Staying healthy in the warm months of summer can be a breeze, but the winter months can pose unique challenges when it comes to health, including the holidays’ many temptations, fewer hours of daylight and a greater number of viruses and bacteria making the rounds. Fortunately, a few simple strategies can go a long way toward eliminating your winter woes:
- Wash your hands! Washing your hands is probably the number one way to prevent spreading germs. Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds before and after eating and after touching things others have touched (including phones and computer keyboards).
- Protect your immune system. The best way to boost your immunity is to tend to the basics, including getting adequate restful sleep, maintaining daily physical activity, and eating a diet of natural unprocessed food including vegetables, whole grains and limited simple sugars (which can decrease immune function).
- Keep exercising. It’s more difficult to obtain exercise during the dark, cold months, so enlist an exercise partner to motivate you and accompany you as you exercise. Set small, attainable exercise goals. Gyms and indoor pools provide a weatherproof workout and also offer classes to jump-start your motivation.
- Stay hydrated. Keep the water flowing through your system, which will keep your mucous membranes (such as those in your sinuses) in good shape and more resistant to bacteria.
- Clean up winter mold. A moldy environment can decrease your immune function, so eradicate mold by making a 10 percent bleach solution and spraying it on windows and around doors. Also, a home dehumidifier can decrease moisture in the air, which in turn helps decrease mold production.
- Eat small, frequent meals with protein. Decrease your susceptibility to cravings for sweets and carbohydrates during the winter by keeping your blood-sugar stable. To do this, eat small, regular meals that include protein.
- Buy a light box. Fewer hours of daylight equals a higher incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And, although you may not realize it, overeating can be a symptom of SAD. To counteract these effects, use a light box with 2000 lux.
Sources: Melissa McCarty, ND, Second-year resident at Bastyr Center; Tiffany Reiss, PhD, Chair of the Department of Exercise Science and Wellness at Bastyr University