By Jeremy Register
The winter season is already upon us with record breaking temperatures and another polar vortex type of winter this year. This season is full of holiday parties, family feasts, over indulgence in holiday sweets and treats and the dreaded flu. The winter is also the time of year most people put on a few extra pounds and are less active, but this year winter can be different and much healthier. Here are 9 tips for staying healthy and to strengthening your body’s immune system during the winter season.
1. Drink plenty of water. It’s more important than ever to consume the right amount of water for your health during the winter. Dehydration happens just as easily in the winter as in the heat of summer. As you move about in the cold, you may not be sweating, but water vapor is still being lost through your breath (that’s the steam you see streaming from your mouth in frigid temperatures.) Dehydration can cause exhaustion, muscle fatigue, cramps, loss of coordination and even a stroke. When dehydrated, you can also become more susceptible to winter colds and flu. One rule of thumb is to aim to drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces – that means a 140 pound woman should aim to drink 70 ounces of water per day while a 200 pound man should aim to drink 100 ounces of water per day. Also add mint, lemon, lime, or any citrus fruit as a natural water flavor enhancers.
2. Keep stress to a minimum. Studies have linked high stress levels to making a person more susceptible to catching colds and flu. Minimize your stress by working reasonable hours at your job. Aim for at least one night per week to spend with friends and family. Get involved in a low impact physical activity such as yoga, pilates or walking. Yoga is a great way to reduce stress, increase circulation while centering the body, mind, and spirit. 30-45 minutes 3 times a week is a great way to start. Grab a friend or family member to participate and boost morale. De-stress with Meditation. Repetition is at the heart of meditation’s soothing power. The act of banishing thoughts, focusing on your breathing, and repeating a single word or phrase, fires up your body’s natural relaxation response. Meditation can do more than soothe away stress. Research shows it may help lower blood pressure, boost immunity, reduce PMS symptoms, even aid in fertility and the delivery of a new mom’s milk. Meditate!
3. Eat a healthy diet. Maintaining a good healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and minimal amounts of organic meats is another way to keep your body clean and in good working order. Double up on all citrus fruits. For one thing, you should eat well-cooked, sparsely spiced foods. They are a great way to restore energy. Have plenty of simmered stews, warm, moderately spicy soups, roasted root vegetables and plenty of warm drinks. Make sure to add spices like ginger, garlic, cloves, basil and black pepper, to your diet. Spices help augment the warming effect of your food. Take it easy on foods like raw salads and raw vegetables as well as cold drinks. Eat more leafy green plants—the ones that are sources of omega-3 fatty acids. One of the primary omega-3 fatty acids, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found in many plants and plant-based cooking oils, but flaxseed (powder or oil), chia seed, and walnuts are especially good sources of ALA. Recent research is suggesting omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects, protect the skin, and perhaps even have some impact on mental health. Eliminate all forms of sugar. This includes not only the obvious kinds (cake, cookies and sweets, in general), but bread, pasta, rice, yogurt and commercial, store-bought fruit juices. Although all of these things are made with different types of sugars, your body still converts them to sugar, which will compromise your immune system. Try eating a piece of fruit with two green veggies with every meal.
4. Exercise regularly. It is important to exercise regularly, even if only for 15 minutes a day! Get out and take a short walk and enjoy the cooler weather. Dress dry, not just warm. The quickest way to lose body heat is by getting wet. Because water is an efficient heat conductor and heat moves from the area of highest concentration (your body) to the lowest (cold air outside), getting wet will leave you chilled and miserable. Cotton is for sheets, not workout wear. Cotton soaks up sweat and rain, and holds in fluids. A few good fabric choices for winter clothing include Thermax, Polar Fleece, Cool Max, Thinsulate, Gortex, wool, etc. Layer up. When exercising in the cold, wet weather, dress in layers. Protect your skin. Cold temperatures mean dry air, which spells trouble for your skin. So hydrate inside and out. Drink plenty of water (eight 8-ounce glasses a day), rub on moisturizing cream or lotion after showering and apply lip balm with sunscreen (15 SPF or higher) before, during and after your workout. Protect your extremities. Fingers, ears, nose and toes: These are affected most by chilly temperatures because blood is shunted to the core of the body, leaving less blood (and subsequently less heat) available to hands and feet. Hydration isn’t just a hot-weather worry, it is imperative when staying fit in winter. People often think they don’t need to drink water unless it’s hot outside, but it’s still important in cold weather.
5. Get the right amount of sleep every night. The average person needs 6-8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body is extremely vulnerable to illness. Only go to bed when you are tired. Do not allow yourself to toss and turn in bed. This only makes things worse, and usually you’ll end up stressing about everything you have to do the next day. If you are not sleeping within 20 or 30 minutes, get out of bed and engage in something that makes you tired. Drinking herbal tea to helps induce sleep as well. Chamomile tea is an excellent choice to help you relax. Make a conscious decision to avoid coffee after dinner and expand this to exclude/limit pop and even other stimulants like alcohol and nicotine. Sleep is very much like fuel that recharges your batteries! Work up a sweat. While many chronic back pain and neck pain sufferers worry that exercising will only exacerbate their pain, the opposite is actually true: remaining inactive is often worse for pain. Engaging in regular exercise, stretching, and strengthening programs can promote the body’s natural healing process and make you feel better both physically and mentally. And, as a bonus, it will make it easier to fall asleep at night.
6. Wash your hands regularly. Winter brings both colder temperatures and snow, and we change our behavior, primarily in spending more time indoors within confined areas. That means viruses are on the prowl, and we need to be ready to prevent infection. Keep the bacteria and viruses off your hands and out of your mouth and eyes. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer close-by for those instances where you can’t get to soap and water. Proper hand hygiene is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
When should you wash your hands?
Before, during, and after preparing food
Before eating food
Before and after caring for someone who is sick
Before and after treating a cut or wound
After using the toilet
After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
After touching an animal or animal waste
After handling pet food or pet treats
After touching garbage
What is the right way to wash your hands?
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
What if I don’t have soap and clean, running water?
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty.
How do you use hand sanitizers?
Apply the product to the palm of one hand.
Rub your hands together.
Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
7. Don’t SMOKE!!!!!! Most of you already know this, but it bears repeating because smoking significantly weakens your immune system.
8. Despite your best efforts, you still can feel like you’re “coming down with something.” Some things you can do to help your body recover more quickly:
Eliminate all dairy products.
Eliminate all alcohol.
Eliminate all grains (bread, rice, pasta, etc.).
Boost your Vitamin C (with bioflavanoids) intake when you initially feel something coming on.
Boost your intake of Zinc.
Increase water consumption (even more than normal!).
Eat less food as this will give your body a much needed rest from digestion and give it a chance to concentrate on fighting off potential invaders.
Add herbs like Echinacea, Goldenseal and Grapefruit Seed Extract to your supplemental regime.
Get more rest than normal. If you normally get 6 hours of sleep a night, try increasing it to 7 or 8.