Discover how fibromyalgia and chronic illness is linked to the frequency of catching colds and flu. Check out the top three causes of this immune system problem and how they relate to you.
Have you ever heard, “It’s cold and flu season!” Do you believe this is simply the time of year when everyone gets sick? Perhaps those around you are sick. Or, maybe you’re dealing with a sweaty, fuzzy, queasy feverish feeling? Whatever the case, it seems clear that a compromised immune system and fibromyalgia go hand in hand.
But, how are they linked?
Sniffles, cough and scratchy throats aside, there’s more to this subject than meets the (itchy) eyes.
Fibro Cold and Flu Season Links
Have you ever noticed that the cold and flu “season” coincides with the busiest time of the year? The months surrounding the holidays are known for jam-packed schedules, over-extended resources, and burning the bayberry-scented candle at both ends.
When we get super busy, what goes out the window?
During the past couple of months, how many of you took the extra time needed to treat yourself well and compensate for all the added craziness of the season? I don’t see many hands raised. To be honest, mine isn’t completely raised, either.
I did my best to incorporate rest and relaxation, but dessert indulgences did happen and I let my fitness routine slack off. The excuse that it was COLD outside and I was constantly short on time seemed logical to me.
If asked, what would you say are the top three unhealthy tendencies of the holiday season? You’d probably respond just as many of my clients do. This is what I hear the most…
- “I’ve got an over-scheduled calendar. Too many special events and not enough time. I can’t even get to the gym! If I’m over-committed, how can I possibly make everyone happy? I feel so overwhelmed, I wish I had another month to squeeze in after November and before December.”
- “I’m not eating my regular healthy meals. Between baking, receiving sugary gifts, and the holiday parties, there are sweets everywhere! I nibble a bit here and there and before I know it, I’ve scarfed down a whole plate of cookies. Surely a few treats can’t hurt. If I can’t indulge at this time of year, then when can I?”
- “I haven’t been to bed before midnight in weeks. I’ve still got some shopping to do, wrapping, and cleaning out the spare room before our out-of-town guests to arrive. I’d love to try and catch a few z’s, but with my mind going in all directions, I’d likely stare at the ceiling anyway, so I might as well stay up.”
Do you see a theme here?What are the Top 3 Causes of #Fibro Flu Season? Click To Tweet
Fibro Flu Season Causes
There are 3 main underlying causes that occur which contribute to (or even create) the season of colds, flu, and illnesses that prevail at this time of year.
These three detrimental subjects persist during the holidays: sugar, stress, and lack of sleep.
Coincidentally (or is it?) these very subjects are the ones to top most immune system destroyer lists.
It makes sense. During extra busy times, we’re more likely to see our workout schedule, healthy eating plan, and our sleep routine skid sideways. We grab quick processed foods, skip the gym, and cram in three or four more tasks between dinner and bedtime. It’s no wonder our immune system is stretched a bit thin.
The bacterial and viral infections that lead to cold and flu are ordinary opportunists. They’re simply waiting for an open door to enter uninvited and then settle in. I actually don’t know anyone who hasn’t been sick over the holidays at some time in their life.
Some of us even think that we can strip our gears in December and make up for it later. I’ve heard clients say that they’ll compensate for their stressed out behaviors with super healthy activities in January and February. Then things will just get back to normal. Whatever that is.
Does this work?
Not really. However, before we point the finger squarely on “the season” or even on our own chronic illness diagnosis, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what, specifically, compromises the immune system.
What’s Really Going On?
Here are the Top 3 Most Common Immunity-Destroyers:
- Sugar– “Eating any kind of sugar has the potential to reduce your body’s defenses by 75% or more for four to six hours.” So what happens if you’re consuming it all day? Since sugar is present in all cereals, crackers, chips, dairy, juices, and nearly all processed foods – what’s the impact of the cumulative effect?
It all adds up to one whopping club to the immune system.
If you think that your sugar indulgences are just once a year, consider how the sugar industry sees it. The candy and sugar sales industries gear up for a smashing year that kicks off with Halloween. Like a sweet sweepstakes (sweet-stakes?) home run, sales continue briskly through November and December – of course, sliding into home plate on Valentine’s Day.
Then we consume green minty shakes for St. Patrick’s Day (with 73 grams of sugar each!) and next comes Easter candy with jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and marshmallow neon-colored bunnies. Americans spend over 2.1 billion dollars on Easter candy.
Seasonal sweet indulgences aren’t just a December thing. The total impact of this growing behavior takes a toll for months on end.
Sugar impacts our immune system, our ability to think and focus, and it’s also incredibly hard on the liver.
- Sleep– According to Eric J. Olson, MD, lack of sleep definitely impacts the immune system in a negative way. Here’s how he explains this phenomenon. “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”
Even small changes in your sleep routine can create a negative impact. Keeping a regular, consistent bedtime isn’t just important, it’s a necessity to maintain a strong immune system.
- Stress– Okay, this topic may sound like a total cop out. After all, who isn’t stressed? But, let’s take a look at what happens when we’re over-scheduled and overworked. How do we feel when it seems that there are more things to get done than we have the time or ability to complete?
That’s the very definition of stress.
In the early 80s, immunologists at the University of Ohio studied the relationship between the risk of infection and stress. They found that in their psychoneuroimmunology studies (the relationship between emotions and overall health) they could accurately predict the tendency to become sick based on the stressful circumstances surround the test subject. Many, many more studies have been done since that time and it’s now a common understanding that stress is intrinsically linked to lowered immune system function.
The simple phrase, mind over matter, gains new meaning when this deep causal link is understood.
I hope you have a clearer picture now of the holiday season and how it’s connected to increased likelihood of colds and flu. Yes, there are more social occasions and social interactions at this time of year. We do have more opportunities to come in contact with others who may be sick. But the factors listed above have more to do with our RISK of infection than other factors.
Now, do you happen to see a connection between these holiday-related issues and fibromyalgia? Are you wondering why those of us who have fibromyalgia have a poor or compromised immune systems?
First of all, let’s talk about a compromised immune system and poor digestive health. One main contributor to poor digestive health is sugar. This comes in the form of consuming processed foods (often loaded with added sugar) as well as sugary foods. Poor digestive health also a result of consuming foods linked to sensitivities and allergies. This all adds up to inflammation.
Whole body inflammation
is a hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is also characterized by insomnia and sleep disturbances as well as adrenal issues stemming from chronic stress.
Therefore, the main ingredients in the recipe to destroy your immune system (sugar, sleep, stress) are also the main ingredients linked to symptoms of fibromyalgia. For more in-depth information about the connection between the immune system and fibromyalgia, check out the article, “Is the Fibromyalgia Immune System Compromised?”
Get ready to discover what can be done to boost the immune system and keep you cold and flu-free throughout the season. Check out part two and final part of this article, entitled Fibro Flu Season Fixes!