How to enjoy the festive season and not fall over

There are so many stresses and strains on us in December that sometimes we can over do the “good times”.  This can often end badly by us falling over, not literally (although that can happen too), and getting sick. Looking after yourself at this time of year is key to having a good time, even more so this year.

In years gone by, you would take this in your stride, knowing that to burn the candle at both ends was part of the whole festive thing.  As a result, if you caught a cold, fever or even the full blown flu, this would simply be an “occupational hazard”.  You then spend a few days in bed and you are either right as rain for NYE or going back to work.

That said, sometimes it can linger during January or you might get through NYE unscathed, only to be laid low later in January or February.

What do we mean by run down?

It is all relative but in essence, it involves a number of things:

  • tiredness either through poor sleep or continuous stress
  • lethargy, which is not quite the same since you can be tired and energetic
  • adrenal over load, this is the gland that reacts to “flight and fright”
  • stress over load, whether work or health or just getting ready for Christmas
  • Fact is that many of us will be run down simply as a result of the change in routine caused by COVID

The causes of getting run down

From a practical point of view, these are relatively obvious but can be very much relative to your own mental and physical resilience. What is stressful to some people can be less so for others.

What are the main causes?

Poor sleep – there are loads of ways to improve your routine so your body clock works properly.  Our article on the body clock explains in more detail here how you can cheat it.

Stress – this can come in all different shapes and sizes. But don’t be fooled, it is probably the biggest element in becoming run down.  You can do everything right but unless your stress levels are under control, it will over ride everything. Here is an article on how to do this.

Working too hard –  Some people can work long hours and take it in their stride.  Others crumple after a back to back shift. It is about your individual resilience but if you don’t have much in the tank, any extra exertion could tip you over the edge.

Poor diet – if you have been reading our blogs, you will know how nutrients are key to how the immune system is able to see off “invaders”. Food and nutrition is the fuel to keep us going at optimal levels.  Learn why you can feel like rubbish too often.

Partying too hard –  whilst it is good to relax, see friends or family (when you are able). It is easy to get carried away. When you do so, it can go badly wrong.  Poor sleep is often one result, lack of sleep another, not eating properly and drinking too much alcohol can have a drastic effect.

Why is drinking too much alcohol so harmful?

Metabolising alcohol is a complex affair.  It is after all a toxin so it needs to be flushed from your system as quickly as possible.  This is an intensive process within the liver so you need all the help you can get.  The liver is really important to your immune system (see below).

We are also wired so that if you take on too much alcohol, your body will produce a much worse toxin in an attempt to stop you voluntarily having more.  This is called acetaldehyde and is 20-30 times more toxic than ethanol (pure alcohol).  This substance is the main cause of a hangover.

Why and how is the liver so important to the immune system

It is so vital that many books and other articles just never mention the importance of the liver and the immune system.

The liver is a front-line immune organ something not to forget.

It plays a role in both the innate and the acquired immune systems (see Joan Ebsworth’s article on the immune system’s components).

However, you cannot but be amazed at what this c 1.5kg structure actually does for us every second of the day.

It is thought to carry out over 500 different jobs within the body.  It is one of the hardest working organs and we abuse it at our peril.

Sadly, abuse it we do or at least many of us do.  Happily, though it has an amazing ability to regenerate itself.

Functions of the Liver

Here are just a few of the things that it does for us second by second of every day:

  • Blood detoxification and purification
  • Enzyme activation
  • Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins
  • Enzyme activation
  • Vitamin and mineral storage
  • Protein synthesis
  • Bile production and excretion

Then there is:

Immune system functioning of the liver – viruses & toxins

It has the largest collection of phagocytic  cells anywhere in the body. Fighting off pathogens that enter via the blood.  It just gobbles them up – literally!

Phagocytes are cells that protect the body by ingesting harmful foreign particles, bacteria, and dead or dying cells. Their name comes from the Greek phagein, “to eat” or “devour”. And “-cyte”, the suffix in biology denoting “cell“. From the Greek kutos, “hollow vessel”.

100% of viruses that enter the body are carried via the bloodstream to the liver and are filtered and then eliminated via the bile duct into the intestines and out of the body via faeces.

It seems that the kidneys don’t do this –although they do eliminate other toxins.  Feed your liver the nutrients that it needs to operate properly.

Immune system functioning of the liver – bacteria

Bacteria and viruses are very very different . There are many different sorts of bacteria and most of them are good for us –they carry out important roles.

Remember that for every single human cell in the body we have 10 microbes or bacteria.  The microbes living in the gut are now known to be vital to our well being.

Maintaining a balance between our gut microbiome and our liver is important for health.  When the gut microbiome is out of kilter or the gut becomes leaky then bacteria can be carried to the liver.

It seems that this can be a danger signal for our health. Inducing an inflammatory cascade activation in immune cells plus other reactions too.

There is a link between liver dysfunction and the transfer of bacteria from the gut.  This is an area of research that is ongoing.

So it seems that the the bacteria from our gut have a major role to play in either balancing liver function or in causing liver diseases.  The liver detox system can become overwhelmed if our gut bacteria are not the right sort.

So, the health of our gut lining, its microbiome constituents and the liver all play a role in the functioning of the immune system.

Keep giving those little critters in your gut the right sorts of food or supplements!!

What happens if your liver is under pressure?

If the liver is sluggish as a result of other toxins (pollution, alcohol, smoking, diet) or illness then a bottleneck is created and the removal of viral material and toxins slows down and can stop.

When the liver isn’t working correctly then we are open to chronic infections and many other diseases including cancer and of course, COVID-19.

It is only the liver that can purify the blood of viruses and toxins and we only have one liver.  So keep yours in tip top condition.

How does the liver react when working properly?

Conversely, if the liver is functioning at an optimum level then viruses are eliminated rapidly.

When needed the liver is able to mount a rapid immune response and that activity is what can increase body temperature.

A fever is part of the immune response and yet we do all that we can to stop it. Yes a fever can get out of control and it can kill –so we do have to monitor it carefully.

However, we do tend to take those paracetamol or other actions too rapidly on occasions to lower a fever.

What else does the liver offer the immune system?

As well as rapid responses this organ is capable of modulation and balance only recognising those viruses or toxins that will do us harm. It is a very complex operation.

How to improve your immune system

Rarely do we think about this organ – yet it makes sense to do so as it can be easily improved.

One of the easiest ways to clean the blood and so take a load off the immune system is to improve liver functioning.

Most of us expect too much of this amazing organ.  Perhaps it is too efficient allowing us to take in toxins over a long period of time before we succumb to liver disease or other chronic illness.

We eat toxic foods, we drink alcohol, we smoke cigarettes, we breathe in toxic air, we drink toxic water, too much caffeine and use toxic cleaning products in our homes.  Pesticides in our gardens, personal care products that we rub into our bodies are full of toxic chemicals.

They all contribute to the toxic load that we create for the liver so it is no wonder that COVID-19 found fertile hosts in the so-called most developed countries in the World.

The solution is the usual one – Lifestyle choices are the key!!

Eat a clean and toxin free diet if you can or make sure you have enough of the right nutrients to cope with your lifestyle. Lots of vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants.  Supplement your diet when necessary.

Remove processed foods.

No processed sugars

No refined grains (whole grains are much better)

Reduce alcohol (it is a toxin!) or make sure you metabolise it as quickly as possible.  The less you drink, the less you need to and when you do, it relaxes you more quickly i.e. by drinking less.

Don’t smoke (or at least get onto the smokeless variety) but nicotine is a toxin.

Hydrate yourself every day with clean filtered water not out of a bottle full of plastic particles.

Protect yourself from pesticides and herbicides in your garden, the cleaning products that you use in your home, personal care products. Just find alternatives and there are many.

Embrace a new clean lifestyle, plastic and toxin free

Where there’s a will there’s a way. There are plenty of web-sites out there helping you adopt healthy, plastic and toxin free lifestyles.

In these strange times – do take care of your self.

It will pay off by your having fewer infections, more energy, a sharper mind, better digestion, clearer skin and much more.