If you live in Melbourne, you’ll understand the very real struggle of trying keep warm and well during winter! Icy winds, the inevitable chilly mornings, less sunlight and the drying effects of central heating form an assault on the immune system that frequently results in time off work/school, more than at any other time of the year. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to support your immunity and lessen the length of the time that you’re out of action.
1. Food-based immune support; personalise your nutrition for winter!
It’s easy to turn to comfort foods high in fat and carbohydrate as the long nights fall upon us. Unfortunately, when coupled with less physical activity, this creates the right environment for weight gain and can potentially weaken the immune system. It’s really important to consider meal planning when doing your weekly shop as this will help you focus on foods that will support your health and wellbeing. Some of my favourite meals during winter include mushroom and vegetable soups, stews, broths, slow-cooked lamb shanks and beef brisket – slow cookers preserve the nutrient content of foods and are a great time saver!
Root vegetables such as sweet potato, turnips, swedes, carrots and beetroot provide essential vitamins and minerals that boost immunity and reduce inflammation. Lean cuts of meat and eggs provide good amounts of protein and essential fatty acids (make sure you get organic or grass-fed), that support healing and regeneration during and following illness.
2. Get outside!
Yes, it’s true; even in winter we NEED to get outside. Vitamin D deficiency during the winter months is very common, with natural exposure to sunlight being the best bet to keep it at bay. If you’re not sure about your vitamin D levels, it’s always a good preventative measure to get them checked and supplement if necessary.
Heating and climate control dries our skin and spreads germs, so taking a brisk walk outside during your lunch break helps to stimulate circulation (and promotes lymphatic flow), supports the immune system and respiratory health. Importantly, daily exposure to natural light promotes a healthy sleep-wake cycle and may prevent mood changes and sleep disturbances associated with the cooler months.
A chilly start to the day is perhaps not the best motivator when it comes to exercise, but moving your body in winter is just as important as any other season of the year. We are far less likely to be active when the weather is dreary outside, however research strongly suggests that we should still work out in some shape or form for 30 minutes each day to support immunity, heart and blood vessel health, mood, blood sugar levels and avoid weight gain. Joining a gym, working out at home or finding a community exercise class that you enjoy are all great ways of keeping fit if you don’t fancy getting up early and heading outside!
4. Balance and connection
Take 30 minutes out of everyday to do something you LOVE. It could be reading, writing, drawing, listening to music or cooking. Engaging in these activities helps to elevate mood, create feelings of wellbeing and gives us something to look forward to. Mood changes are common during winter, so doing something that you find truly rewarding will make you feel great!
Connecting (in person) with friends, family, nature and our community helps to preserve important social and emotional ties that keep our souls nourished during the shorter days until the more sociable seasons of spring and summer are upon us again. Make time to have coffee with your friends, visit your mum, take the kids for a walk in your local nature reserve or check out what’s happening locally in your community. Loneliness and isolation is a contributor to the development of depression and chronic disease, especially in the elderly.
5. Support your immunity with natural remedies
Natural medicine has a lot to offer in terms of supporting immunity. Preventative measures should include food-based nutrition, vitamin C and probiotics. If you do come down with a bug, consume plenty of healing soups, stews and broths, and speak to your qualified natural therapist about the extraordinary range of herbs that can help get you back on your feet. Some good examples are Echinacea, Reishi (mushroom), Elder, Calendula, St John’s Wort and Andrographis. ALWAYS purchase your herbs from a qualified natural health practitioner, as the quality and effectiveness of these herbs off the shelf is not always guaranteed.
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