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HEALTH AND WELLNESS IN WINTER

WRITTEN BY ALI FILEY

A Healthy And Happy Winter Makes For A Healthy And Happier Year

Ever winter in the United States and in other countries with temperate climates, the rate of people that succumb to colds and flus rises, with severe influenza affecting up to 25% of the population on epidemic years. While many colds and flus just ‘come and go,’ influenza infections can have long-term effects beyond the lung, wreaking havoc on the gut and causing gastrointestinal upset. If you wish to stay healthy throughout the year, consider a multifaceted strategy that takes into account aspects such as immunity, respiratory health and skin health. These tips may help you get started.

Vitamin D For A Healthy Immune System

Try to ensure you spend a couple of hours beneath the sun in wintertime if you can, working and exercising in the great outdoors to keep illness at bay. Researchers at Oregon State University warn that around 70% of the U.S. population have insufficient Vitamin D levels. The issue is critical, they say, “as we learn more about the many roles it may play in fighting infection, balancing your immune response, helping to address autoimmune problems, and even preventing heart disease.” One recent finding in particular showed that Vitamin D allows for the ‘expression’ of an antimicrobial gene that serves as a first line of defense against both bacterial and viral infections.

Melatonin For Optimal Mental Health

You need to be proactive with your mental health in the winter time as well. Recent research by Alfred Lewy and colleagues has found that your circadian rhythms can become misaligned during the winter (since the days are shorter and the nights longer). To battle seasonal affective disorder (SAD – also called the ‘winter blues’), bright light exposure and melatonin supplements have been found to be effective. If you think you might have SAD, see your doctor about whether or not these approaches may be useful for you. Protect your mental health in additional ways by embracing holistic therapies like yoga and meditation, proven in numerous studies to reduce stress and boost mood and vitality.

Making Sleep A Priority

People who battle seasonal affective disorder may spend more time resting in bed but not actually sleeping. Because sleep is important for everything from maintaining a healthy weight to promoting good heart health, it is important to make sleep a priority, precisely because the alteration in the body’s circadian (or biological) rhythms can have a negative impact on sleep quality. If you have insomnia, see a sleep specialist, who will be able to rule out serious conditions such as sleep apnea. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered a gold-standard treatment for insomnia, and it may take just a few sessions to help you achieve your goal. CBT aims to enlighten individuals on the link between how they think, feel and behave. Improving sleep in winter time, for instance, may start with changing specific behaviors – such as lowering caffeine consumption, taking up stress-reducing exercise, and establishing a strict bedtime routine. Sometimes, something as simple as a small bedroom redesign (your sleeping area should be completely dark and quiet) is all people need to enjoy good sleep quantity and quality.

Diet Matters

The health experts at hif.com say that that one key pillar of a long life is consuming a Mediterranean-style diet that includes lean proteins, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and healthy Omega-3-rich fats like cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. This type of diet can help battle inflammation, which can lead to heart disease and a shorter life. The Mediterranean diet is particularly useful in the winter time, when your immunity can be put to the test. A 2018 University of Bonn study found that refined and fast food diets cause your immune system to overwork, thus promoting inflammation and increasing your chances of falling prey to illnesses such as arteriosclerosis and diabetes. Another study by the USDA/Agricultural Research Service showed that a low-calorie diet can boost the immunity while helping those wishing to lose a few pounds achieve their goal.

Winter Skincare

Cold weather challenges human skin health, increasing dryness and flakiness for many people, and sometimes causing an uncomfortable tightness and itchiness. Dermatologist Dr. Danjali Dahia, of the Cornell Medical Center, recommends daily moisturization (using a fragrance- and lanolin-free moisturizer), taking lukewarm rather than hot showers, using a sunscreen, and relying on a humidifier at home. Drinking enough water and consuming a healthy diet will also help keep skin in optimal condition.

Infections and illnesses you contract in winter can have long-term effects for everything from your skin to your respiratory health. Therefore, it is important to boost your immunity, get better sleep, and make key changes to your diet if necessary. Ensure you get a good sleep every night, as well. This will help improve your mood and vitality at a time when you may be battling the winter blues.