‘Tis 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 health and well-being, unless—says Nature’s Fare Holistic Nutritionist Lisa Kilgour—we adapt to the change of season. Here’s her best advice about staying healthy all winter long.
“A change in light and temperature means a huge shift for our bodies,” explains Lisa.
“At one time, we adapted our activities to the earth’s rhythms, guided by the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the tides, and the seasons. When the days became shorter, we slept more and rested. We ate different foods. 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. We usually get much less sleep than we need.
“Cold weather also means we stay inside more and breathe in less fresh air. If we don’t shift our warm weather habits, our immune systems—and often our moods—become compromised.”
A Change of Habits
One of the best things we can do, says Lisa, is to change what we eat in cold weather.
“In North America we have access to much of the same food all year round, but that doesn’t mean we should eat it!
“Salads and light foods are fine in summer, but in winter our bodies need a different kind of fuel to warm us from the inside out. If we don’t eat the right foods, our bodies attempt to warm us up—to find quick energy—by sending us sugar cravings.”
Adding seasonal foods and slow-burning carbs are better, she says, to give us steady energy.
“Think about what’s naturally available in winter—or can be stored—like root veggies, apples, pears, and kale. Use warming spices like chili and ginger. Eat curries and stews.
“Although some people can eat cold foods all year round—and feel great—generally our bodies find it harder to tolerate raw foods (grown in the heat of August), in winter. I know I want soup on a cold day—not a green salad!
“If you do enjoy raw food, consider cabbage and carrots, bean and quinoa salads, and add avocado for its healthy fat.”
The Science of the Seasons
Chronobiology is the science of time and how the cycle of day and night affects organisms. In humans, the rhythm of these cycles affects us physically—everything from digestion to blood circulation, hormonal activity, sleep, and performance—and emotionally. Our awareness of the connection of these cycles is important in the prevention and treatment of diseases, and the healing process. Scientists are now studying how chronobiology informs treatment of disease, such as the time when tumours tend to divide, and when to administer medications to harmonize with our inner clocks.
Circadian Rhythm is a 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of all living beings: people, plants, animals, cyanobacteria, and fungi. Modulated by sunlight and temperature, it determines our sleeping and feeding patterns as well as biological activities like cell regeneration, blood pressure, and body temperature.
Melatonin is a hormone triggered by light and dark. At bedtime, melatonin surges up to 10 times its normal levels, and signals many organs to slow down and regenerate.
A Pound of Prevention
In addition to diet, Lisa recommends other seasonal changes:
- Go to bed earlier.
- Get outside as often as possible.
- Stay active—indoors or out.
- Wash your hands often, and every time you come home.
- Take regular supplements for immune system support:
- Ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) – especially helpful during stress
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Oil of oregano (when people are sick around you)
When you do get sick:
- Go to bed. A day of rest reduces recovery time.
- Make tea with natural antibacterial and antiviral properties, like sage/ginger/lemon.
- Take your medicine:
- Boost your Vitamin C: 500 mg 4 to 5 times a day for 2 to 4 days, then back to a regular dose.
- 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.
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.