Well the Gold Coast is certainly in the middle of a cold snap! It seems to me that we sun-loving, subtropical climateers start to fail to function once the temperature drops below 15. It’s far easier and far more attractive to stay in bed as long as possible, to order take away instead of cooking a healthy dinner, and to sip on way too many coffees, hot chocolates and other indulgent drinks as we snuggle up and forget all about exercise. Trust me, I’m talking from personal experience!
As attractive as these options may sound, they don’t lead to great health. Low exercise, poor food choices, too much sugar and caffeine and low sun exposure leads to increased infections and a variety of other winter-related health problems. Colds, flus and chest infections are rife at the moment, and studies show that the winter months significantly increase incidence of depression and low mood. That’s not to mention winter weight which is so easy to gain as our body naturally wants to hibernate.
So what can we do about it? The short answer is plenty! Here are some of my favourite winter wellness tips to keep you happy and healthy all season.
Food and Diet
My go to winter cooking favourite is the slow cooker. Getting home from work with the sun already going down, it’s so great to walk into the house that smells of warm delicious savoury cooking! Bone broths, soups, stews, lamb shanks, osso bucco, daahls, currys… it’s far easier to eat healthy if it’s right there ready and waiting for you. Home cooked, slow cooked meals are high in easily absorbable nutrients. Served with brown, green, black or red rice or quinoa cooked in a rice cooker, you have a delicious, healthy meal high in complex carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals.
It’s tempting to drink more caffeinated beverages over the winter months but the increased levels of caffeine lower our immune system and play havoc with our nervous system. If you are someone who struggles with anxiety or stress, the increased caffeine can leave you feeling strung out and wired. Choose caffeine free herbal teas, Swiss water filter decaffeinated coffee, red rooibos espresso, or healthy raw cacao hot chocolate for healthy alternatives. Remember also that dairy increased mucous production so if you have the winter sniffles, skip the milk!
Mood and Moving
It is likely to seem like a good idea during winter to sleep in as opposed to getting up and exercising first thing in the morning. But gentle exercise during these months can go a long way in keeping you fit and healthy for spring. Exercise such as out door walking, stretching, and yoga work to speed up the metabolism, and heat up your body from the inside out. Instead of hibernating under the covers if you’re feeling chilly, try rugging up and going for a brisk walk. You’ll find you feel warm and energised in no time! And if the cold wind is too much for you today, how about a heated yoga class to warm the bones? Exercising over the winter months also helps to elevate mood and energy. If you feel your energy levels or outlook start to dip, make an effort to get out and move your body every day. After a week, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.
This brings us to sun exposure. In winter our sun exposure significantly decreases, and with it goes our vitamin D. High levels of vitamin D is vital in the healthy functioning of our immune system, and without it we are more likely to catch those winter bugs. High levels of D also reduce body pain, so if you get achy during the cold months, consider boosting your vitamin D. During winter, we can make small amounts of vitamin D on our skin as long as we live north of Sydney. The best sun to get during winter is midday sun, try and exposure your limbs to it and not to shower for 15 minutes after exposure. This might mean going outside on your lunch break and sitting in the sun like I do.
If you’re slow to wake up in winter, getting out in the sun and allowing your eyes to be exposed to the pure sunlight without sunglasses is a great way to signal to the brain that it is time to wake up. Melatonin levels are reduced and cortisol levels increased in response to this easy practice.
To avoid the winter lurgies there are a few products that I highly recommend taking. The first is vitamin C. Make sure you take a vitamin C with bioflavonoids, in strengths of between 500-1000mg. If you are very susceptible to illness, you can take this three times a day, or just once a day for those with stronger immunity.
Zinc is another super immune supporting supplement. You can often get this in combination with a vitamin C. You want to be taking between 25-30mg once or twice a day after food.
Vitamin D we have already spoken about, but for those who can’t make it into the sun, you can supplement with between 1000-3000ug per day as a winter maintenance dose.
There are also plenty of excellent immune boosting combinations containing herbs such as Andrographis, Echinacea, and Olive Leaf. Certain probiotics also boost the immune system and can be very beneficial at this time. This is especially good for those with little ones.
If you feel you need more personalised advice, why not make an appointment for a consultation today?