When I think of winter I think of bonfire nights, wellies, hot water bottles, christmas socks and oversized jumpers. As a lover of nutrition, I think of roast dinners with lots of seasonal veg, soups and plenty of bone broth!
During the cold months, our immune system is challenged the most. Some organisms that cause infections can even thrive in cold temperatures. During winter there is reduced exposure to vitamin D3. This vitamin from the sun can’t be replaced by the diet and is used by the body to modulate the immune cells. The cold air is drying to our skin which is the immune system’s first line of defense. Remaining conscious of supporting our immune system, this year especially, is vital to staying fit and healthy.
Here are my top tips for surviving winter:
1. Soups & Stews
Often the immune system is low in the winter, so easy to digest soups and stews may be exactly what we need to pack in nutrients and warm our bellies. Foods in liquid forms are a lot easier for the stomach acid to break down. Bone broths are an excellent way to support your immune system with gut restoring action. If you struggle to find hot food for work, batch cooking, and a trusty thermal flask is great way to bring warm food with you wherever you go.
2. Herbal teas
If not just to keep you hands warm, herbal teas do wonders for keeping you hydrated during the winter months. Lemon, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, peppermint and echinacea are some immune boosting, microbial fighting flavours to drink.
3. Warming Foods
In traditional Chinese medicine, winter is a time of yin, so must be balanced with the warming foods of yang. Seasonal root vegetables like cabbage, carrots, sprouts, squash, sweet potatoes, beets and parsnips can all be a great way to add nutritious warmth to your meals. Including the warming properties of garlic in cooking, can increase anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity. Where there is inflammation, there is oxidation, so
using turmeric and ginger are great anti-inflammatory herbs to include in cooking, smoothies and stews.
Suddenly, getting up at 6am to go to the gym or for a run on a dark, freezing cold winter evening doesn’t seem so appealing! No need to worry, yoga from the comfort of your home can help to keep you moving and mindful. Wrapping up warm and taking a walk through the countryside will keep your cardiovascular system pumping and your muscles moving. This year has ignited the rise in online fitness classes and you can find many teaches online. My favorite yoga teacher that’s kept me fit whilst locked in doors this year is @javan_unplugged on Instagram.
England has it’s pros and cons, and a con would certainly be the lack of sun; especially during the winter! Be sure to check your vitamin D status (25-hydroxyvitamin D) and top up your levels as *vitamin D* contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system. Vitamin D has been recognised to support against colds and the flu. Vitamin C is also famously used to support our bodies during cold and flu season.
6. Protect your skin
During the winter, the immune system works hard to fight off infections. In this season, the air is dry and cold and therefore will hinder the effects of our first line of defense, allowing viruses and bacteria to easily invade. Dry mucous membranes in cold noses can leave a weakened defense against bacteria, causing those nasty winter colds. It’s tempting to turn the shower temperature up and run a hot bath, but these can be drying and damaging to the skin. Be sure to wrap up warm, use moisturisers with natural ingredients and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and eliminate toxins from the body.