Winter health and natural remedies
Winter is well and truly here, and that means cold and flu season has commenced. Taking good care of yourself during the winter months involves keeping your immune system at peak efficiency and acting quickly at the first sign of a cold. There are also natural remedies and common-sense strategies you can try should you come down with the sniffles.
Keep your fluids up
It’s common to feel thirsty on hot summer days, but it’s important to monitor your hydration and keep your fluids up during the cooler months, too. Drinking water regularly during the day can help you stay well all winter. Water is critical for our bodies, and drinking plenty of water will help remove toxins, which benefits your immunity. Water enables nutrients to get into your system and helps you concentrate when you need to. Dehydration can also contribute to a low mood or feeling flat, so get a tall glass of water into you right now!
When you are feeling unwell, there are also a few fluids it is best to avoid. If you are feeling blocked up and congested steer clear of dairy, because milk can thicken mucus. It’s also best to avoid both coffee and alcohol and to stick to water until you feel better.
Notorious and delicious
At the first sign of a cold, see if you can get your hands on a bowl of hearty veggie soup to give you a vitamin and mineral top up. Carrots and celery contain Vitamins A and C while onions and garlic have a compound called allicin that has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Throw in some chicken, if you have it, for some additional protein to help you fight that infection.
Potent mushrooms for health and wellbeing
Another helpful winter food is mushrooms. One study has found that shiitake mushrooms improved T-cell count and reduced inflammation. These fungi are one of the few edible sources of Vitamin D, a mineral which we normally get from the sun. Shorter daylight hours during the autumn and winter months can mean reduced supply of Vitamin D, which can result lowered immunity.
Foods to avoid
You are probably aware of foods that have high histamine counts, which can cause allergies for some people, like fish, shellfish and nuts. Even if you don’t have any allergies, it pays to avoid these high-histamine foods while you have a cold. Squid, mussels and clams can all cause an increase in congestion. Tofu and soy sauce, both made from soya beans, also have high histamine counts. The same goes for tomatoes and avocados. It’s also best to avoid sweets, cakes and ice cream, even if you have a sore throat. Honey is a much better idea, packed with antibacterial and cough-suppressing properties. If you’re really craving something sweet, opt for berries or grapes for extra nutritional value.
Don’t forget about fibre
Feeling sluggish is common during the cooler months. You may feel more inclined to eat heavier, heartier meals and this can cause your digestive system to slow down or struggle. Keeping your fibre intake up during winter will enable you to process additional heavier foods you may be eating. This winter, keep up your intake of grains, beans and leafy greens. High fibre foods will also help you feel fuller during the day and keep things moving comfortably along.
Ginger and ginseng
Ginger has some genuine germ-busting powers. Adding some fresh ginger to your tea can soothe a sore throat, and it contains elements that have anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger is used in traditional Chinese medicine because of its warming properties, which can help reduce fever by inducing perspiration. Ginseng is a different plant, which is also rich in vitamins and minerals. Although they have similar names, these two are quite different and are native to different parts of the world.
Echinacea and turmeric
Another two herbal remedies you might like to try are echinacea and turmeric, both of which have traditionally been used to treat colds and flus over the centuries. Echinacea is a member of the daisy family, and is available as a supplement or as a tea. Turmeric, a popular spice frequently found in curries, is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Turmeric can be enjoyed in many ways including in teas, with baked veggies or in pasta sauce.
Other essentials oils
Essential oils can be used in diffusers, baths or in some cases applied directly. There are several oils that can help with colds and flus. Indigenous people of the Americas would use cypress oil from the cones of the cypress tree to relieve cold and flu symptoms. Cypress inhalations are also said to improve respiratory illnesses. Eucalyptus oil is used in Vicks Vapour Rub and can help a blocked or stuffy nose.
Stay home and rest
Your mother was right- it is thought that exposure to cold conditions can impact out immune response, so don’t go out if you have a cold! Stay home and rest. Taking a break as soon as you start to feel unwell can reduce the overall length of infections. Trying to carry on with work or other responsibilities can weaken your body and increase the risk of other infections. When the snuffles set in, grab a blanket and a box of tissues and relax on the couch or in bed. Why not catch up on some of the latest 60+ Club news, or relax and unwind with some colouring activities for adults.
These days, we are all much more aware of the risks of spreading bugs and germs. If you are worrying about becoming unwell, consider wearing a mask when you are out and about and remember the importance of regular hand washing. Keep a small bottle of sanitiser with you and use it when touching surfaces like traffic buttons or door handles. Taking a general multivitamin can help keep you firing on all cylinders, and consider Vitamin C tablets as well. If you do notice any symptoms that concern you, always seek the advice of a medical professional.