Adopting a few simple habits as you transition into the colder months can help you stay healthy through the holidays and beyond, and can chase away the winter blues.
Shape up your diet
Eat produce that is naturally in season during fall, namely the dark green and orange vegetables and fruits. Choose broccoli, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots and oranges. Not only do these foods help ward off infections and colds, they assist you in keeping off the pounds. Try to avoid empty carbohydrates and processed food. The bad bugs love sugar, so don’t give them what they want. Warm, nourishing bone broth soups and stews are great choices as the weather gets colder. These comfort foods are soothing to the body and healing for the gastrointestinal tract.
Add immune-boosting herbs and spices to your foods
Garlic contains the active ingredient allicin, which fights infection and bacteria. British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks, and the garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. A clove a day just might keep the doctor away!
Ginger has antioxidant properties, and components in the plant called gingerols and zingerone have been shown to be effective against bacteria and viruses. Add this tasty spice to your cooking or sip it as a tea. Turmeric, a common ingredient in curries, is an incredibly healing spice. It has infection-fighting, anti-inflammatory, liver-protective and anti-tumor properties. It’s a great addition to your soups, stews and smoothies.
Water is essential for your body to properly rid itself of toxins, and for your immune system to be in tip-top shape. A good rule of thumb is to try to drink half your weight in ounces of water per day. For example if you weigh 150 pounds, try to consume 75 ounces of water (especially when you feel a cold coming on).
Don’t forgo your exercise routine in the winter. Exercise can help keep your immune system prepared to fight colds and flus. Regular aerobic exercise five or more days a week for at least 20 minutes, is one of the biggest lifestyle factors and has been shown to lower the average number of sick days during the winter cold season.
A lack of sleep can affect your immune system, and make you more prone to catching colds, by reducing the white blood cells that help to fight infection. Studies show that poor sleep during the weeks preceding the exposure to a rhinovirus is associated with a lower resistance to the illness. Try instituting a regular bedtime routine that includes things like a warm bath or soft music. A cup of chamomile tea or lavender essential oil in a diffuser can help relax the nervous system and promote sleep. Avoid watching television or using your computer close to bedtime. Turning the lights down low for an hour or so before you turn in can boost the release of melatonin in the brain, the hormone that fosters a nice deep rest.
Get some sunshine
A lack of sunshine can lead to a drop in our feel-good brain chemical, serotonin, which can cause us to have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and feel more depressed. Sunshine also provides vitamin D, which is a crucial vitamin in fighting infection. Get as much natural light as possible. Go for a walk at lunchtime, sit by a window as often as you can, and use full-spectrum light bulbs.
So, with just a little bit of planning and minimal effort, you can beat the winter blues and flus!