Prep for everything from winter sniffles to SAD, to stay fighting fit until spring
Sunlight becomes scarce, the temperature plummets, and here come the sniffles, or worse. For many of us, winter involves feeling low, ill, and fatigued. So how can we stay happy and healthy in winter, and keep the lurgies at bay?
Winter health issues
We all expect colds and flus to go on the rise during winter, but eczema flare-ups, depression, arthritis, and other illnesses can also be heightened during the season. Making it a time of discomfort and depression for many, particularly if you end up suffering with multiple health issues. We’re all used to being more susceptible to a sniffly nose or chesty cough during the winter months, but why is that?
Well firstly, having a cold actually suppresses our body’s first defence against viruses; the nostrils. An ear and eye study found that when the nasal tissue drops in temperature, the immune response that fights viruses when they enter the nose is reduced.
That, combined with closed windows in communal spaces, and bug happily circulating, increases our likelihood of catching colds and flus during the colder months. So, we need to be giving our immune systems a little boost when the temp drops. More about that below.
The dry air of winter causes skin issues like eczema to intensify. With central heating and too many layers being detrimental to dermatitis, causing itchiness and even cracked, bleeding skin in sufferers. If you’ve found your skin issues worsen in the winter, put sources of water near your radiators to add some moisture to the air, and switch to a richer moisturiser. And get some fresh air, and use plenty of paraben-free moisturiser.
Fill your body with powerful fuel
Since vitamin D is harder to find, and we know our immune systems can be compromised in the colder weather, feeding your body with the right sustenance is key to remaining well, in the latter months of the year.
Keep comfort food balanced. There’s nothing better than warm, reassuring food in the cold, but make sure your meals are balanced with a big portion of veg next to that scoop of fluffy mashed potato. Veggie-packed soups are great as the temperatures drop. Batch cook a big soup, and freeze in individual portions for an affordable, go-to lunch.
Fuelling your body with nutritious food is good for your mental wellbeing, as well as physical health. Low blood sugar causes tiredness and irritability – the last thing you want if you’re already feeling low from the shorter days. Diet can also influence your mental wellbeing.
Ensure you’re eating filling wholegrain foods, which will keep your blood sugar levels consistent.
Tinned and frozen fruits and vegetables are still full of nutrients for you, and much easier to prepare than fresh produce. Healthy fats are good for the brain. Produce like fish, nuts, avocado, and rapeseed oil are all good to have in your diet. This will improve brain function and concentration, if you find yourself more fatigued in winter.
If you’re noticing a change in the way you feel after eating, write down what foods you’ve eaten when you feel a change. This could be headaches, fatigue, digestion problems, or higher energy. Pinpointing which foods might be making you feel worse or better can tell you what to avoid.
Supplements can be a good way to support a balanced diet. The government recommend a daily vitamin D supplement in the autumn and winter to help maintain health levels of the nutrient.
Boost your immune system
It’s important to note that there are no ‘quick fixes’ for this, but supporting your immune system is vital, and this will include a range of things.
The powerhouse of vitamins and minerals that boost your immunity include vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D as well as copper, folate, iron, selenium and zinc. If you’re in any doubt about where to get these boosters, the best way is to have a clean, healthy diet. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, lean proteins – whether meat based or veggie, such as pulses and legumes – and dairy or dairy alternatives.
There’s nothing wrong with taking supplements, but nothing can compare with eating and drinking healthily. Why not do both, and give yourself ALL the advantages?!
- Keep on top of any medication and prescriptions you have. Don’t run out – and if you’re taking supplements or vitamins, make sure you’re consistent.
- Have a hobby to focus on. Keeping creative and focused on something you love is vital to keeping the winter blues at bay. Find a hobby you like now, to carry you through the next four months.
- Get the flu jab if you’re eligible. It’s free for over 65s, if you have a certain condition, or live with someone of a weakened immune system. It’s important to protect yourself and loved ones as much as possible.
- Keep active. Find yourself an exercise you enjoy that can be done indoors, either at home or at an exercise class. Exercise is important for immune system function.
- Keep warm. Blankets, hot water bottles, plenty of layers.