Winter is upon us and in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it’s believed we should live harmoniously with our environment and adapt to this change. Winter is inactive, slow, cold and damp. It is the season of slowing down. Winter relates to the kidneys, and feelings of fear and depression. We need to deeply nourish ourselves, eat well, keep warm and be well rested so we are renewed for the vitality and coming of Spring.
People are more susceptible to colds and flu during the winter season. You are 80% more likely to get a cold in winter as the cold weather challenges the immune system. So follow these tips to help prevent getting sick this winter.
1. Don’t underestimate the power of a scarf
Keeping warm this winter is key to preventing a flu. Make sure you do not expose your body to wind especially your belly, back or neck. Always wear a scarf when outdoors. A scarf protects our neck area from wind and cold getting into our body system.
2. Reduce the use of a heater and hot showers
The use of heaters, electric blankets and very hot showers can dehydrate already very dry skin. Instead use extra blankets and wear layers of clothing. Excessive heat can aggravate skin conditions and asthma. If you do use heat and electric blankets turn them off before you sleep.
For dry skin, try using organic coconut oil which is natural and hydrating.
3. Rest up
We generally sleep around 6.5-7 hours a night. However, in winter, we naturally want to sleep more because of the longer nights. Therefore use this time to catch up on more sleep, it is perfectly natural to sleep 8.5-9 hours. Poor sleep, especially in winter, can affect our energy, mood, concentration, stress levels and weight gain. Aim to get into bed early and enjoy deep sleep.
4. Cut down on dairy
Milk and dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and cream can cause phlegm to build up in your system. Therefore if you have any phlegm or tickle in your throat, cut out the dairy.
5. Eat nourishing and comforting foods
When it’s cold and dark outside, you can be tempted to eat unhealthy foods such as deep fried foods, burgers etc. It is very important to maintain a healthy diet with nourishing foods, fruits and vegetables each day. Warming foods help warm the body, expel cold and increase circulation. Eat more winter vegetables and soups such as carrots, parsnips, pumpkin and turnips. Use cooking methods such as roasting, mash or soups for a comforting winter meal. Have more ginseng, ginger, cinnamon and gou qi berries.
6. Keep exercising
Just because it is cold outside, it is not an excuse to stay indoors and lounge around. Instead get out go for walks, runs, indoor sports or try embracing winter sports such as ice-skating. Regular exercise helps control the winter weight and boost your immune system.
7. Get enough vitamin D
Make sure you also get adequate amounts of Vitamin D. Reduced Vitamin D levels results in anxiety and depression which are more prevalent during winter months due to lack of sun exposure. Women often experience mood changes more than men and it results in depression, lack of energy, irritability, and weight gain. Take a Vitamin D supplement if you are not getting adequate sunlight and open your curtains at home during the day to allow sun in.
8. Have a warm breakfast
Winter is the perfect season for porridge. Having a warm bowl on a cold morning isn’t just a delicious way to start your day, it can also help boost your intake of fibre. It also contains many vitamins and minerals.
9. Drink warm lemon water and increase vitamin C
Make it a priority to drink a glass of warm lemon water before breakfast. This helps to eliminate toxins, clear your system and increase digestive function better.
Vitamin C is great to help prevent colds and flus and increase our immune system. It reduces acidity in the body, and is an anti-bacterial. Make sure you get enough vitamin C in your diet, if not, take a supplement.
Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day and drink at least 1.5L of water, preferably warm water.
10. Meditate More
Winter is the perfect time to explore deep issues and to meditate. Meditation helps us to slow down, relax and take time off our crazy thoughts. Meditation practices help us to calm the mind and heart. When we truly relax, our bodies naturally come up with “stuff” that has been under the surface for a long time. Doing this during winter will allow us to be cleansed and renewed for spring. Health is a state of complete physical and mental well-being. Do not ignore your emotional health. Always take the time to stop, relax and breathe. Be in the present moment.
Try acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine this winter to help with your cold symptoms. Acupuncture helps to relieve cold stuck energy, and help move the blood circulation in the cold weather. Remember to stay warm, hydrated and nourished. Get to bed early and rise after the sun has risen to help preserve warmth your health and vitality this winter season.