I’m not going to beat around the bush about this winter and bugs. You can chill out now thanks colds and flus! We get it…you’re back, seemingly bigger and better than before. The chilly season seems to have been extra tough this year, with all the many nasty winter viruses going around…and around, and around. I don’t know a single family who isn’t saying that they’ve been hit with back-to-back illnesses this season. The general consensus on the street/school run/gym floor is that it feels like we’re all being hit much harder than usual.
While I’d say most of us are pretty good at keeping up the good health hygiene practices that we’re all very well versed in now (thanks, COVID), you may be wondering what else can we do to arm ourselves, and our families with the best defenses possible to keep us well this winter? Grab yourself a warm drink (lemon, ginger, and Manuka honey being a good winter choice!), take a moment to yourself (very important for our wellbeing), and read on for a healthy dose of Naturopathic winter wellness advice.
I’m a big believer in having a few trusted natural medicine staples in the cabinet for when the family is unwell. I always find that by having them on hand, we can get onto supporting recovery faster. Who wants to go out and try to figure out what may be the best products to buy when your head is foggy, kids are cranky and everyone just needs rest.
Preparation and prevention are two of my main considerations when advising people on how to stay well over winter. First off, I’m going to speak with my Mum hat on – Are kid’s coughs not one of the niggliest things to try and treat, especially at night? By nature of my job, I’m lucky enough to have access to sample lots of products and make up many different remedies, all with varying degrees of success. My personal favourite go-to is Kiwiherb’s Goodnight Children’s Chest Syrup. The reason is simple…when the kids have a persistent cough that either keeps them (or me!) up, it works…we can all sleep and after a few nights’ use, their coughing is decreased throughout the day too!
With my Naturopathic hat on, I know it is the combination of traditional lung support herbs such as Hyssop, Thyme, and Marshmallow that help to clear mucus from the airways. It’s the inclusion of Wild Cherry and Passionflower that really make this product a winner for me, as they help to relax both the body and airways to contribute to a peaceful night’s sleep allowing us to all breathe knowing a restful night’s sleep is possible when battling winter coughs.
I always have adult herbs and immune support in the cupboard to support winter ills too, and Kiwiherb’s Speedy Recovery and Dual Action Chest and Lung Support and the naturally powerful ingredients they contain are not to be sneezed at when it comes to helping prevent and treat winter ills! Find out more about Kiwiherb here.
While we naturally seek to be warm in whatever way we can in winter (hello cosy fires, fluffy dressing gowns, and hot baths!), it’s important to consider how our diet should naturally shift to have warming qualities in winter also. While, for example, your favourite super-food smoothie in the morning is likely jam-packed with nutrients, starting the day with something cold may not be the best way to nourish your body in the colder season.
Consider moving some of those super ingredients into a warmer form…for example, an oat porridge with a sprinkling of your favourite superfoods and a big dollop of Manuka honey on top could be a warming winter alternative. Soups are an ideal winter food – nourishing, wholesome, budget-friendly, and naturally warming.
You can even turn up the heat on soups further by adding warming spices such as ginger, turmeric, chili, black pepper, and cinnamon. By nature, we tend to crave more comfort foods in winter, so consider being prepared in advance so you’ve got something comforting and nutritionally nourishing at easy reach. Soups in the slow-cooker are ideal for this, and I love putting a wholesome packet soup base in such as good ol’ King Soup (my favourite being Hearty Vegetable), followed by seasonal winter vegetables I’m craving at the time. Or if I’m sick, homemade chicken soup is always a winner-winner chicken dinner. You may be interested in these soup bases to get you started.
According to Chinese medicine, warming foods such as soups and spices help to raise the body’s yang energy – which boosts energy, improves circulation, and helps improve the body’s winter defenses. “Comfort” foods are synonymous with winter, and by making sure those comfort foods are full of nourishment, we can feed that natural urge to eat more in winter, in a healthy way.
Seek the Sun
We spend so much of the summertime trying to protect ourselves from the sun, but it’s important that we make the mental switch in winter to remember how vitally important a little bit of daily sunshine/natural outdoor light is for our health and immunity too! Your body produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunshine (hence it being dubbed, “the sunshine vitamin”). Having healthy vitamin D levels can help to support a healthy and strong immune system.
Vitamin D can also be found in foods such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and cod liver oil. It is also available in supplement form, and some people need the additional intake by way of supplementation. If you feel that your immunity or mood is particularly low, it may be a good idea to consider going to your doctor to talk about checking your vitamin D levels. As a general guide, 15-20 minutes per day of sun exposure in winter, along with a healthy diet should be enough to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. However, deficiencies are common, particularly during winter.
The idea of heading into the cold for a workout often gets a frosty reception – cold weather, rain, and wind all put a damper on one’s enthusiasm to get out and get moving! It’s so vitally important to keep active throughout the colder months though, even though our inner bear may just want to hibernate!
Exercise increases endorphins (happy hormones). Your body will benefit greatly from the boost exercise gives to your immune system and mood. Balance cardiovascular workouts with rejuvenating, restorative workouts too such as yoga and tai chi as these help to further reduce stress levels. This is an important factor to keep in check year-round, but especially in winter as stress depresses the immune system. Rug up, jog on! Bundle up, downward dog!
Although some weeks we may wish to, we humans weren’t made to hibernate the winter away like bears. However, winter does, in fact, still affect our sleep cycle. Winter insomnia may also result from the effect of reduced daylight exposure on melatonin levels in humans.
Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm. Melatonin regulates the body’s circadian rhythm or “body clock”. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy, so there’s one more reason to brave the cold and head outside.
While it can be hard to fit all we need to in a day in any season, try and focus on following the natural rhythms of the season. It gets dark earlier, which is a sign that our bodies should start winding down for rest earlier than in the summertime. Try the following tips, to help ensure you don’t fight or disrupt the body’s normal circadian rhythms:
Winter can be enjoyed rather than just endured, but arm yourself with some of these tips, and hopefully, you’ll be welcoming the good times into your house, not the germs! If head colds are doing your head in, know you’re not alone and summer will be here before you can say stuff off now stuffy noses!
The above notes are just general guidelines and tips, and if you are feeling frequently under the weather or are depressed, you should seek out medical advice.
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