It’s the season for cozy nights and snuggly sweaters…and a greater risk of getting sick. In winter, a drop in temperature and daylight hours can have a profound effect on our immune health and well-being, unless we adapt to the change of season. Here’s a list of tips that will help reduce our exposure to winter bugs and encourage our bodies to do their job better.
Less Light and Cooling Temperatures
Historically we adapted our activities to the earth’s rhythms, guided by the rising and setting of the sun. When the days became shorter, we slept more and rested. We only ate foods that were available in the season. But we are so busy all the time now, that we just keep going—even when our bodies want to wind down, when it gets dark early. Changes in the amount of daily sunlight can disrupt the body’s natural rhythm and contribute to an imbalance in hormones like serotonin and melatonin. We usually get much less sleep than we need, which all takes it toll on our immune health.
A Change of Habits
Eating with the season is one of the best ways to adjust to the cooler weather. In North America we have access to all the foods, all the year, but it doesn’t mean we should eat it. In winter months, our bodies need foods that help warm us from the inside out; if we continue eating what we would during warmer months our system adapts by looking for a quick energy fix—by way of sugar cravings. Think about what’s naturally available in winter—or can be stored—slower burning carbs like root veggies, apples, pears, and kale. Use warming spices like chili and ginger. Eat curries and stews.
Sometimes even with all the prevention, a bug still gets through. These products are best used when you are directly exposed to or feel the onset of symptoms. Fighting the cause of the illness and not only treating the symptoms is crucial in fighting off cold or flu.
- Go to bed. A day of rest reduces recovery time.
- Make tea with natural antibacterial and antiviral properties, like sage/ginger/lemon.
- Boost your vitamin C: 500 mg 4 to 5 times a day for 2 to 4 days, then back to a regular dose.
- Kill it! Start taking antiviral oil of oregano, elderberry, colloidal silver, or echinacea at the first sign of a scratchy throat. Stock up in November to make sure they’re on-hand when needed.
- Reach for zinc. Got a tickle in your throat? It’s a good time for zinc lozenges.
A Pound of Prevention
Try adding these daily habits to help prevent seasonal pitfalls.
- Wash your hands — The hand is quicker than the sneeze in the spread of seasonal illness. Frequent hand washing will reduce your exposure to viruses.
- Break up with sugar — Among many other health issues, refined sugar impedes the effectiveness of white blood cells in their ability to protect from invading microbes.
- Get Outside — Spending 30 minutes in nature is a proven way to boost mood and immunity.
- Get More Sleep — Our immune system rests at night, and so should you.
- Drink up — It’s easy to become slightly dehydrated in the dry winter months. Inhaled viruses cling to the back of the nose and throat—if those areas are moist, they do a better job of keeping the bugs out.
- Get Moving — Regular, moderate intensity aerobic exercise boosts immune activity, reducing frequency of the common cold.
- Stock up on superfoods — Eating a variety of colourful superfoods and making sure you are getting servings of fresh produce helps keep your system fueled with the essentials it needs to stay healthy.
- Stress Less — Excess cortisol (a stress hormone) will depress immunity; build in daily stress busting as part of your essentials for self-care
- Take Regular Supplements —
Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng): especially helpful during stress
Probiotics: helps boost good bacteria and the body’s ability to fight off harmful bacteria
Oil of Oregano: when people are sick around you
Medicinal Mushrooms: assists in strengthening the immune response Beta-sitosterol: brings balance to an under- or overactive immune system
THis article was published in The Good Life Magazine