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.
Wash your hands
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 water. 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.
Boost your Vitamin C levels
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 them.
Roses! All parts of the rose can be used, flowers, hips and leaves. Do make sure that the roses you use are un-sprayed and wear gloves when harvesting as they are prickly!
Rosehips are the red fruit found on rose bushes in the autumn after the petals have fallen off and a fantastic way to supply your body with vitamin C, rosehips contain more vitamin C than oranges. Rosehip tea is incredibly easy to make and full of antioxidants, silica for hair skin and nails and flavonoids, which are essential for good health.
Collect your hips after the dew has dried, lay them out on a tray or in a basket and dry them in a warm place such as a hot water cupboard, wait 2-3 weeks until they are thoroughly dry. You can deseed them if you like but it’s not essential, rosehips also have fine hair like structures of silica, which can cause irritation in some people, if this is you, scrape the hairs out with a teaspoon. Roughly chop the hips and store them in an airtight container or paper bag.
Method: Bring water to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of dried hips, cover and steep for 10-15 minutes, strain.
Directions for use: Take with a teaspoon with honey if desired as often as needed or up to 6x per day.
A potent punch
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 coming 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 and even used as a salad dressing
And finally, the easiest of all – laugh!
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.