacteria.
What to do About Halloween
Halloween is the one day of the year most known for excessive candy intake. But there are some things that you can do to have a healthier Halloween. (Even if you don’t follow all of them, implementing a few might keep you from going candy crazy!)
Read the Ingredients - Take a look at the ingredient list. Remember that ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, and hydrogenated oils are NOT REAL FOODS. Reading these ingredients each time you eat them can help you begin to view processed food (e.g. a Snickers Bar) more like an object (e.g. their spiral notebook) than food.
Pass out something besides candy at your house - One of my favorite houses to trick-or-treat at growing up had a jar of foreign coins. The top of the jar was small, but you were allowed to take anything you could grab between your fingers. It was fun to see the foreign currency and figure out what country it was from.
Get candy that doesn't tempt you - If you pass out your favorite candy, you will be more tempted to eat too much. Choose to give out candy that is less appealing to you so that the temptation isn’t as great.
Set a limit for yourself and stick to it - Early in the day, think about how many pieces of candy is reasonable to eat. Set that amount aside and don't allow yourself to unconsciously grab pieces from the bowl without realizing it.
Go for a walk - It might be a little chilly out, but it is a great day to be outside in the neighborhood chatting with your neighbors (from a distance of course). This way you are being social, moving your body, and not thinking about that bowl of candy.
Donate your candy - This year it is a little trickier to donate your extra candy. Many places are not accepting donations due to the pandemic. However you can ship it directly to Operation Gratitude. The candy will then be shipped to first responders, military personnel, and veterans.
Eat a good healthy lunch and dinner (and have healthy snacks available) - Focus on good quality proteins and fats that will stay with you longer, keeping you full and satisfied. Do not pass out candy (or trick-or-treat) on an empty stomach. And keep healthy snacks out and available throughout the evening.
You are not completely dependent on luck when it comes to your family’s health. There are things that you can do to care for your body and support your immune system.
I hope you feel empowered to make the wise choices as you enjoy Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas!