Most of us see a cold, flu or sniffle and an inevidable part of the Winter season. I used to think it was the cold weather that made us more susceptible. Not directly apparently. It actually has far more to do with how our lifestyles change in Winter. We spend more time inside, so we’re breathing in more recycled air, thats likely full of germs. The heating systems don’t do much to help and can dry out our mucous membranes (remember that mucous is one of our first lines of defence against pathogens). We may become more sedentary, as we think it’s too dark, cold and miserable to get outside. This also means we’re getting less Vitamin D – a hormone that has immune-modulating effects. Then there’s the craving for comfort foods that might be a bit stodgier and less nutritious that our Summer and Spring cravings for smoothies and vibrant salads.
I actually love that our tendencies towards poor immune function is cold weather has little to do with the temperature drop are far more to do with our behaviours. This means we can be pro-active about things and practice prevention.
*Touch all the wood* … I rarely get sick, regardless of the season and I reckon it’s got quite a bit to do with how much sun exposure I get, my affinity for exercise and addiction to fruits and veggies. I don’t take vitamins or supplements, even as a precaution. For me it’s all lifestyle and it seems to work uber well. Here’s my top 5 suggestions for avoiding the Winter sniffles.
Appreciate Mamma Nature
In Australia we love to love Summer and love to hate Winter. Let’s change this up.
Nature is still a beauty in Winter and getting outside more will do you loads of good. It’s normal to experience all the seasons, our body’s expect temperature changes. In fact, I don’t think they appreciate us having climate control air-conditioning systems year-round. How are they ever supposed to learn resilience if we never let them experience the extremes of the season. We don’t get as much sun in Winter so it’s vital for out Vitamin D levels that we get as much exposure as we can when it decides to show it’s pretty face. Not only it Vitamin D super-important for our immunity, but also our mood. ever noticed when you spend too much time indoors you start to feel a bit detached and despondent? Vitamin D my friends. Get around it.
Rug up in your fave jumper and go for a walk in the afternoon sun. Take a friend or your poochy pal for some company if you lack motivation. Alternatively listen to an awesome podcast.
Sit outside when you eat your lunch if you can, and if you have time when you finish, maybe just lie there a while to soak up the rays.
Don’t cover yourself with sunscreen straight away! The second we apply sunscreen we impair our skin’s ability to synthesise vitamin D. In the Winter sun, you won’t burn for at least 20 minutes, after which wither slap on a hat or apply a natural sunscreen that doesn’t contain any suspicious chemicals. Check out this article by Alexx Stuart from Low to Life for more info if you’re thinking “what’s wrong with regular sunscreens?”
Maintain your Love Affair with Fruits and Veggies
Our need for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients doesn’t decrease in Winter – even if our appetite for salad does
Get around the hearty winter veggies and vibrant greens of winter. Pumpkin, carrot, sweet spud, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, pears, avos, zucchini, citrus fruits, ginger and garlic are just some of the beaut offerings in season during the cooler weather.
Make an epic soup from sweet veggies such as pumpkin or carrot, adding ginger and ground cinnamon, plus some coconut cream or soft nuts (think macas or cashews) to creamy it up. I like to add cauliflower as this makes the soup extra creamy. Use this recipe as a base and tweak to suit your tastebuds.
Indulge in this super-easy broccoli amazingness – I’ve been adding ginger lately plus some coconut vinegar for added flavours. The ginger really warms me up and the coconut vinegar contains beneficial bacteria to keep my gut happy (remember that the gut is the seat of the immune system).
Cook zoodles (zucchini noodles – or other spiralled veggie of choice) in homemade broth with broccoli florets and chunks of pumpkin or sweet spud. Add some meat leftover from broth making or cubes of chopped skinless salmon (allow to poach slightly in broth before removing from heat) and you’ve got yourself a deeply nourishing meal.
Make a homemade pear and frozen berry crumble. Just toss cored and chopped pears with a cup or two of frozen berries, the juice of an orange or lemon and some cinnamon and vanilla bean powders and place in a baking dish (or individual ramekins). Make a crumble from 1 cup almond meal, 1/2 cup chopped macadamias, 1/4 cup softened coconut oil, 1/2 cup cashew butter and 1 cup shredded coconut. Rub cashew butter and coconut oil into nut meal, chopped nuts and coconut. sprinkle over fruit and bake at 160 degrees C for 30 minutes.
If all else fails, grab a fluff bathrobe, your favo blanket or a mega-size coat and wear it round your shoulders whilst you sip on your fave green smoothie recipe.
Don’t be Tempted to Skimp on Movement
There’s always ways around “socially acceptable” excuses
Think it’s too cold to exercise? Good news. Exercise warms you up, and the harder and faster you go, the warmer you’ll be during and also after your workout.
Think it’s too dark? There’s no rules saying you can’t go for a walk in the evening or early morning. The street lights will still be on. Alternatively put the lamp on in your bedroom and do some pelvic floor exercises on the floor (think sit ups, crunches, bridge, bicycle crawls, burpees, lunges with the core engaged and high knee running on the spot, alternating with kicking your butt running on the spot).
Is it too wet and miserable outside for your comfort? See bedroom floor option (above) or find an indoor class you can get to at least weekly. Think yoga – it’s available everywhere, just go searching, you’ll find one in your area (if you’re in Adelaide I teach $10 yoga classes weekly). Alternatively do yoga classes from Youtube tutorials – with a mate might me more fun). There’s group exercise classes at gyms if you can afford the membership – I love this option. Buy a few home exercise DVDs and work out in the comfort of your lounge room.
Exercise improves your breathing, blood flow (important for transport of immune cells) and improves sleep quality (and the better you sleep, the more time your immune system has to build itself up again for another day of fighting off bugs and viruses).
Stop complaining and start moving. Do something you love and if you get bored change it up. If motivation icier weakness, find a walking buddy or find a friend and join the gym together and make “appointments” with each other to get there at least twice a week for a class or some time on the machines.
Remain a Sleeping Beauty
That couch and TV remote is uber tempting (sorry I mean Netflix subscription – am I the only one yet to jump on this addictive digital bandwagon?) but the Zzzzzs is where it’s at!
The better rested we are, the better our body’s work. It’s that simple. If I do get sick, which is a rarity, it’s always because I’ve been deprived of sleep over a few consecutive nights. In the past 3 years I’ve only had 2 colds; one in year 12, at the end of our drama production week. We went straight on a camp to Melbourne on the Thursday night and stayed out late doing volunteer work on the city streets. I came down with a cold on the Saturday. The second was last year after the Wellness Summit. I’d had a gallstone attack the Friday night before the Summit, a late night on the Saturday and Sunday and then another gallstone attack on the Monday night. On the day I flew home my body crashed and burned. Stress and sleep seem to be the biggest players here.
Aim to hit the sack before 10:30 most nights and you should be all G. I like to have a bedtime routine. I switch on my salt lamp, place a crystal under my pillow, brush my teeth, do some stretches and hug Mamma T goodnight. I try not to check my phone right before I lie down and keep my bedroom nice and chilly; windows open, no heating on. The more I can snuggle up, the quicker I nod off. I also sleep nude which seems to work wonders for me. I’ll leave that one up to you to have a play with … or not.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … Settle Petal
What else did both those Melbourne trips have in common? Stress! It trumps everything. So where possible I try to keep a calm perspective, practise gratitude and use essential oils and yoga to keep myself afloat. Stress shuts the immune system and digestive system down. You don’t need these things to be firing when you’re running away from a safer-toothed tiger. What Tiger? You may ask. Well, these days it’s not a tiger, it’s a traffic jam or assignment deadline or argument with a family member, but our nervous system doesn’t differentiate … it just knows there’s a threat and prepares us to fight or flee the situation. You don’t need to digest food or fight infection in these desperate moments, so you body dulls down these functions. Not ideal, especially if these stressors remain.
If you can’t do anything about it immediately, write yourself a note and move on to something you can be productive with in the now. For example; If the internet is giving you a hard time, park that job and go chop veggies for dinner or sweep the kitchen floor.
Diffuse some essential oils or make up a spritzer (just a spray bottle with water and a few drops of your fave EO) and regularly spritz your face. Just smelling something calming like ylang ylang or clove bud oil (two of my faves) can change your physiological response. You can purchase immune boosting blends too to kill two birds with one stone.
Take time to stretch and breath. It’s hard to feel frazzled when your muscles are free of kinks and your lungs are full of air.
Keep a gratitude journal. I’ve heard around the place that it’s impossible to feel stressed and blessed at the same time. This sounds pretty spot on – give it a whirl.
So there you have it, some Action Steps for you to stay fighting fit this Winter. No real added expenses necessary – unless you decide to pay for that gym membership after all (which of course, is totally optional).