Port Elizabeth might not be terribly cold during the winter months, but while the cool weather can be a welcome relief from the scorching sun of summer, it brings its own health complications and risks.   Winter is a time when colds, coughs, lung infections, fever, and pneumoniaare more predominant.

Here are some self-care steps to ensure that you don’t fall ill and have a healthy and cozy winter:

Keep hydrated: Drink plenty of water as this detoxes your body. Alcoholic, caffeinated, and carbonated drinks have a lot of preservatives and should be replaced with water. Herbal tea is also a suitable drink for winter due to its various antibacterial properties.

Have plenty of fruits: Fruits are a vital component of a winter diet as they help restore energy to the body. Go for mangoes, pomegranates, and pears etc.

Exercise: You might not have much motivation to exercise during cold weather, however, keeping active during winter is vital to maintaining your health. Exercise indoors as this will help you keep warm during your routine. Make sure to spend some time warming up before you exercise in order to loosen up your joints.

Maintain the health of your skin: The cold can have adverse effects on the skin, causing it to dry out and leading to the development of itches, and eczema. This can be due to several factors, including lack of proper hydration and lack of humidity in the air as well as reduced blood circulation. Moisturizers and vitamin supplements help in maintaining circulation and keeping the skin moist and supple. Eczema can be relieved with the help of fish oil as they provide omega-3.

 

Take steps to protect yourself from colds and flu this season.  To do this you need to:

  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • throw tissues in the bin after you use them
  • wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze
  • use alcohol based hand sanitisers
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread this way

Stay warm this winter:

  • keep curtains drawn and doors closed to block droughts
  • have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if possible
  • eating regularly helps keep energy levels up during winter
  • wear several light layers of warm clothes (rather than one chunky layer) keep as active as possible.

Calm Your Carb Cravings.The cold season tends to ignite our cravings for more carbs and comfort foods. Why? After you consume these delicious treats, your serotonin levels rise, making your brain think you are happier. And as the day wears on, your carb cravings get stronger and stronger.

To counter this, try eating a protein-packed breakfast to keep your energy levels up throughout the day. If by the time the afternoon rolls around you’re still craving sweets or carbs, be sure to have low-fat and healthy snacks on hand. However, if you can, finding a way to increase your serotonin levels without food is the best way to beat the carb cravings.

Add Omega 3 Fatty Acids.  Omega 3 fatty acids are a healthy type of fat that are naturally found in many food types including fish, plant seeds and nuts. Omega 3 fatty acids are great for reducing joint pain and stiffness as they are a natural anti-inflammatory. Studies have also shown that omega 3 fatty acids help lower levels of depression, which people commonly feel during the shorter days of winter.

Cook With Mushrooms.  There are several species of mushrooms that have immune-boosting health benefits. That’s because mushrooms have naturally-occurring antibiotics. This gives them medicinal properties, which helps us to fight off many types of illnesses. Next time you’re at the grocery store, be sure to stock up on varieties like white button  mushrooms and add them to your meals this winter.

Eat More Fiber.  Soluble fiber found in apples, oats and nuts is an important way to decrease inflammation and boost immune system function. Soluble fiber also helps reduce cholesterol levels in the body and aids in weight loss and protection against diabetes. This is an especially important winter health tip for seniors who require a high-fiber diet to protect their digestive systems.

Eat More Green and Orange Vegetables.  Sticking primarily to vegetables and fruits that are dark green and orange is important in ensuring you’re getting healthy nutrients, sugars and fats. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, squash, carrots and oranges are all delicious during the winter. There are plenty of recipes available to incorporate these items into your regular winter diet.

Cook With Spices.  Onions, garlic, ginger and cilantro are the perfect items to add flavor to your dishes. Not only do they make food taste great, but they’re also shown to help improve immune function. Turmeric is a spice traditionally used in Chinese and Indian medicine. Its main active ingredient is called curcumin, which gives curry its yellow color. This spice helps to combat a number of conditions including inflammation and heart disease, and it acts as a powerful antioxidant.

Use Heating Devices Carefully.  We love our devices that keep us toasty during cold winter days. But space heaters, electric blankets and heating pads can cause serious house fires if not maintained and used safely. To reduce the risk of house fires, only use these devices before bed, and unplug them before you go to sleep.

Frequent Hand Washing.  Though it sounds like a broken record, frequent hand washing throughout the day is an absolute must in maintaining your health during the winter. It not only helps protect your immune system and prevent you from developing flu and cold, but it protects others around you.

Head to a Sauna or Steam Room.  If you begin to feel yourself experiencing depression or higher levels of stress during and after the holiday season, steam rooms and saunas can help. They help tense muscles to relax which can alleviate feelings of stress. The high temperatures also get you working up a sweat, which is a great way to detoxify your body and your skin.

Take Vitamin Supplements.  Consuming lots of vitamin C during the winter will help your body to battle cold and flu symptoms if you do experience them. Vitamin D helps to supplement the lack of light experienced during winter, but it’s still important to get out in the sun whenever it does appear. Vitamin D helps to absorb other important vitamins like vitamin A, iron and calcium.

Drink Herbal Teas.  There are many types of herbal teas that can help you stay healthy. Herbal teas like lemon and chamomile can ease depression and anxiety by calming nerves and relaxing your body. They can also help you sleep better. Some herbal teas like green and Rooibos are great as antioxidants. For the most benefit be sure to look for organic teas made from high-quality ingredients.

 Sleep Longer and Better.  When the days get shorter, your body will naturally want to sleep longer and will adjust its rhythm to the hours of daylight. Use the longer evenings to wind down and begin relaxing before bed. Try to go to bed as early as possible to give your body enough rest during the times it craves it the most.

Do Pilates.  When you start to feel the winter blues, anxiety and stress, it’s important to know how to manage it in a healthy way. Going for a walk outdoors whenever weather permits will drastically improve your stress levels, even if it’s just once around the block. You may also want to develop the habit of deep breathing whenever you feel anxiety mounting. Pilates is a great practice for managing stress as well.

Get Social.  This is the perfect time to reconnect with old friends. Plan dinner and movie nights or a day for winter-themed crafts. Organizing family game nights is also a great way to stay connected with loved ones.

 

Many of these tips are easy to implement in your daily life if you add them in slowly. And assessing your own health and well-being during the winter will help you to find your own areas for improvement.

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