The icy fingers of Jack Frost may soon be leaving their ornamental designs on many a window pane, but this is no reason to let the advent of winter send a chill down your spine… we’ve put together a winter wellness guide to ensure you make it through the cooler season with a warm glow in your heart, a healthy smile on your face, and a cheery spring in your step.
Why do cold and flu viruses seem to thrive during winter?
Influenza viruses are usually spread from person to person through coughs and sneezes. Scientists are narrowing in on the exact reason for the winter spike, WebMD reports that the cooler winter temperatures harden the outer gel covering of viruses (called the envelope), which protects the virus as it is transmitted, however once inside a person’s respiratory tract, the warmth melts the envelope and the virus is capable of infecting its new host. Additionally the cool, dry air in winter compromises the integrity of our respiratory tract, making it easier for viruses to adhere to. During the warmer months, the same protective gel turns into a liquid-like state in the atmosphere; therefore the virus loses its ability to survive in the open.
What can you do to protect yourself?
By keeping our immune system on alert, we increase our resistance to a broad range of infections, seasonal flu’s and those pesky winter sniffles that just won’t go away.
Echinacea it is impossible to go past this Native American herb which has a two-fold action in our body when it comes to dealing with bugs. Firstly Echinacea has a positive effect on our immune system so that it recognises and attacks pathogens (viruses and bugs) before they can cause any harm, increasing our resistance. Secondly, if a pathogen does breach our defenses – and let’s face it, we can all stay up too late, or skip nutritionally balanced meals – Echinacea can modulate, or change, our immune response, so while the pathogens get attacked, the amount of damage to our healthy tissue is minimized. 1,2,3
Olive leaf is another of Mother Nature’s winter gems. The active component in Olive leaf extract, oleuropein, has potent antimicrobial activity against a variety of pathogens, as well as being helpful for inflammation, bronchitis and as a gargle or tonic for sore throats caused by tonsillitis and pharyngitis.4 Oli-Resist™ from About Health is a winter ills and chills fighter which contains Olive Leaf and Echinacea, as well as Schisandra and Golden Seal to support daily wellness during the winter months.
Vitamin C stimulates our immune system and taken daily, can reduce both the severity and duration of winter illnesses. Because vitamin C is water-soluble and not stored well in the body, it needs to be supplied regularly from food or supplements.4
Garlic the active component in garlic is called allicin, which is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic.4 Garlic can be taken in supplement form, or the fresh bulbs can chopped and swallowed or added to soups and stews. Heat destroys allicin, so raw is best, but garlic that has been chopped and sautéed still has therapeutic benefits.
Zinc is required for the proper development and functioning of our immune system. It can help to reduce the symptoms, severity and duration of colds, flu, sinus problems and sore throats.4 The highest known food source is from oysters, but pumpkin, sesame seeds, beef and lamb also contain this important mineral.
Tried and trusted remedies, not to be sneezed at!
Lemon and honey drink – this classic drink can be given a new twist, by adding chilli flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper. You’ll improve circulation, warm the extremities, clear chronic congestion, support lung health, and provide an extra dose of vitamin C. For flavour, I love to add some fresh ginger and cloves or cinnamon, plus a big teaspoon of Manuka honey.
Crack up, but don’t stress out – a good belly laugh or 10 each day is the perfect way to not only help your immune system, but also your heart, blood pressure, muscles and digestion. Laughter is the one bug you do want to circulate during winter!
Get movin’ and stop shakin’ – forget sitting around shivering and get outdoors every day. Go for a walk at your local park, gardens, beach, lake, or even just round the block. Regular exercise improves circulation, while sunlight helps keep your vitamin D levels topped up. This vitamin is required for bone health, immunity and also wards off seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D) also known as the ‘winter blues.’
6 quick tips for feeling great and looking even better this winter
1. Less humidity in the air can lead to dry skin – avoid very hot baths and showers that strip away natural oils.
2. Dry skin brushing before you shower is great for assisting your body to eliminate toxins. You’ll slough away dead cells and end up with a healthy glow. Use a natural bristled brush with light strokes, taking care to avoid sensitive areas.
3. Catch those Zzzzz’s! Never underestimate the power of sleep – this is the time when our body repairs and rejuvenates itself. Get to bed and sleep earlier, so your body and immune system has the best chance of remaining strong and vigilant.
4. Increase your fluid intake – including water and most herbal teas – to keep your skin and body hydrated and plumped. Tea and coffee act as diuretics and can dehydrate the cells in our body.
5. If participating in snow sports and pastimes wear a sunscreen – the snow reflects approximately 85% of the sun’s rays, giving your skin a double-whammy of UV.
4. Lesley Braun, Mark Cohen. Herbs and Natural Supplements; an Evidence-Based Guide, 2nd edition, 2007.