The winter months can be a trying time for many people both mentally and physically. The days are darker, colder and shorter and our bodies become more susceptible to all kinds of winter bugs and viruses. Colds and the flu are something we expect and whilst it is tempting to just stay indoors and wrap up, activity is really important for healthy immune function and good mental health.
Having a simple winter health plan, a few great recipes and some sensible tips and hints can go a long way to help you cope with the colder weather, to stay well and to get over colds and the flu effectively if and when you get sick. Here are some excellent ways to supercharge your winter wellness.
This is the number one way to prevent the spread of germs and something that’s often forgotten. Experts recommend washing your hands every few hours, especially after using the toilet, before meals and after using someone else's phone or keyboard.
It’s often difficult to get motivated when it’s cold and dark, but regular exercise is a wonderful way to improve oxygen, blood and lymphatic which increases your serotonin levels – it also helps you sleep better and keep you warm. Wrap up and get outside for a walk - sunlight, even in winter helps with essential Vitamin D production.
Support a healthy immune function by eating nutrient dense cooked foods. Eating vegetables and herbs, slow cooked for a long time activates immune-strengthening phytochemicals and increases antioxidant levels. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage are an amazing source of antioxidants, they help reduce congestion, support lung function, build resistance and reduce infection. Cooking veges and herbs help extract their key minerals whilst raw foods weaken and put stress on the immune system. Eat more garlic - it contains at least 17 different factors that nourish and support powerful immune system functioning.
Drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Warm water and drinks are always better for gut health than cold drinks. Add some herbs, a slice of lemon or apple cider vinegar to help alkalinise your body keeping you hydrated and well.
Regular sleep is vital to staying healthy. Don’t let yourself get run down. Those who aren’t well rested are more likely to get sick and when you do get sick, take some time off. Resting when you’re crook allows your body to heal more quickly.
This helps build resistance, supports immune function and improves gut health. Great natural sources of Vitamin C are kiwifruit, blackcurrants, rosehips and citrus, particularly lemons (especially their skin).
Studies have shown that we trigger 60% or more of our immune function in our gut so nourishing our gut flora is a good idea. Cooking apples which are high in pectin is an excellent way to improve gut health as is eating unsweetened organic yoghurt daily.
These are great at building immunity and resistance. I like the Kiwiherb range of Echinacea as a useful preventative and Elderberry tincture or syrup but once you are sick there is little value in using these.
This is an incredibly easy to make preparation and helps to reduce mucous and congestion, supports digestion and eases coughs and sore throats.
Soak 1 tablespoon of Fenugreek seeds in one cup of cold water for 20 minutes. Bring to a simmer (don't boil) and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for a further 15 minutes. Sterilise a jar (with hot water) When the decoction has cooled, strain out the seeds and pour the liquid into the clean jar, label and date and keep in the fridge.
Directions for use: Take a teaspoon with honey if desired as often as needed or up to 6x per day.
This is an old folk remedy and has many variations. Ingredients include horseradish, garlic, onion, ginger and chilli pepper which are infused in apple cider vinegar, drawing out the herb constituents. It’s then stained and sweetened with a honey, a natural antibiotic. You can also add herbs such as turmeric, citrus, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Together it’s a potent punch which is immune-boosting, antiviral, congestion clearing and warming.
A wonderfully useful preparation to have on hand during the winter months. It helps build immunity and resistance and nourishes the gut.
A litre glass jar.
Horseradish root - approx 15cm piece chopped
Cayenne pepper – 1 pod chopped
Onion – 2 onions, chopped
Garlic – ½ corm, peeled and chopped
Ginger – about a 5cm piece, chopped
Place all ingredients into the jar and fill with a good quality apple cider vinegar. Leave to infuse for at least a week.
This wonderful tonic can be taken on its own: 2x tablespoons at the first sign of a cold and then repeating every 4 hours until symptoms subside. It can also be taken as a preventative tonic and drunk warm like tea with honey added, used in place of a salad dressing, drizzled over steamed or roasted vegetables and added to soups and casseroles.
Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.