Defence against bugs and the blues

Winter brings colds a plenty and feelings of lethargy and gloom.

The good news is that even before Spring is in full flow, there are simple actions you can take to improve your health and wellbeing.

Keep moving

Try to keep exercising a couple of times each week to boost energy levels, even though you may not feel motivated to do so.

If you usually go running but this isn’t ideal due to weather conditions, switch to indoor pursuits such as yoga and pilates which are excellent for strength, flexibility, energizing and relaxation. Or get social with badminton, squash or gym sessions with a friend.

Take quality rest

Your immune system takes a beating if you aren’t sleeping properly or allowing yourself some downtime, both of which are key to managing stress. Make the most of long evenings by enjoying a favourite box set, settling down with a book or soaking in a hot bath. Go to sleep a similar time each night and before 11pm. The quality of sleep after this is reduced.

Eat well

Certain vitamins and minerals are particularly key in the winter months to maintain physical health and regulate mood. They are:

Vitamin D – “the sunshine vitamin”, key to bone health, is more difficult to get hold of in winter. It is important to spend some time outdoors each day to be exposed to the sun. Vitamin D-rich foods include eggs and oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. Breakfast is an ideal time to get your fill of this – e.g. scrambled or poached eggs on granary toast.

Vitamin C – we need this for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body and for healing wounds. It helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. We can’t store this vitamin so need to consume it afresh each day. This is easy to do by eating whole fruit such as clementines and oranges; adding red pepper to salads and quick-cooking veg such as broccoli.

Zinc – critical for immunity, it helps balance your body’s response to infection, preventing out-of-control inflammation. We only need a small amount each day and it’s easier to get from meat than plant sources: beef, lamb, chicken, pork as well as shellfish like crab and lobster. Vegetarians can up zinc levels with nuts, seeds and pulses.

Cold remedies in the form of tablets and powders will ease the symptoms of a cold, but you can give yourself a better chance of avoiding illness in the first place by arming yourself with the right nutrition.

A natural remedy to ease the symptoms of cold is ginger tea:

Put a couple of slices of fresh ginger in one and one-half cups of water.
Boil for 5 to 10 minutes. (Time it based on how strong you like your ginger tea.)
Keep the lid on the pot to prevent vapor from escaping.
Add a little honey and lemon.
Sip it slowly, bundle up, then lie down, or go to sleep.

A natural remedy for sore throats is comforting warm milk with honey and turmeric powder – a natural antiseptic.

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