Fit for Winter!!
Fit for Winter: A Naturopathic Guide to Staying Well.
By Áine Fanning, Naturopath & Herbalist for The College of Naturopathic Medicine
Winter is upon us again and to many people it can mean different things. To some it symbolises Christmas, family occasions and memories, to others it brings the images of snow and ice and to many it means the usual winter coughs, colds and generally feeling more tired.
Embracing winter as part of the natural rhythm of our lives gives us an opportunity to change our habits a little, become in tune with our bodies and support our immune system.
Feed your immune system
- Increase warming soups and stews. These are a great way to get lots of nutrients into our diet, boosting our bodies overall and warming us from the inside.
- Be sure to include lots of sweet potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables in your diet. They are full of antioxidants and contain carotenoids which have immune boosting effects. They also often contain polysaccharides which have an immune stimulating effect on the gut.
- Eat your greens! Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are high in vitamin C and other nutrients that boost your immunity. They also contain cancer preventing isothiocyanates.
- Mushrooms such as shitake and reishi have many immune boosting properties. They are a great addition to stir-fries and curries and also make a great immune boosting broth.
- Eat good quality wholegrain carbohydrates to give you energy throughout the day so your body doesn’t have to run on empty and get run down.
- Avoid junk food and lots of processed sugars which do little for your nutrition levels and can also put pressure on your immune system.
- Don’t mind the smelly breath, Garlic is too tasty and too good for you to avoid. Garlic is a decongestant and contains allicin a compound proven to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
- Make sure you get lots of immune boosting Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, berries, red peppers and leafy green vegetables, and Zinc – found in nuts, seeds, seaweeds, wheatgerm and seafood.
Boost your immune system with Herbs
- Echinacea (Echinacea spp.). Echinacea has received lots of press over the last few years and rightly so. It is effective against bacteria and viruses. It is considered to be immunostimulating, stimulating the body’s infection fighting immune cells and increasing the production of other immune fighting compounds such as interferon. Its action is at its highest during the first 2 hours after taking it. So it is best used at low doses in 2 hour intervals at the first sign of infection and throughout an infection.
- Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). The beautiful native Irish elder tree is a medicine chest in itself. In herbal medicine the leaves, berries and flowers are used for many conditions. The berries and flowers have traditionally been used to treat the common cold. They help decongest, aid in reducing a fever and have an antimicrobial action. Recent studies have also show elderberries to have an inhibiting effect on H1N1 (swine flu).
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Such a lovely flavor, thyme is great in roasts, soups and stews and it also has many amazing medicinal qualities. Thyme is high in antioxidants and has expectorant, antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial actions. Use it regularly in your cooking and it can be drunk as a tea in an acute infection.
- Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus). Used for more than 2000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine to increase vitality and resistance to disease, recent studies have shown that astragalus helps strengthen the immune system in many ways. It has also shown activity as an adaptogen (helps to increase resistance to stress, trauma and fatigue).
- If you do get a cold, have a relaxing bath and add a couple of drops of Thyme, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree and Lemon essential oils help decongest, bring down your temperature and ease your bodies aches and pains.*for medicinal quality herbs use as prescribed on the bottle or seek the advice of a qualified herbalist.Don’t forget your Mind & Body
- The mind plays a powerful part in our health. Stress and anxiety have many effects on our bodies including our hormones and immunity. Finding ways to help deal with your stress and anxiety such as stress release and relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, conscious breathing or talking to someone play a vital part in staying well. Studies have also show that happiness, laughter and optimism are qualities that people who live longer, healthier lives tend to have.
- If you do start to feel unwell, listen to your body and give it some essential immune enhancing rest. Get an early night or relax and finish that book that you have been trying to read for ages.
- Exercise regularly, science has proven that regular exercise—at least 30 minutes most days of the week—increases immune function. It also helps release stress.