As we started out the month of January with arctic conditions here in the northeast, it seemed so appropriate that we focus on Winter Wellness this month on the blog! Is anyone else cold? These are the hard days of the year for me. After Christmas, the bitter cold and snow doesn’t seem so fun any more. I long for spring to come so I can throw open my windows and get outdoors without my boots, winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf. . . and just be warm without huddling in front of the pellet stove.
Can any of you relate?
As we still have a few more months to go until spring, it’s a great time to think about how we can stay well when everyone around us is coughing or sniffling.
Taking care of your mind and body can do wonders for staying healthy this winter — and here are some of my favorite natural ways to do so.
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10 Natural Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter
A healthy diet that is full of whole foods, fruits and vegetables will go a long way in keeping you healthy this winter. Giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs strengthens your immune system and makes you less prone to getting ill.
Choose foods that are nourishing to your body, rather than foods with empty calories or processed foods that contain very little nutrition.
If you live in a cold climate, preparing warm and nourishing soups, stews and casseroles can be more enjoyable than cold, fresh foods when the temperature dips down.
Here are some nourishing, warm meals we’ve been enjoying lately:
Avoid Too Much Sugar
Another natural way to stay healthy this winter is to simply avoid too much sugar. This is especially important if you’ve been around people who have been ill or you feel like you’re coming down with something. Excess sugar suppresses the body’s immune response, affecting the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria and pathogens and making you more prone to get sick.
If you do feel something coming on, try completely avoiding sugar until you are well and consider trying herbs such echinacea and elderberry which can help your body to fight off the illness.
At the First Sign of Illness, Take Echinacea and/or Elderberries
Both echinacea and elderberry are wonderful herbs at helping your body to fight off illness.
While excess sugar suppresses the immune system, echinacea stimulates the immune system to get rid of pathogens. Echinacea excels in helping the body to fight off infection.
Echinacea may be one of the most well-known home remedies for cold and flu but unfortunately, it is often misunderstood and taken improperly. It should not be taken daily to “prevent” a cold or flu. It works best when taken at the onset of symptoms and continuing ONLY while you have symptoms. Dosage and frequency of dosage are also important factors in its effectiveness. You can learn more about the best way to take echinacea here.
There are lots of options for consuming echinacea. One easy way is to prepare it as a tea. This simple tea recipe includes both elderberry and echinacea. You can also make your own echinacea tincture or purchase a ready-made tincture or capsules which are great if you’re short on time or travelling.
Elderberry is another fantastic herb to reach for in the winter. Elderberries are renowned for their ability to prevent upper respiratory infections, as well as to shorten the duration of a cold or flu. They make a delicious syrup that is loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants. You can purchase ready-made Elderberry syrup or you can make your own in about 30 minutes.
Suggested Dosage: 1 Tablespoon every half hour to hour as needed. 30-60 grams per day.
Another option is to prepare elderberries in a tea such as this Nourishing Winter Tea Blend. This tea blend contains nourishing herbs and elderberries and you can drink it throughout the winter to keep you well.
Drink Super Infusions Regularly
Another natural way to stay healthy this winter is to drink super infusions regularly. A super infusion is a strong herbal tea made with one or more nutritive herbs and steeped between 4-8 hours. The result is a highly nutritious herbal tea that is full of vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed and used by the body. I like to think of these super infusions as my daily multi-vitamin drink.
Typically, dried herbs are used for these super infusions, about 1 oz dried herbs by weight (around 1 cup) per quart of water. The tea can be consumed hot or cold throughout the day, usually between 2-4 cups per day. Any remaining tea should be refrigerated.
Highly nutritious herbs such as nettle, red raspberry leaf, oatstraw (avoid if you have a gluten sensitivity) alfalfa, and linden are typically used. You can read more about super infusions in this post.
Eat Fermented Foods
There are many benefits to eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, pickles, apple cider vinegar, etc. Not only can fermented foods improve our digestion but they also boost our immunity. It is estimated that 80-85% of the immune system lies in the gut! Eating fermented foods can improve our beneficial gut flora, allowing our immune system to work more effectively.
When choosing fermented foods, be sure to purchase unpasteurized products that have not been heated or make your own as heat destroys much of the beneficial bacteria.
Making your own fermented foods is not difficult! Here are some of my favorite recipes if you’d like to try.
My Favorite Kimchi recipe comes from the book, At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen
Improve Your Resistance to Stress
We all know that too much stress can be bad for us, but did you know that it can also lower your immunity and make you more prone to getting sick? Have you ever noticed that after a particularly stressful event (good or bad,) you woke up with a cold or the flu? This is because your immune system is intrinsically linked to your stress levels.
Consider using herbs such as holy basil (tulsi,) chamomile, lemon balm, or linden as a tea if you are experiencing a lot of stress in your life. There herbs, known as nervines, gently help to tonify and relax the nervous system without sedating you.
Any of these herbs would make a delicious tea on its own or try combining the dried herbs for a unique tea blend.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
I feel silly including this because we all know this, don’t we? Still, sometimes it’s easy to forget that germs get passed around A LOT in the winter time. Washing our hands frequently ensures germs have less of a chance of getting into our body in the first place.
For times when you can’t wash your hands, you might want to give this recipe for a DIY non-toxic hand sanitizer a try.
Get Adequate Sleep
Lack of sleep is another factor that can affect our immunity. Research has shown that there is a complex relationship between our sleep-wake cycles and our immune system. Parts of our immune system help to control our sleep and the sleep we get directly impacts how well our immune system functions.
Even short-term loss of sleep has a significant impact on how our immune system functions.
Going to better earlier and sleeping in a little later in the morning is a good habit to get into to keep our immune system strong.
For many of us in cold climates, winter is a time of rest from a lot of outside activities. Less daylight hours, in addition to the cold and snow, force many of us indoors. You might naturally move a little slower in the winter but avoid the temptation to become too sedentary. Regular exercise has a whole host of benefits including boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation and flushing toxins out of the body.
If you aren’t too keen on getting outdoors or heading to the gym in the winter, try some at-home workouts or dvds.
Here are some of my current favorites:
Yoga with Adrienne (Youtube)
Lucy Wyndham-Read’s Workouts (Youtube)
Consume Astragalus Daily
Astragalus is another wonderful food-like herb to include in your winter wellness arsenal. It has been prescribed for centuries for chronic illness and to increase energy levels and overall vitality.
Like echinacea, astragalus is an immune stimulant that increases your white blood cell count (your body’s defense system again infection) and decreases viral replication. It also provides a protective barrier against external influences to help you avoid getting sick in the first place.
Since astragalus is a food-like herb that tastes good, it is an easy herb to incorporate into your daily life.
Astragalus root can be purchased either sliced, cut and sifted or powdered. You can also purchase astragalus capsules or a ready-made astragalus tincture.
If you’d like to learn more about astragalus, I wrote a whole post on How to Use Astragalus to Boost the Immune System with lots of information, recipes and ideas for how to use astragalus.
What do you do to stay healthy in the winter? Please let me know by leaving a comment below or sharing a comment or picture on my Facebook Page or on Instagram .
The Herbal Academy of NE Introductory Course
This site is for educational purposes only. It does not provide medical advice. Information found on myhealthyhomemadelife.com is meant to motivate you to make your own health care and dietary decisions based upon your own research and in partnership with your health care provider.