I have to say I don’t dread the winter months like some people do; I actually find that there is something quite nice, therapeutic even, about wrapping up warm and stepping out into the cold. A brisk walk on a crisp winter’s morning with a beautiful blue sky sets me up nicely for the day and I do love a good collection of winter coats and scarves!
Drink more green tea; the polyphenols (micronutrients) that it contains, especially catechins, may stimulate the production and activity of specific cells associated with combating viruses.
However, one thing which is guaranteed to make anyone, including me, feel less than excited about this time of year, is catching a cold. We all know that moment when you start to feel a little run down, along comes the sniffle, followed by a sore throat, and before long your sinuses are so congested you feel like your head is going to explode. You daren’t venture more than 5 metres away from your box of tissues and a good night’s sleep soon becomes a distant memory.
This year why not be prepared by following some simple winter wellness tips? Whilst there is no cure for the common cold there are a few changes that you can make to your routine in order to get your immune system boosted and primed to fight off any marauding viruses that happen to come your way. Whilst it may not prevent you from becoming ill altogether it can certainly help you to fight off viruses when they do attack and can even reduce the number of days that you suffer. Now doesn’t that sound good?
Top 5 Winter Wellness Tips
1. Top-up Your Vitamin C
“You need to get some vitamin C.” is most likely one of the first things you are going to hear from your friends, family, and co-workers shortly after you mutter those immortal words – “I think I am coming down with a cold.”. It is true that maintaining high levels of vitamin C will assist in strengthening your immune system and enabling it to fight off infections. There is some research to suggest that consuming higher levels of vitamin C can make colds milder and even shorten the duration of the virus.
The key is to make sure you are increasing your vitamin C levels before the onset of the cold; citrus fruits, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, peppers, chillies, kale, broccoli, and sprouts are all good sources. Don’t just get stuck with oranges, many other fruit and vegetables actually provide higher levels of vitamin C. As with everything, the wider the variety you consume the better the health benefits.
2. Include Zinc in Your diet
It is not often that we hear about zinc but it is a mineral in which many of us are deficient. Identified as being necessary for immune function and works wonders to help fight off infections; it is thought that it can help to reduce the duration and severity of the common cold by up to 50% if taken if taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. I hear you cry – “Why has noone ever told me this?!”.
Good Paleo sources of zinc are seafood, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, spinach, cashews, eggs, and mushrooms. Making sure that you have a steady intake of zinc throughout the year should stand you in good stead for the cold and flu season.
3. Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Sleep
The more run down you are the more susceptible you will be to getting a virus. It is important to you make sure that you give yourself enough time to rest. Sleep is one of the main pillars to achieving optimal health and yet is often ignored. Try to get 8 hours of good quality, restful sleep every night and make sure that you allow your body enough time to recover between gym sessions. Sleep is a great healer for both the body and mind. Lack of sleep and overworked muscles can create a breeding ground for viruses and germs; by prioritising sleep you can start to redress the balance.
4. Ditch the Stress!
We all know that stress is bad for us in a multitude of ways so it should come as no surprise that it can also contribute to the onset of a virus such as the common cold. When we are stressed we place our body under an extraordinary amount of pressure and this can impact upon the immune system.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 in 2012 found that participants who were experiencing chronic stress were twice as likely to demonstrate glucocorticoid receptor resistance which, in turn, fails to regulate inflammation in the body making you more susceptible to getting a cold.
Make sure you take some time to try and relax and relieve yourself of the stresses of everyday life. Yoga works wonders for many but you may need to take further action. Take a look at my previous article on A Primal Approach to Stress for some tips on how to get it under control.
5. Drink Green Tea
Drink more green tea; the polyphenols (micronutrients) that it contains, especially catechins, may stimulate the production and activity of specific cells associated with combating viruses. Green tea leaves contain six different types of catechins found in the stem, leaf, and buds of the plant making it rich in antioxidant qualities. It is this diverse concentration of antioxidants that makes green tea an effective antiviral agent which has the potential to result in fewer or less severe colds.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition2 found that consuming green tea increased immune cells and that this could result in fewer bouts of colds or enduring less severe colds. Before you get running to the kettle you should be aware that you need to be consuming around 8 cups of green tea a day to be matching the quantities used in the study; it all counts towards your water intake for the day so dive in!
Whilst these tips can help to keep your immune system in great condition there is unfortunately no guarantee that you will not still catch a cold. However, if you maintain a balanced and varied diet full of vitamins and minerals, sleep well, and control your stress you are going to be in a much stronger position to fight any colds that come your way compared to those who have a diet and lifestyle devoid of any nutritional value.
Why not use the comments box below and share your very own top winter wellness tips for a sniffle free winter?
- Cohen, S., et al. (2012). Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the Unites States of America, 109(16) 5995–5999. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/109/16/5995.short
- Rowe, C.A., Nantz, M.P., Bukowski, J.F., Percival, S.S. (2007). Specific formulation of Camellia sinensis prevents cold and flu symptoms and enhances gamma, delta T cell function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. In Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 26(5) 445-52. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17914132
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). Fight off colds and flu. In Your Health Living. Retrieved, 5 November, 2015 from http://www.yourhealthyliving.co.uk/seasonal-bugs