Getting sick in winter is never fun.
Actually, getting sick is never fun.
And I truly believe we can keep our bodies healthy all year-around, as well as our emotions.
Here are some of my favourite tips to help you beat the winter colds and flu:
Eat the right foods to support your immunity and stave off colds and flu
Certain foods can help prevent against catching the office flu. What we eat has a profound effect on our health, and as such, the main route to good health lies in our diet.
Vitamin C found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, such as berries, oranges and capsicum will support your immune system as will zinc, found in red meat, nuts and seeds.
Garlic is one amazing food that will help fight off colds and flu and has antibacterial and immune-strengthening properties, so eat lots of it! Avoid sugar as much as possible as it suppresses our immune system and can fuel a bacterial infection, so put that cookie down and back away slowly…
A healthy gut means a healthy immune system
A large portion of your immune system resides in your gut, making gastrointestinal health a key factor in immune building.
Spoon some kefir (a fermented, cultured, enzyme-rich yoghurt-like drink which helps balance the microflora in your gut) or some organic natural yoghurt onto your porridge in the mornings or take a good-quality probiotic throughout the winter months. Other fermented foods such as sauerkraut and lacto-fermtented veges will do the trick too.
Top up your vitamin D levels
With the arrival of cooler weather and less sun exposure, we become more vulnerable to developing a deficiency in Vitamin D. This nutrient is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system and elevating your mood. It is important to get your blood levels of vitamin D checked and if you are deficient then boost it with fish liver oils, organic eggs, organic full-fat cheese and dairy, as well as supplements if needed.
Take herbal medicine
Herbs can be used acutely if you suddenly come down with a fever or a cold, but interestingly enough, herbal medicine is wonderful when used as a preventative treatment.
My dispensary comprises many beautiful herbs that are antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antirviral and more.
Basically, if you’re sick, about to get sick, usually healthy but can sometimes get sick, or you just don’t want to get sick this winter, I have a herb (or several) that can help you.
Winter hibernation, less sunshine, and the feeling of wanting to curl up at home with a book can sometimes lead to low moods in winter.
Add to this winter comfort foods, less exercise and rainy weekends and the blues can seem all too real for some.
I personally love winter, and cozying up on the couch makes me happy, but I also pair this with good daily exercise, a clean diet (including some treats like red wine, of course) and herbal medicines when needed.
I’d love to help you feel able to spend your winter days feeling happy, not blue, so here are some of my tips:
Herbs are a wonderful way to treat low mood and depression. One of the best parts about Western herbal medicine is that by using liquid herbs, I can prepare a herbal formula specific to you, working on either one or several issues at once. The formula can be changed and adapted throughout the winter months depending on your needs. The right formula can help keep you feeling energised, improve your mood and help your body cope with day-to-day stresses.
Herbal medicine is a safe and well-tolerated system of healing that has been used for centuries. As a herbalist, I am not doing anything new! The World Health Organization estimates that 70-80% of global healthcare is provided by traditional, non-conventional medicine. In fact, many common pharmaceutical drugs originate from herbs.
When you use a herb for healing, you benefit not only from its active healing constituents, but also because the herb adapts and modifies its own actions, often eliminating any possible side-effects. When you take only the active constituent, such as what is in many pharmaceuticals, unwanted side-effects may occur too.
There are several common imbalances connected to nutrition that can worsen your mood and motivation:
- Nutrient deficiencies, specifically vitamins B6, B12, folic acid (B9), C, D, zinc, magnesium, chromium and essential fatty acids, can worsen mood. A deficiency can occur for many reasons, including malabsorption, increased nutritional needs (e.g. pregnancy) as well as malnutrition due to a lack of variation in the diet. A varied, balanced, whole-food diet is crucial in lifting and maintaining your mood. It is all too easy to eat the wrong foods, or the right foods in the wrong amounts! As a nutritionist, I can look out for inadequacies in your diet and correct them easily using food as medicine. You might think it’s too hard to eat well, but isn’t it too hard to live your life feeling down and blue all or most of the time? Life is too short to make excuses to not eat well, and you will surely feel more motivated to eating well once you see the difference that a good diet can make in balancing your moods.
- Blood sugar imbalances: keeping your blood sugar levels stable is key in keeping your mood stable. Do not skip breakfast! I don’t want to hear that you were too busy. It takes 3 minutes and 20 seconds to boil the perfect egg (this is tried-and-tested in my household), and 3 minutes to toast a piece of sourdough or spelt bread. Add some avocado, rocket and a squeeze of lemon and you have the perfect breakfast, full of protein, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and essential fats (see above dot point for relevance!)
- Deficiency of the amino acid tryptophan (a precursor of the powerful neurotransmitter, serotonin, which regulates mood, sleep and appetite) can also lead to depression. If you don’t eat enough tryptophan-containing protein-rich food, your body just doesn’t have what it needs to produce serotonin. Here are some ways to ensure you get an adequate amount of trytophan: eat oats with organic milk, almonds and 2 scrambled eggs, a baked sweet potato with cottage cheese and tuna, chicken breast with sesame seed crust or tahini dressing, grilled salmon with a salad containing pumpkin seeds, grilled turkey and cheddar cheese sandwich on sourdough bread. I can also prescribe supplemental amino acids – including tryptophan or other amino acids if required – until we stabilise your mood.
- Food or environmental allergies or intolerances: A high percentage of individuals with depression also have signs and symptoms of allergies. This means that there could be an intertwined relationship between allergen exposure and mood triggers in individuals at risk of depression. If you suspect you have allergies that are not being managed, it is a good idea to go and see your doctor and get a referral for an allergy test. Nutrients such as essential fats, vitamin C and zinc, as well herbal medicine can help reduce inflammation and help your body manage any allergic reaction.
There are also many changes we can make to our lifestyles that can improve our mood. Adequate and restful sleep is important, as is exercise, socialising with friends and reducing stress where you can.
I also prescribe meditation as a “supplement” to many of my clients and often provide meditation tracks to ensure they follow their prescription.
These are all fundamental and inextricably linked to your overall health, state of mind and general happiness.