Stay healthy this winter with these guidelines: prevention (flu shots and hygiene), immune support (supplements and diet), remaining active followed by proper recovery (exercise and sleep!).
Winter is synonymous with sniffles, coughs, sore throats, days off work and generally feeling “under the weather”.
Well, there are a few reasons.
Studies have shown many viruses and bugs survive and thrive at lower temperatures, making winter their favourite time of year to come out and infect us.
The other reasons are due to lifestyle habits during winter and cold weather which affect our immune systems: less vitamin D exposure because of limited time in the sun, and spending lots of time indoors at close proximity to other people…and their bugs.
All that aside, we don’t need to get sick in winter (also known as the flu season), because there are some easy measures we can take in order to stay well.
It’s all about prevention, nutrition, exercise and rest…
Stay healthy this winter with smart prevention and protection: hygienic hands
A crucial step toward staying healthy during winter is prevention, that is, giving your body the best defenses against getting sick in the first place.
Prevention is often easier than managing symptoms. Don’t wait until you get sick to start taking care of yourself this winter.
During winter, your surroundings (the gym, school, work, shops, even at home) are rife with cold and flu bugs.
That’s because we tend to spend more time inside, breathing the same air as other people…therefore breathing in bugs and viruses, and touching infected surfaces.
Remember that the flu virus can stay suspended in the air in the form of tiny droplets for a long time (hours), which puts us at risk when we are in close quarters with people infected with the virus.
As we’ve already learnt, these viruses are more likely to be more prevalent during winter because of the low temperature, making them more likely to stick around for longer.
As well as breathing the bugs in, touching the same surfaces which have come into contact with viruses is a sure way to get sick.
All it takes is for someone to rub their nose, touch a tissue or sneeze into their hand before touching a surface which you then touch soon after.
This means you must keep your hands clean at all times to prevent passing bugs from your hands into your system.
To do this, nothing beats good old soap and water. Keep an antibacterial soap in your bathroom, kitchen and workplace and use regularly.
Give your hands a good scrub for 20 seconds to make sure you’re getting the best defense.
If you’re afraid of needles, brace yourself for this one!
Another recommended and very effective preventative measure is to get yourself a flu shot.
Studies have shown that the flu shot can reduce the risk flu by up to 60%.
When you consider how disruptive and potentially catastrophic the flu can be, it seems silly not to get the flu shot.
If you are in regular contact with infants and children, getting a flu shot yourself is a great way to keep them protected too.
Think about the second of pain from the shot versus the weeks of misery induced by the flu.
With winter comes dry nasal passages.
Research suggests that mucous actually helps to prevent cold and flu bugs from entering your system. It catches the bugs and keeps them from travelling further into your system.
When the winter weather strips your system of mucous and moisture, you become more susceptible to those time-stealing illnesses.
An easy and affordable way to prevent dry nasal passages is to use nasal sprays to keep moisture and mucous in tact.
A disruptive aspect of the winter cold is a sore throat. It affects eating, talking, breathing and sleep.
Propolis is a powerful antiseptic compound created by bees by combining beeswax, sap and saliva.
Honey and propolis are natural yet powerful ingredients which both kill bugs and soothe throat pain.
You can fortify the protective nature of propolis by taking a daily supplement leading up to and during winter to keep those nasty bugs out.
Bolster your immunity with supplements and proper diet: shots, food and extras
Our immune systems are our personal illness fighters, and they need extra support during winter.
Because we are generally more exposed to bugs and viruses during winter, we need extra defenses to stop them from infecting us.
To boost your immune system and stay healthy during the chilly season, you should take supplements and adjust your diet.
Think of your eating plan as your daily way to take in as many powerful nutrients as you can, as opposed to simply warming, satisfying and filling you up.
Winter is the season of comfort foods as our bodies are looking for extra calories and a hit of serotonin (hence the carb cravings!).
Instead of reaching for the white bread, pasta, chips and mashed potatoes, choose foods which will give your body extra immune support with high nutritional value.
Turn comfort into nutrition by choosing immunity-loving ingredients such as:
- Garlic (add to everything for flavor and flu fighting abilities)
- Green veggies
- Whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice)
- Fermented foods (for probiotics)
- Healthy fats (olive oil, salmon, nuts, seeds)
Make comforting and nutrient-dense dishes such as:
- Chicken soup with a side of wholegrain bread for a healthier gut and therefore a stronger immune system
- Curry with garlic, ginger and vegetables including healthy carbs such as sweet potatoes
- Casseroles with slow cooked meats and veggies
- Veggie soups with plenty of garlic, ginger and bone broth
- Green smoothies with added supplements (echinacea, ginseng, vitamin C)
Nutrient shots are a fantastic way to add concentrated doses of immune-fighting nutrients to your daily meal plan.
Wheatgrass, ginger, turmeric and echinacea shots are among the best natural ingredients for winter health and immunity. Make your own or buy high-quality nutrient powders and concentrates to add to juices and smoothies.
If you can feel those first tingles of a cold, make a homemade shot of raw garlic, ginger, lemon and Mānuka honey for a quick, concentrated dose of natural immune fighters, soreness soothers and anti-inflammatories.
Investing in a high-quality supplement to take daily is also a great idea for bolstering your defenses for a healthy winter.
Choose a supplement with active ingredients such as Mānuka honey, propolis and zinc. Studies have shown that Mānuka honey is a powerful tool in reducing the risk of influenza.
A lozenge or drop is an easy (and yummy) way to add extra propolis and honey to your system for effective flu protection. A lozenge will also soothe niggling scratchy throats or blocked nasal passages.
Exercise and sleep: stay active, prioritize rest and recovery
Working hard and keeping up with responsibilities is unavoidable and we can’t really change our stressful work and family routines just because winter strikes. However, we must at least prioritize rest, recovery and fitness during winter.
The issues is, cold and flu season is notoriously incompatible with keeping active.
Many people hibernate from the cold and wind down their exercise routine during winter.
Studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise reduces the risk of catching a cold or flu (upper respiratory tract infections).
This is partly due to the fact that exercise increases blood circulation.
This gives the immune system a clearer path around the body to find and fight illness. Get out for a brisk walk every day or join a gym group fitness class to keep you accountable.
Try to limit “couch time” and get up and about as often as you can.
If your climate is totally incompatible with getting outside try an at home workout, jump on YouTube and do an at-home HIIT, dance or Pilates workout.
Now we swing the opposite direction…from exercise to rest.
You may find that you’re perfectly functional on 6 hours of sleep. However, sufficient sleep is crucial to staying healthy this winter and staving off the common cold.
Research suggests that insufficient sleep weakens the immune system and leaves you wide open to colds and flus.
What’s more, when we sleep our bodies get to work fighting bugs (thanks to antibodies). There’s a reason why they call it “beauty sleep”, it’s when our cells regenerate and repair the most efficiently.
During sleep is when our bodies become healthier, stronger and more protected.
If we miss out on sufficient sleep, we won’t get the best out of our body’s natural defenses and our immune system won’t get the chance to do its best work.
Stick to a regular bed time and aim for at least 8 hours of sleep a night during winter.
Give yourself a decent chunk of time without exposure to blue light before bed (put away the computers and phones!) and truly wind down to give your body the best chance at a deep, effective sleep.
If you feel as though you’re coming down with something, take a propolis lozenge, hydrate and go to bed early.
Easy, effective and a great excuse to take a well-deserved rest!
Stay healthy this winter by preventing cold and flu bugs from infecting you in the first place.
Keep your hands washed at all times, have a flu shot and make sure your diet is nutrient-dense and packed with immune-supporting foods.
Keep a throat spray handy and suck on drops and lozenges to keep the nasal passages clear and the throat protected.
Keep up the exercise and prioritize sufficient sleep for ultimate health and wellbeing during winter.