While it's not rocket science, sometimes we're quick to forget the basics.
Winter is often given a bad rap as it brings with it the cold & flu season and those cold, dark mornings. However, with a little effort there is no reason for our health to suffer during the colder months! There are a number of things we can do to help keep ourselves and our family just as healthy, happy and active during winter as we are during summer.
- Boost Immunity: It’s important to take care of our health throughout the year but during the winter months it becomes even more essential. Eating well, getting enough sleep and staying active are all important during winter to help keep you and your family healthy and to support your immune systems. Supplements containing herbs and nutrients such as echinacea, garlic, vitamin C, and zinc will help to support healthy immune function.
- Keep Moving: While it’s a little harder to find the motivation to exercise when it is cold outside, remember that keeping active during winter is essential to support our health and well-being. Moving your exercise indoors during winter will help to keep you warm as well as fit and healthy. Be sure to spend time warming up before you start your exercise as it can take a little longer for your joints to loosen up in the cold weather.
- Eating Well: As winter sets in it can be tempting to start eating more of those warm comfort foods that are often high in fat, salt and sugar. Instead, find comfort in foods such as warming and nourishing soups and stews full of flavor and healthy vegetables. Be sure your diet includes winter fruit and vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals such as sweet potato, green leafy vegetables, beetroot, kiwi fruit, mandarins, bananas, garlic and ginger.
- Weight Management: Ditching the exercise as well as the salads during winter can often lead to weight gain. While it may only be a small weight gain, it begins to add up as you get more and more winters under your belt! Although it’s tempting to hide behind those bulky winter clothes, by sticking to your healthy diet and exercise routine all year round, you’ll be much healthier in the long run and won’t dread the next swimming season with the kids!
- Sleeping Well: Proper sleep (eight hours for an adult) can help keep the body's immune system healthy and fight off colds. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes as these substances can affect the quality of your sleep. Regular, moderate exercise, relaxation techniques and establishing a regular sleep routine may help to promote improved sleep.
- Skin Health: The cold weather can affect our skin and contribute to conditions such as dry, itchy skin and eczema. This may be due to the reduced humidity, drinking less water than you would during summer or possibly due to reduced circulation which may decrease the flow of blood and nutrients to the skin. Using moisturizers daily may help to keep the skin moist and supple whilst supplements containing vitamin E or garlic help assist blood circulation. If any of your family suffers psoriasis or eczema, try taking fish oils. These provide omega-3 which can help manage these itchy skin conditions. And don’t forget the sunscreen, it is important to remember we can still get sunburnt when the weather is cold!
- Keeping Bugs at Bay: Although we can do a lot to support our health and immunity during winter it is not always possible to avoid catching a cold or flu. The viruses that cause colds are spread by sneezing, coughing and hand contact. Wash or sanitize your hands regularly and avoid close contact with someone who has a cold. Keep household surfaces clean as well as kids’ toys when someone in the family has a cold. If you are ill, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, including water, hot tea and soup. Avoid alcohol and caffeine and get plenty of sleep.
- Stress and Healthy Mood: While stress is a part of everyday life, and some stress helps us to meet challenging situations, excessive amounts of stress may be linked to negative effects across a range of areas. Stress can lower the resistance to nasty bugs by depressing the immune system. Importantly, stress increases your need for dietary magnesium which is important for muscle and nerve function. Many of the B vitamins e.g. B1, B5, B6 and B12 are also needed for a healthy nervous system. The herb St John's Wort may help to relieve nervousness, irritability and help support emotional balance. It may also be beneficial to help promote healthy mood balance but speak to your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting a supplement like this.
- Circulation: During winter our hands and feet can often feel cold. Our hands and feet are at the extremities of our bodies which means they are the furthest from the heart which is pumping blood around our body to help keep us warm. Vitamin E and the herb Ginkgo help to support peripheral blood circulation, thereby alleviating cold hands and feet. Keep moving with gentle exercise to help improve circulation to the extremities of the body and don’t forget your socks and gloves! If you can’t seem to keep your hands warm (and it’s not bothering you excessively) take solace in the old saying “Cold hands, warm heart”!
- Stay Hydrated: Don’t forget to keep drinking water! As the weather cools down and our thirst decreases it is easy to forget to drink enough water. You still need to aim for about two liters/day of water during winter as it is essential for our body to function. If you struggle with plain water (like we do sometimes) try herbal tea. There are so many flavors available now that you’re sure to find some you enjoy.