Winter Can Be Good for You!

The change in seasons needn’t all be bad news for our health and wellness.

At the end of this month the clock will change and for many that makes us think that we really are heading into Winter. With all that has gone on this year, it may feel as if we have missed out on so much and had to adapt to how we live our lives in ways we would never have thought of a year ago.

With the changes in weather and amount of daylight, it is easy to imagine that things are only going to get harder to deal with. Rules and regulations are still in place and seem to change on an almost weekly basis. We still need to be acutely aware of regular hand washing and protecting our selves and others when out and about. But there are some aspects of winter that can actually be good for us. We can also take the changing of the seasons and weather as a time to reconsider our supplement regimes and see what we might need to adapt to maintain our wellness through the coming months.

As the clocks go back and the seasons change, it is a good time to review your diet and see how healthy you can make it.

As the days shorten and we get exposed to less daylight, it might feel like a good idea to hibernate and stay indoors all day, but that is not ideal for your overall health. Getting up and getting going is good for you on many levels. The earlier you can open the curtains, the more daylight you are exposed to which helps your body get active.

Moving about gets your circulation going, that makes you warmer and may even help shift a few excess pounds in weight if you can create a regular routine such as a brisk walk every day. As we warm up our body temperature through exercising when it is cold, researchers  have discovered that we may actually burn more calories than exercising in hot weather when the body is already warmer. Get outside for a daily walk at lunch time can be better for us and not just filling in some time!

With less daylight around make the most of bright days and get outside at every opportunity.

We have been hearing a lot about vitamin D over the recent months and how important it is for us to get a regular intake. The body can manufacture vitamin D from a reaction with sunlight on the skin, of course as we get into the winter not only is there less sunlight, we are likely to be wearing more layers too. Vitamin D plays a role in many functions of the body, bone health, mood balance and is also needed for normal functioning of the immune system. In the northern hemisphere it is virtually impossible for us to get any via sunlight during the winter, so look to your diet for sources rich in vitamin D such as oily fish, eggs, dairy products and also consider the advice from Public Health England where they suggest that everyone should take 10 µg daily. Although many supplements come from animal sources, you can also get vegan sources from lichen. If you don’t like swallowing capsules or are looking for a supplement for children, vitamin D is readily available in drop form.

Remember those hot summer nights where it was impossible to sleep because you were so hot. Poor sleep quality can make us feel anxious, edgy and miserable, not just that, it can affect our work and how we function. One good thing about the cooler temperatures is that many people find it much easier to sleep when it is even a degree or two cooler. Optimal temperature for a bedroom is around 18C, so don’t have the heating too high and maybe have a window open slightly for some good air circulation.

Comfort foods don’t need to be sugar laden puddings! Healthy soups and stews can be a good source of nutrients that also leave you feeling full up and warm!

If you have trouble sleeping whatever the weather, or if you find it hard to relax and switch off, especially with all the current situation to think about, there are natural supplements that can help.

The mineral magnesium is needed for proper psychological function and for muscle relaxation, many users report that taking it in the evening sets them up as ready to go to bed. Another useful supplement is the amino acid L-Theanine, found in green tea it is an amino acid that can help us feel calm without making us feel drowsy.

It goes without saying that although the natural feeling might be to go for comfort foods, make the effort to ensure they are not all just sugar laden hot puddings! Soups, pasta bakes, roasted vegetables along with using warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon and turmeric can create a satisfying meal without forgoing healthy eating. Salads don’t have to be freezing cold! Try something different with some new recipe ideas and help your diet be a source of important nutrients.

If you are looking for a boost of concentration, look outside at a cold winter scene or even a snowy picture. Researchers found that looking at picture of cold scenes helped generate greater cognitive control. Maybe the phrase cool headed, has something going for it. If you are looking for nutritional support for cognitive function, think about supplements based on DHA and EPA. Although commonly from fish oil, vegan alternatives are available made from algae.

Change your desktop image to a snowy scene, researchers discovered we make better long term decisions when looking at ‘cold’ images. Has to be worth a try!

Staying hydrated is important too, drinking water or herbal teas can keep our fluid balance at an optimum level. When we are hydrated we think more clearly, concentrate longer and our mucous membranes such as the nasal passage and the rest of the respiratory system are in better health. This helps us fight off infections more readily. Don’t over do it with the caffeine rich drinks, mix it up with herbal teas which can taste great and give you a break from caffeine.

Keep hydrated, it is good for the whole body. Try herbal teas rather than reaching for the caffeine every time.

Of course, it is impossible to consider winter wellness without looking at the overall health of the immune system. Nutrients such as vitamin C, Zinc, Quercetin and Lactoferrin all have roles to play in the normal functioning of the immune system. A varied diet can help us keep nutrient levels topped up, but supplements can make a useful addition to your diet. One way is to take a multi vitamin and mineral formula, you might not get decent amounts in a one a day, so be prepared to take more than that to ensure good measures.

Also look for nutrients in their active forms and with co factors rather than basic forms. For example taking a vitamin C supplement with bioflavonoids is likely to be better absorbed than C on it’s own. Taking Zinc with Copper provides a balance that is better for the body than Zinc alone.

Don’t be afraid to change your supplement regime and food habits as the seasons change, your body will thank you for it. We may be entering the last part of a year that has had many ups and downs and felt very surreal at times, but with good nutrition, regular exercise and a positive mind set of helping ourselves with some self-care, we will be able to support ourselves and our families into the next season.