In the northern hemisphere we’re preparing for a shift in weather that triggers a whole host of seasonal ailments.
Perhaps the most notorious are seasonal cold and flu viruses that have already started making the rounds. Many of us will also experience sore joints and seasonal depression during the cold weather months.
But help is here! From dry skin to cold extremities, we’ve got you covered. Our winter survival guide will help you beat common cold weather ailments without a trip the doctor.
For the Immune System
Your immune system is really put to the test during cold and flu season. This is no time skimp on antioxidants and other immune boosters.
A nutrient dense diet fuels the immune system, but don’t rule out any of these immune boosting supplements:
There’s more to bolstering your immune system than a healthy diet. Practicing cold and flu prevention all year long is key. Click here for a refresher on how not the get or spread cold and flu viruses this season.
For Your Mood
The winter months aren’t a magical time for everyone. Whether you’re prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the holidays thoroughly stress you out, it’s important to pay attention to your mental health this time of year.
Shorter days, more time spent indoors (because it’s freezing outside!), the logistics of holiday traveling, holiday shopping (if you’re not a pro who started in July), and absent loved ones on joyous occasions can really take a toll on your psyche.
We may not be able to help with complicated family relationships, but we can offer these tips to keep your mood on the bright side without antidepressants:
Exercise – Getting regular exercise helps to elevate your mood. If you can’t get outside due to less than favorable weather, stream an online workout, try a routine with resistance bands, work up a sweat on stationary fitness machines, or even old fashion calisthenics will help to break up the mental clouds.
Up your omega-3 intake – Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to better emotional health. Eating oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and anchovies are excellent sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s. Or invest in a quality omega-3 supplement.
Go to sleep early – The body’s natural rhythm was made to coincide with the rising and setting of the sun. If you deviate from this pattern too much, you’re likely to disrupt the body’s hormonal cycles (the release of serotonin and melatonin). In the winter, try to go to bed earlier than you would during the summer.
Go easy on the carbs – While foods rich in simple carbohydrates (processed sugars and flour) may be comforting when you’re feeling down, try not to indulge heavily. Those carbs my offer a temporary burst of energy from the sugar high that you’re on, but that wears off when blood sugar levels plummet. And you’re bound to feel blue again, and possibly even guilty over what you ate. The quick rise and fall of blood sugar is never a good thing, no matter the season. And the extra calories and stored excess sugar could lead to weight gain.
Go with your gut – The microflora in your gut has profound significance on your overall health, including mood and behavior. Make sure to keep the probiotic populations thriving all year long with fermented foods or a probiotic supplement.
Don’t forget the Vitamin D – If you live in a locale that experiences a significant loss of daylight hours during the winter, your body’s vitamin D production takes a nose dive. Exposing the skin to sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D, which is critical for maintaining good health and supporting disease prevention. It’s also linked to higher levels of the awakening hormone serotonin. But if your vitamin D levels are low because you’re not getting enough sun exposure, make sure to meet your needs with vitamin D fortified foods or a high quality vitamin D supplement.
For Blood Circulation
There’s only so much a pair of gloves or warm slippers can do when your hands and feet are chronically cold, even when you’re inside a temperate room. Anyone with poor blood circulation can attest to how uncomfortable the extremities get during cold weather months.
So how can you get the blood flowing to the hands and feet to keep them warm? Try regular trips to the sauna. Besides promoting healthy blood circulation, saunas have great cleansing and pain management qualities. Not to mention their immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties too.
If sweating it out in a hot room isn’t your style, regular exercise or dry brushing can stimulate blood flow. You can also optimize your iron and omega-3 fatty acid intake to get things flowing. Stay hydrated with water over alcohol and caffeine, which can make your symptoms worse.
For the Heart
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of death across the globe. But did you know there’s an uptick in CVD incidences during the winter months?
Researchers and health officials point to a number of seasonal triggers including barometric pressure, humidity, wind, and cold temperatures. These factors, according to the pros, may increase negative responses like increased nervous system activity, narrowing of the blood vessels, and thickening of the blood.
In cold temperatures your heart works harder to keep the body warm. Blood vessels constrict to prioritize blood flow to the brain and vital organs.
Throw in year round factors that influence CVD – low vitamin D levels, elevated cholesterol, air pollution, physical inactivity – along with the seasonal triggers, and it’s easy to see why individuals with heart problems are more susceptible to cardiovascular events in the winter.
Keep the following preventative measures in mind when Jack Frost makes an appearance.
First and foremost, stay warm. Dress in layers, and if you’re outside, don’t forget a hat, scarf, and gloves to limit the loss of body heat.
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t’ mean you should give up physical activity. There are plenty of ways to tone muscles and elevate your heart rate (in a good way) without stepping outside. Regular physical activity promotes overall heart health and keeps you warm.
For the Joints
Many arthritis sufferers say their joints are more painful and stiff during cold weather.
A common theory as to why this happens is decreased blood flow to the joints. As we learned above, blood flow is prioritized to your organs in cold weather. Another theory is that changes in barometric pressure cause an inflammatory response in the joints.
This season, heat up your joints with sauna treatments that help inflammation. And regularly work in anti-inflammatory supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric (or curcumin), and bromelain.
For Dry Skin
If you’re prone to dry skin, you probably notice the condition gets worse during the winter. You have low humidity to thank for that. The same moisture in the air that causes unflatteringly frizzy hair helps the skin retain hydration.
To keep the skin hydrated, make sure you apply moisturizer right after a bath or shower when the skin is still moist. Choose a moisturizer free of harsh chemicals, which can cause further skin irritation. Organic coconut or avocado oil with a few drops of your favorite essential oil is a cost-effective skin savior.
While a hot shower or bath may be a fitting escape from the cold, use warm water since hot water dries the skin out even more.
You can hydrate the skin from the inside by optimizing your intake of healthy fats. Nosh on avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish for their omega-3s.
And of course, drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
For the Digestive Tract
OK, this doesn’t exactly have to do with the weather directly, but there’s an awful lot of celebrating during the colder months. And sometimes our eating habits are off kilter during all the merriment.
Many of us find ourselves surrounded by bountiful feasts, sweet treats, and pimped out beverages. From Halloween to Valentine’s Day, we’re met with a never ending supply of office goodies, party food, festive cocktails, pumpkin spice everything, and special occasion foods that all do number on digestion.
Kudos if your will power is strong enough to resist the temptation again and again. But for the rest of us, when dietary guidelines take a brief hiatus, you’ll want to have a few tools at the ready.
Digestive enzymes – Digestive aids are a wonder when you’ve overindulged on rich foods. Digestive enzymes can help you break down a multitude of foods more thoroughly. And the better the digestion, the better absorption of nutrients and fewer indigestion symptoms.
At the very least, take a digestive enzyme formula that helps with proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. However, look for a broad range digestive enzyme formula that specialize in dairy, soy, plant fibers, and simple sugar digestion on top of proteins, fats, and carbs to tackle your holiday eating habits.
Betaine HCL – Did you know that a great number of us suffer from too little stomach acid? This is often the culprit behind acid reflux, heartburn, bloating, gas, and other symptoms of indigestion. For most of us, the body’s ability to produce adequate stomach acid has been declining since our twenties. What can be done about this?
Betaine HCL supplements to the rescue! Betaine hydrochloride is a vitamin-like compound that helps to raise acid levels in the stomach when natural levels are deficient.
If you’re not in prevention mode yet, it’s not too late. And if you’ve noticed, many of the tips above help to combat multiple cold weather ailments.
Stay warm and stay healthy!