KEEP WELL AND SLEEP WELL THIS WINTER 

With winter approaching, health and well-being becomes a priority to help keep seasonal illnesses at bay. We spoke to qualified Naturopath and Nutritionist, Helen Ridge from Alive Natural Health, to share her top tips to keep well and stay well this winter.

Rainy weeks, cold mornings and short days with little sunlight, is enough to demotivate anyone during the winter months. While the colder months can be challenging, winter can also bring perks: warm fires, dinner parties, snow skiing and long cosy sleep-ins. Staying healthy is likely at the top of your list every winter, but this year, in the midst of the global pandemic, it may be more of a priority than usual. Maintaining a healthy balance of sleep, exercise, nutrition and self-care is an important part of taking care of your well-being and is a great way to alleviate some of the dreariness of winter.

Rather than wait your wintery fate – start with a daily routine to ensure a nutritious diet, a healthy exercise plan and ensure restful sleep at night.

Here are my top 5 tips for keeping healthy this winter:

1.

THINK HOLISTICALLY: NUTRITION + EXERCISE + SLEEP = GOOD HEALTH

Stress, alcohol, medications, what you eat, your environment and lack of sleep can directly affect how your immune system functions. Over consumption of refined sugars, salt and saturated fat, reduced amounts of fruits, vegetables and wholefoods can have harmful effects on our immune system function. Sure, sugar tastes good, but it also affects us in many negative ways - our immune function can be decreased for up to 5 hours after consuming sugar.

I always advocate a wholefoods diet as a starting point and in addition there are some specific strategies that can help you feel your best during these colder months, like consuming bone broth, citrus fruits, and slow cooked organic meats. 

A wholefoods diet combined with exercise and getting between 7-9 hours restful sleep directly results in better health outcomes. Exercise is important to keep us fit and healthy, whilst sleep is critical to brain health as it clears neurotoxins overnight. 

2.

GET PLENTY OF SUNSHINE 

Our sunshine vitamin – vitamin D is actually a hormone, which the body produces after sun exposure. Research around vitamin D and upper respiratory infections (think Covid-19) is well supported, and those who are deficient in vitamin D might not fight infections as well as folks with healthy levels. Mortality from Covid-19 is clearly higher in some countries than in others – one of these factors is thought to be the vitamin D status amongst its people. Given that vitamin D deficiency is quite common, especially during the ‘cold’ season, owing to a lack of sunlight exposure, Britain have recommended that people take vitamin D supplements during this pandemic.

So this winter, walk outside at lunch and try to get 45 minutes of sun exposure daily to top up your vitamin D levels.

4.

TAKE HERBAL MEDICINE FOR AN IMMUNE BOOST

Echinacea was first used by Native Americans in the Great Plains region of North America, but echinacea preparations are used worldwide, as it appears that this herb shortens the duration and severity of colds and other upper respiratory infections (URIs) when taken as soon as symptoms arise.

Also in the spotlight is Astragalus, readily available in immune boosting preparations, as it has great anti-bacterial functions for fighting winter infections. Other useful herbs for winter wellness are Andrographis, Eyebright, Thyme and Pelargonium.

5.

SNOOZE YOUR WAY TO GOOD HEALTH

Sleep affects various immune functions and is positively associated with reduced number of winter infections, it can also improve health outcomes and even vaccination responses. Sleep and immune system interactions are a well-known phenomenon in everyday life and folk law, with sleep and immune function bidirectionally related. Prolonged sleep deficiency (eg, short sleep duration under 6 hours and sleep disturbance) can lead to chronic, systemic low-grade inflammation and is associated with various disease states.

There is no doubt that winter viruses and infections make us tired and increase the desire to sleep, which is why a good night’s sleep is commonly recommended as ‘the best medicine’.

BUILD A BEDROOM COCOON THIS WINTER FOR A DEEPLY RELAXING SLEEP ENVIRONMENT

TOP TIPS:

  • Sleep in a supportive and comfortable bed
  • Find a pillow that is the most comfortable for you and works best with your sleeping style
  • Make sure your room is 18-21 degrees Celsius and is dark with little noise
  • Spritz your sheets with lavender essential oil for a calming effect
  • Listen to your favourite sleep-inducing mediation podcast
  • Fall into a dreamy night’s sleep

Winter is the perfect time to prioritise our health; getting enough sleep should be a top priority for everyone. Deep sleep will allow you to rest and repair, whilst releasing powerful immune enhancing chemicals to boost immune function. Get zzzing! 

references:

  • A Sanchez, J L Reeser, H S Lau, P Y Yahiku, R E Willard, P J McMillan, S Y Cho, A R Magie, U D Register, Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1973 Nov;26(11):1180-4.
  • Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M, The Sleep-Immune in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev. 2019 Jul 1; 99(3): 1325–1380.
  • Bo A et al. Diet or exercise: what is more effective in preventing or reducing metabolic alterations? European Journal of Endocrinology (2008) 159 685–691
  • Keith I. Block, MD, and Mark N. Mead, MS. Immune System Effects of Echinacea, Ginseng, and Astragalus: A Review. Integr Cancer Ther. 2003 Sep;2(3):247-67.
  • Zemp P et al. Vitamin D deficiency and the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Global Antimicrobial Resistance 22 (2020) 133–134
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