Winter has well and truly set in and with it a host of colds and flu, not to mention the winter blues (or SAD as it is also known). This time of year, it is important to keep your immune system functioning as optimally as possible. There are an abundance of things we can do to both boost our mood and maintain our immune systems, and fight nasty bugs as we come into contact with them.
Here are my top seven tips to keep the winter blues away:
1. Exercise and Sunlight
One of the first things we do when the cold hits is to go into hibernation. While it feels good to stay snug and warm inside its one of the worst things we can do for both our immune system and happiness. A minimum of 40 minutes of good cardio exercise (where you get a red face and puff a bit) 4 times a week works wonders. Exercise helps produce ‘feel good’ hormones as well as boosting the immune system.
We are blessed in winter in Australia by clear blue skies most of the time. Make time to get out into the sunshine a few times a week. Even if it’s just sitting in the park at lunchtime or a couple of walks outdoors on the weekend. Your immune system and mental health will thank you for it.
Vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common in this country, and can affect both your mood and immune system, so consider discussing Vitamin D supplementation with your healthcare practitioner if you think you may be deficient.
2. Get Cooking
Incorporate the following foods into your winter cooking, especially soups, casseroles, stir fries and slow cooked dishes:
- Garlic – antiobiotic and antiviral
- Ginger – warming
- Chilli – warming
- Onions – antioxidant and antiobiotic
- Miso soup – supports healthy bacteria in the digestive system, profoundly affecting immune function
3. Olive Leaf Extract
This herb (botanical name Olea europaea) is used to enhance the immune system through its antiviral, antimicrobial and potent antioxidant activity. It particularly works well when combined with other immune boosting herbs such as Echinacea and Andrographis.
Olive leaf treats the symptoms of:
- Reduced Energy
- Colds & Flu
- Upper Respiratory Conditions
- Anxiety & Tension
- Sore Throats
4. Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids + Vitamin A + Zinc
An essential nutrient combination for boosting the immune system and keeping the respiratory tract healthy. A large number of trials with intakes of up to 1g of vitamin C and up to 30mg of zinc are available. These trials document that adequate intakes of vitamin C and zinc improve symptoms and shorten the duration of respiratory tract infections including the common cold.
Bioflavanoids are a type of antioxidant naturally found in foods high in vitamin C, and seem to enhance the action of the vitamin.
If you don’t like taking supplements, then a fresh juice of pineapple, lemon, carrot and ginger will provide a good amount of Vitamin C and Vitamin A, along with the warming properties of ginger.
5. Steam Inhalations
Steam inhalations with essential oils of Thyme and Eucalyptus, help to promote the removal of excess mucous in the nose and chest as well as being strongly anti-microbial therefore helping to kill off any secondary bacterial infection of the respiratory tract.
It’s simple: to a bowl of boiling water add 2 drops of thyme oil and five drops of eucalyptus oil. Place a towel over the head and deeply inhale through one nostril at a time, while blocking the other. Do this until the steam has completely evaporated (approx.5-10 minutes). Blow the nose as required during the process.
If you have a vapouriser, adding a few drops of Citrus, Bergamot and/or Lavender oils can help boost your mood throughout the day with their sunny scent.
6. Herbal Tea
Herbal teas have the benefit of directly targeting specific problems as well as providing much needed hydration in winter, when cold water is not very appealing. Yarrow, Elder and Peppermint tea is a great mix for colds and flu. Ginger is also excellent for those who suffer with cold hands and feet, as it is a potent stimulator of the circulation. Slice some fresh ginger root and steep in a cup of boiling water with lemon slices and honey.
7. Wash Your Hands
Frequent hand washing can be one of the most effective means of cold and flu prevention. If not always near a bathroom with running water and soap, then carry a gel sanitiser in your car or purse and use when in public places.