For those of my readers in the Northern Hemisphere, suffering in bitterly cold temperatures, I've got some tips for staying well during the winter. Living in Australia and in humid hot weather, I cannot imagine enduring blizzards and negative temperatures! If you are braving snowy and frosty conditions, it can be challenging to protect your immune system and stay healthy.
The dreaded flu, with coughs and colds, sneezing and sniffly noses, headaches, sore throats, muscular aches and fever, is one of the worst parts of winter. These symptoms, whilst normally mild, are the leading causes of days off work and school and can completely deplete the immune system, leaving you susceptible to contracting more viruses and staying sicker for longer. Flu can also lead to depressive symptoms as you are feeling unwell, missing social events, staying isolated and remaining inactive.
Your Immune System
What you need first and foremost is a healthy immune system to keep your body well and protect you against flu circulating in your environment. There are many factors that may contribute to the weakening of your immune system including:
- poor sleep,
- a lack of regular exercise,
- not enough rest and relaxation and
- making poor food choices.
These factors are important to manage to stay healthy and strong during winter.
Boost Your Immune Defences
Simple dietary and lifestyle changes keep you healthy and reduce your risk of colds and flus:
- Eat a well-balanced diet including fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, legumes and lean red meat.
- Make healthy warming meals like homemade coconut curries and vegetable soups. Here are some delicious recipes for Carrot Dill Soup and Fragrant Veggie Curry from Aloha.com.
- Reduce your intake of mucous-forming foods such as dairy and refined foods.
- Avoid foods low in nutrients such as sugar, white flour products and alcohol. These foods are known as empty calorie foods and only harbour your immune system.
- Drink at least 2L of filtered water every day.
- Use herbal teas such as green, peppermint and lemon and ginger.
- Regularly exercise but also take rest days, especially after intense training to allow your muscles to recover.
- Practise good sleep hygiene to ensure a restful night of sleep such as turning off TV and computer before sleep, avoiding exercise late at night and limiting alcohol.
- Try meditation or yoga to keep your stress levels low. If you are a beginner, try a local class or log into you tube to try out a guided session at home.
Zinc is crucial for immune function as a zinc deficiency may cause a weakened immune response, predisposing you to a longer or more severe cold. Zinc and vitamin C are nutrients essential to good health and have a growing body of scientific evidence to support their benefits in boosting immunity and strengthening the healing process. You can take supplements of these vitamins and also indulge in foods such as seafood, citrus fruits and spinach.
You can also include an immune booster vitamin in your routine or fortify your meals with whole food powders. Try this Daily Good Greens powder for a vitamin charge.
What to Do If You Get Sick
Both the common cold and flu are caused by viruses, with the most common virus being rhinovirus. Antibiotics target bacteria only and are unable to kill the viruses responsible for colds and flu. Rest is essential when you are unwell to allow your body to recover. Try warm bath in epsom salts for muscle ease, take an immune support vitamin and put a dehumidifier in your bedroom for night time.
Congestion and a stuffy nose are signs that your immune system is hard at work and can result in blocked sinuses and breathing difficulty. The decongesting, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial essential oils of eucalyptus, thyme, lavender and peppermint may help to reduce the nasal and sinus congestion that accompanies upper respiratory tract infections. Put these oils in your dehumidifier to circulate in the air.
Taking care of your body during winter is the best way to avoid the flu. Eating well and getting adequate rest will support your immune system and help you to stay healthy.
Take care xxx