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Health & Nutrition

Winter Health

Winter is a time when nature sleeps and regenerates…a perfect sign for you to do the same. Winter gets a bit of a hard time as seasons go, ‘the Flu season’ ‘the Cold season’ etc. but it can actually be a great time for you to regenerate your immune system just as nature is.

Just as the central heating in your house has to work harder in the winter, also do your digestive system and metabolism in order to keep your body temperature up, so we tend to be hungrier and need more energy. This is why people are typically at their heaviest in winter. It is important though to use this extra appetite to serve our immune system.

The foods we should definitely avoid are the highly processed, high in saturated fat types of foods, which are typically hard to digest. We need to feed our immune system with ‘living foods’ foods that are fresh and contain natural nutrients. Many of you will know what an advocate of fruits and vegetables I am. These foods contain so many immune boosting properties that if we adhered to the recommended 5-9 servings a day, we would hardly ever get a cold.

Vitamin pills simply aren’t enough to compensate for the tremendous benefits of eating fruit and veg. At best they can only deliver 50-100 nutrients. That may sound like a lot but it pales in comparison to just one tomato, which contains over 10,000! My bet would be to bank on the tomato! Also of all the nutrients in the pills you can assume that you are actually only absorbing 50%, the rest goes down the toilet. Expensive and disappointing. The easiest and healthiest option is to go for the whole food as Mother Nature intended...she has done all the hard work, no laboratory could ever duplicate it!
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. I recommend a ‘rainbow diet’ to ensure you are getting the whole host of nutrients. Which means eating produce of every colour of the rainbow because the different colours are as a result of various different nutrients.
All fruits and vegetables will give your immune system a real boost but there are a few super boosters! The most typical would be the citrus fruits for vitamin C. Juices and smoothies are a great way of consuming a high volumes of fruit without having to munch through pounds of produce. Experiment with flavours like carrot, orange and ginger. Ginger contains antioxidants and acts as a cleanser.

Warm home cooked natural foods are the best. Think about your childhood...hot thick stew or soup with bread or potatoes. These are the kinds of meals your body wants and needs. Good nourishing ingredients and dishes that contain lots of vegetables. Fortunately these meals contain ingredients, which are conducive to a healthy immune system. Such as garlic, onions, carrots and beets.

Garlic is a fantastic immune booster. It contains anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti fungal properties. We should aim to eat approximately 1-2 cloves per day.
If you feel nasally and congested, beets are a magnificent decongestant. They nourish the blood and aid circulation.  Onions are also a powerful aid in keeping healthy this winter. They are powerful when dealing with colds, headaches, constipation, nasal congestion, swelling, bruises and coughs. They also help with circulation.

Chicken soup is a traditional fare in winter and has been found to help recover from colds. There has been research that has proven that it contains some compounds that clear congestion in the chest and back of the throat. Also the vegetables in the soup are also a contributing factor to recovering from a cold...along with the hot liquid, which will also break up any congestion.

A popular herb for fighting colds is Echinacea. It is highly effective in boosting the immune system to fight virus and bacteria of flu-like winter diseases as well as allergies. It is good as a preventative during winter season, but also very effective in combating flu symptoms after sickness has hit. Echinacea is available in most pharmacies as drops, capsules or lozenges. It is important to follow instructions and to tell your GP that you are taking it.

Typically our throats suffer a lot in winter and honey is a wonderful natural remedy as it protects throat tissues and has an anti-bacterial action. Add it to hot tea or hot water with lemon.

Remember also to drink lots of water, 2-3 litres per day. With all the extra insulation and central heating, our bodies can become excessively dehydrated. With any changes in outside temperatures our body uses water to control its own temperature. Also, central heating causes our skin to become dehydrated. Use the old trick of placing a bowl of water in the room to add more moisture to the air. Try and avoid tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol as they act as a diuretic and cause you to lose even more water. Get into the habit of sipping water throughout the day. Encourage your children to do the same especially if they are playing outdoors and are covered in layers of warm clothing. They will be losing water through perspiration and it must be replaced.
It is also recommended to get out and exercise as daily activity will keep your heart and lungs healthy. 30 minutes of moderate activity a day will lead to an improved state of health and also improved mood. Make sure you are covered up well especially your head, feet, hands, neck and lower back to protect your kidneys so as to prevent bladder infections.

This may not sound enticing, but cool or cold showers, or a cool rinse-off at end of showers, have proven highly effective in promoting better immunity to diseases by helping the body's internal thermostat adjust to external temperature changes. It is especially important to allow the cool water to hit the back of the neck. This has also helped in reducing migraines.

Enjoy the winter months. With the days getting shorter it is a signal to you to rest and strengthen your bodies just as nature is. Use this as an opportunity to go to bed a little earlier. Get the family involved in outdoor activities such as black berry picking or cleaning up the leaves in the garden or collecting horse chestnuts…think back to your favourite childhood activities and introduce your family to them! Picture this…a few hours spent outside running around the fallen leaves, coming home with ruddy cheeks and happy smiles then looking forward to some tasty chicken soup…bliss.

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