by Kate Black @ Bespoke Nutritional Therapy
For many, winter means tedious, cold, dark nights, increased appetite1, boredom, weight-gain, low energy and depression,2 not to mention the tiresome attempts to stave off seasonal sniffles, coughs and sore throats.3
To survive, the Danes developed ‘Hygge’ (Pronounced hue-guh) which embodies a conscious ‘cosy, charming and special’ moment. They make rituals, where experience takes precedence over possession, coffee is a verb and brewing in soft candlelight is ceremonial. Supposedly the dark evenings are spent huddled next to a flickering fire, with a warm drink, good book, adorned with fluffy blankets, cushions and slippers – with no mobile phones in sight, it’s time for hot fragrant baths and early nights.
I don’t know about you, but I feel that we ‘Brits’ rarely allow ourselves these moments of luxury. Is it because we don’t have time or don’t want people to think we’re selfish, lazy, or indulgent? I know I should relax more, but I’m far too busy trying to ‘do it all’ as if I still have the long balmy summer evenings. There’s always three projects on the go, homework, music practice, running the children to various clubs, cooking and cleaning (in a hurry), and I feel as if I’m merely ‘squeezing in’ exercise or a night out with lovely friends which I invariably resent as I’m ‘too tired’. Is the balance all wrong, or am I just navigating normal family life?.
I’m going with a ‘normal life’, but as a Nutritional Therapist I know that over 70% of our immune cells reside in the gut4, and that stress and the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism prevents us from absorbing the nutrients we need to support our health and fight infection during the cold, dark winter5. Here’s a winter wellness starter kit to begin navigating winter and boosting your health.
RELAX AND DIGEST – To properly absorb all those lovely nutrients needed for a healthy immune system, take Hygge by the scruff and allow yourself some YOU time. 10 minutes meditation or mindfulness a day should help to reset and digest6. Light a candle and make your own hot herbal tea from scratch – fresh lemon and grated ginger in hot water is a great way to start the day as it is antimicrobial and soothing7. If nothing else, take 8 long slow breaths prior to eating, to prepare your body for digestion8.
COOK FRESH – Create smoothies, warming soups and stews. The additional colourful fruit and vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals (ie. vitamin C and zinc9) needed to help fight infection, as well as an abundance of phytonutrients (Pronounced fight-o-nutrients) with health benefits in every bite10. Aim to eat a variety of every colour in 8 portions a day.
SLEEP TIGHT – The amino acid tryptophan from protein foods like eggs is needed for sleep and happy hormones, and so can reduce seasonal affective disorder (SAD)1. 90% of the key hormone serotonin regulating mood, appetite and sleep, is produced in the gut11. Keeping the gut healthy with friendly bacteria from fermented foods like sauerkraut, may also reduce the winter blues.
HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE – Approximately 60% of the body is water and the lubrication of mucosal membranes protects against colds and flu12. Aim to drink 2.5 litres of water a day15.
MOVE OUTDOORS – Do not underestimate the suns power, even in winter. Vitamin D can regulate the immune system and protect against muscular skeletal issues, infectious, autoimmune and cardiovascular disease3, diabetes, cancer, neurocognitive dysfunction and mental illness13. Having modulatory affect on respiratory infections common in winter 14. Walk outdoors for 20 minutes a day and consider a vitamin D supplement (call for advice).
If this has interested you and you’d like to find out how Nutritional Therapy may be able to help you with your health concerns, call Kate for a FREE 20 minute consultation on 07971 647444 or email email@example.com
- Pereira, J.C., Hallinan, M.P. and Alves, R.C., 2017. Secondary to excessive melatonin synthesis, the consumption of tryptophan from outside the blood-brain barrier and melatonin over-signaling in the pars tuberalis may be central to the pathophysiology of winter depression. Medical hypotheses, 98, pp.69-75.
- Rohan, K.J. and Rough, J.N., 2017. Seasonal Affective Disorder. The Oxford Handbook of Mood Disorders, p.254.
- Donaldson, G.C. and Wedzicha, J.A., 2014. The causes and consequences of seasonal variation in COPD exacerbations. International journal of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 9, p.1101.
- Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Di Cara, G. and Frati, F., 2008. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical & Experimental Immunology, 153(s1), pp.3-6.
- Wilson, J.L., 2014. Clinical perspective on stress, cortisol and adrenal fatigue. Advances in Integrative Medicine, 1(2), pp.93-96.
- Simkin, D.R. and Black, N.B., 2014. Meditation and mindfulness in clinical practice. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 23(3), pp.487-534.
- Nasri H, Shahinfard N, Rafieian M, Rafieian S, Shirzad M, Rafieian M (2014) Turmeric: A spice with multifunctional medicinal properties. Journal of Herbmed Pharmacology, 3(1), pp.5-8.
- Robin, A., Virag, D., Bassin, G., Barry, J., Wardle, J., Hogarth, K., Kress, L., Gough, P. and Barefoot, G., 2016. Five natural, effective ways of dealing with stress. Power.
- Maggini, S., Maldonado, P., Cardim, P., Fernandez Newball, C. and Sota Latino, E.R., 2017. Vitamins C, D and Zinc: Synergistic Roles in Immune Function and Infections. Vitam Miner, 6(167), pp.2376-1318.
- Rahal, A., Verma, A.K., Kumar, A., Tiwari, R., Kapoor, S., Chakraborty, S. and Dhama, K., 2014. Phytonutrients and nutraceuticals in vegetables and their multi-dimensional medicinal and health benefits for humans and their companion animals: A review. Journal of Biological Sciences, 14(1), p.1.
- Jenkins, T.A., Nguyen, J.C., Polglaze, K.E. and Bertrand, P.P., 2016. Influence of tryptophan and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis. Nutrients, 8(1), p.56.
- Ismail, H. and Schellack, N., 2017. Colds and flu–an overview of the management. South African Family Practice, 59(3), pp.5-12.
- Pludowski, P., Holick, M.F., Pilz, S., Wagner, C.L., Hollis, B.W., Grant, W.B., Shoenfeld, Y., Lerchbaum, E., Llewellyn, D.J., Kienreich, K. and Soni, M., 2013. Vitamin D effects on musculoskeletal health, immunity, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, fertility, pregnancy, dementia and mortality—a review of recent evidence. Autoimmunity reviews, 12(10), pp.976-989.
- Zdrenghea, M.T., Makrinioti, H., Bagacean, C., Bush, A., Johnston, S.L. and Stanciu, L.A., 2017. Vitamin D modulation of innate immune responses to respiratory viral infections. Reviews in medical virology, 27(1).
- Campbell, S., 2004. Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Clinical Nutrition Insight, 30(6), pp.1-hyhen.