Don't 'Worry Yourself Sick' This Winter

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Physician and top stress expert advises getting a flu shot and other tips to boost immunity this winter

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Don't let your busy schedule keep you from getting in a good walk or gym workout - you'll stay stronger and more relaxed if you continue (or begin) a routine of regular moderate exercise

During this time of economic uncertainty, increased stress levels are common, particularly when financial concerns combine with the pressures of the holiday season. But top stress expert Claire Wheeler, M.D. warns that you really can "worry yourself sick," as stress can have a negative effect on the immune system.

"Stress releases hormones that can overtax the body and in turn, compromise the body's natural defenses," says Dr. Wheeler, an instructor at Portland State University's School of Community Health and author of 10 Simple Solutions to Stress (New Harbinger Publications 2007).

In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Sambucol Black Elderberry, 38% of U. S. adults say that stress impacts their health. Women are more likely (40%) than men (31 %) to say this is true for them. Those with children are more stressed (46%) than those with no children 35 %.

To help manage stress and stay healthy during the dangerous cold and flu season, Dr. Wheeler offers the following tips to help boost the immune system.

1. Get the flu shot, and time it wisely. According to Dr. Wheeler, stress can have a strong suppressive effect on the immune system's response to vaccinations. Get the shot early in the season, before you get swept up in the holidays and time your flu shot for a day that you don't have a lot going on.

2. Take a break. Many of us choose to "push through" times when we feel tired and under the weather. Usually, that's a signal from the immune system that you may be fighting off an infection. The stress of maintaining your usual schedule during that time can make the difference between shaking it off or actually getting sick. If you have the chance to take a break, do so; if possible take a preemptive sick day to rest (or get extra sleep if you can't take off work), drink lots of fluids and eat well.

3. No crash diets. Winter is not a good time to start a restrictive diet. "Dieting is not only a bad way to lose weight, it's also a source of major changes in stress hormone levels," says Dr. Wheeler. "The best thing you can do is maintain a basically healthy diet and go easy on holiday excesses and alcohol. Make sure to take a multi-vitamin and try a black elderberry supplement, such as Sambucol, which is the original elderberry product that has been clinically studied and is rich in antioxidants, which are thought to be beneficial in supporting immune system functions."

4. Think Positively. "If you wake up in a bad mood, your stress hormone levels will be elevated before your feet even hit the floor - making you more vulnerable to the germs you're exposed to all day long," says Dr. Wheeler. She suggests taking a moment when you wake up to think of one or two good things you have to look forward to (instead of all the hassles you may have to deal with).

5. Get Plenty of Exercise. According to Dr. Wheeler, research shows that regular exercisers tend to have a much lower incidence of colds and flu than people who don't exercise. Exercise helps keep stress hormone levels in check, which can help strengthen immunity. "Don't let your busy schedule keep you from getting in a good walk or gym workout - you'll stay stronger and more relaxed if you continue (or begin) a routine of regular moderate exercise," says Dr. Wheeler.

Note to Media: For more information on the clinically-proven immune boosting properties of Sambucol or to set up an interview with Dr. Wheeler, obtain copies of studies or press releases, or for sample products, please contact Rachahd Tosado at Robin Leedy & Associates, (914) 241-0086, ext.15. or go to the Sambucol newsroom at http://www.corporatenews.net/cgi-bin/pc200v3.php?pccl=24859

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Rachahd Tosado
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