Working Towards Wellness for the Winter

November 1, 2023

After a few warm spells of weather in early autumn, November can be a bit of a shock to the system with the clocks changing, misty mornings and the prevalence of more coughs and colds. As we head into winter and the festive season, it is a good time to look at your eating habits and supplement regime to make sure you are doing your best to help your body and mind cope with the coming season.

Prevention is better than cure may be an old saying, but it’s a sensible approach to take. It is far better to aim for a state of wellness rather than wait to get ill and then try and fix it. So what can you do to work towards wellness, not illness?

Creating a state of wellness is better than waiting until you are unwell and then have to try and get healthy again.

As always, a healthy and varied diet is a the perfect foundation for a healthy body. Winter can be a great time to ramp up your cooking with warming spices such as ginger, turmeric and cayenne. These spices are known for their warming properties and some research is showing that they can also have anti inflammatory properties and are helpful for joint health.

Soups can be an easy way of packing a wide variety of vegetables and pulses into one dish. They can be economical, easy to prepare and can be boosted with pasta, rice and chicken or fish to make a hearty meal. As you are not throwing away your vegetable cooking water, they can be an effective way of keeping all the nutrients in the dish. Play around with your favourite ingredients and experiment with new additions to mix it up.

Making soups can be a great way of using up the tired vegetables left over from a veg box or languishing in the fridge.

You might not feel that the winter is salad weather, but you can add a salad to any meal as a way of boosting your nutrient intake from fresh foods. Add dried fruit and nuts, a spicy dressing or even a warm ingredient to make it feel more seasonal.

Keeping hydrated is important too. Central heating, cold winds and varying temperatures can play havoc with your skin and can also dry out mucous membranes such as the nasal passages. A healthy mucous membrane inside the nose is an important first line of defence to help protect us against cold and flu viruses. Maintain your fluid intake during the winter, just because it’s not hot weather doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink enough. Water, juices, herbal teas are all ideal. If you are feeling under the weather and have an irritated throat of cough, add a spoonful of honey to a lemon and ginger herbal tea for a soothing beverage.

Just because the weather is not hot and dry, it is still important to keep hydrated.

Try to get some fresh air as often as possible, it’s not only good for the body to get moving, it is also good for our minds and mental state to spend some time outside especially if you can find a nature filled spot. Whether it is a city centre park or a long walk along the coast, the benefits can be feeling more relaxed, refreshed and recharged.

As the daylight hours get shorter and we get far less sunlight every day, it is important to think about your vitamin D intake. The NHS recommends that everyone takes a vitamin D supplement from October to March to make up for the lack of direct sunlight on the skin. Easily available as capsules or drops and available as a vegan supplement where the vitamin D is extracted from lichen.  Vitamin D is needed for healthy bone growth but also plays a role in supporting the immune system and may other areas in the body. Certainly a supplement to ensure is part of your winter regime.

A multi vitamin and mineral can underpin your supplement regime and provide a wide spectrum of nutrients.

Vitamin C and zinc are two nutrients that you hear a lot about during the winter, and for good reason. They both play a role in helping your immune system function. At this time of year, we want our immune systems to be as effective as possible. Vitamin C needs to be topped up daily though your diet or supplements as it is water soluble and we can’t store it or manufacture it in the body.

Did you know that around 70% of your immune system is dependent on the health of your gut microbiome? Looking after the health of your digestive system and all good bacteria that make up your microbiome is important for much more than just digestion. If you want your immune system to be in the best of health, look to your gut flora too. Try eating a variety of fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, kimchi and real sourdough bread. You can also take a probiotic supplement to introduce a wide range of healthy gut bacteria in to your system.

Looking at different options to help maintain wellness, think about olive leaf extract. Olive trees rarely get ‘ill’ with diseases and infections, this is put down to the protect compounds found in the olive leaf. We are now able to take the same compounds, in particular oleuropein, when taking an olive leaf extract supplement. Research is showing that olive leaf can play a role with antiviral and anti bacterial properties as well as supporting cardiovascular health and more. As a supplement, you can safely take it every day.

If your energy levels get low in the winter, especially if you are getting over tired and stressed, a B complex can be a good addition. B vitamins help prevent tiredness and fatigue and support the nervous system. Best taken at breakfast time or lunch time as some people find that if they take them too late in the day, they can keep them awake at night.

Simple steps and a few tweaks to your daily habits can ensure you enjoy good health and maintain wellness rather than waiting for an illness that you have to try and ‘fix.’ Start making those changes now and don’t wait until you are feeling under the weather to try and fix it.

One final and simple tip to help you stay well, keep your hands clean! We may not be using hand sanitiser every five minutes like we were a few years ago, but regularly washing your hands with soap and hot water is still once of the best ways to eliminate the transference and spread of germs. A good habit to re-establish, especially if you spend time on public transport, working with the general public or anywhere where you come into contact with lots of people, and that includes children especially at the end of the school day.

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