The daylight hours are getting shorter, that refreshing little chill in the air is getting downright cold, and the socks or no socks question is pretty much a foregone conclusion. Depending on where you live in Canada you might already be shovelling snow. We love the beauty and variety of our changing seasons, especially the fall to winter change after a well-deserved hot summer –beautiful gold, orange and red leaves, followed up by snow dusted branches and that cozy feeling that comes with pulling on big sweaters, lighting a fire and practicing a little hygge. Fall and winter bring an unwelcome element with them though – cold and flu season – ick. Health experts are predicting a “typical flu season” in Canada this year. That means that flu season starts in the fall, peaks sometime between late December (merry merry!) and late January, and finally tapers off. There was some early fear that this would be an extreme flu season, based on Australia’s experience (their seasons are reversed so they get their flue season 6 months early) but experts say that was a geographical anomaly and our flu season will be a “normal” one. Which is not to say that you want the flu, nor any of the hundreds of strains of the common cold. So here are a few immune boosting tips from your friends at Niyama on how to stay Warrior strong this cold and flu season:
Yes, it’s an obvious one but it does feel like the fall-winter holiday stack conspires against us a little – first there is Thanksgiving with multiple desserts, then Halloween, with so many cute bite-sized little candy bars that hang around for weeks, and then we slide into the December holiday season with all the yummy temptations that come with it. As Michael Pollan said, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Avoid processed food and cook. Whether you are an omnivore, or a strict vegan, try to base your meal planning around incorporating lots of veggies and fruits in your diet – and look for seasonal colours to include. Squashes and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C and feel cozy and nourishing when roasted or made into soups. Although not local, those lovely little mandarin and clementine oranges that appear in all the markets this time of year make an amazing and vitamin C-rich snack at home or on the go.
Don’t forget to season and spice your meals – garlic has powerful anti-viral and bacteria-fighting properties so include it where you can and don’t be shy – ginger is amazing for cough and cold fighting when added to dishes or minced and boiled in a tea with organic honey, and turmeric is an amazing anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory that is deliciously warming in all sorts of curries and stews.
Although if you want the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric in a therapeutic dose, consider taking it in capsule form in addition to cooking with it – 1 capsule of Niyama’s Vinyasa Forever Joint Care
contains the equivalent of over 15,000 mg of raw herb – plus Boswellia – another Ayurveda superstar anti-inflammatory herb that has proven benefits for joint health.
Drinking lots of water feels pretty natural in the summer months – we are generally more active and sweat more, and on a hot day nothing tastes better than cold beverages. But sometimes we forget in the colder months. And it’s easy to get dehydrated in cold weather, especially if you are doing outdoor activities. The cold air tends to move body fluids away from the extremities and closer to your organs, increasing urination volume (yes, you pee more!) and risk of dehydration. So consume liquids at regular intervals and well before you are thirsty to maintain healthy hydration levels. Water is always the best choice but if cold water isn’t your cup of tea (pardon the pun) in cold weather cultivate an herbal tea habit – its just as hydrating and also feels soothing. Try to choose organic when you can to avoid steeping pesticides with your tea.
Keep Moving and Get Outside
Less daylight and cold temperatures can wreak havoc with mood. And it can be tempting to stay in under a blanket and Netflix all winter. But getting outside is super important – studies show that time outdoors in nature improves our mood significantly. And if you take up a winter sport like skiing, snowshoeing, skating or even winter walks in nature you will absolutely notice a huge difference in how you feel about winter and in terms of positive mood balance. Indoor exercise works too though - winter is a great time to connect with others and take a yoga or fitness class. We think hot yoga in the winter is pretty awesome – especially if your studio uses far-infrared panels to heat the room – it’s like a 60-90-minute return to summer. But don’t forget #3 after your indoor or outdoor activity. You can add a scoop of Niyama’s After Practice Replenish and Repair
to your water bottle to replace lost electrolytes and promote muscle recovery during or after any exercise. And it tastes like a trip to the tropics, but without airfare, sugar, calories, or artificials.
Enough, good quality sleep is always important. But it’s absolutely crucial during cold and flu season because it’s when our bodies have time to repair and replenish our immune systems. Aim for 7-9 hours sleep each night. Practice good sleep hygiene (habits) like going to bed and getting up as close to the same time as possible, avoiding screens an hour before bed, sleeping in dark, cool room and getting into a relaxing wind-down habit. Maybe a bath, some quiet reading, or making a list on paper of all those little things you might forget, that will otherwise be running about in your brain while you are trying to sleep. If you need extra help consider a natural sleep aid like Sleep Like Buddha.
If you get sick, keep it to yourself. Take a sick day and actually rest. You will get better way faster if you do. We are all busy, and taking a day off is sometimes not possible – if you have to get something done, work from home and take extra rest. Your co-workers will thank you for not exposing them. And even if you aren’t sick – take precautions – wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and be extra demanding of personal space. And please don’t bring your cold to yoga class!
Seriously, take it. If you live in Canada from October to May there is just no way you are getting enough vitamin D for optimal health from the sun. And while there are food sources, it’s still very hard to get enough from your diet – especially if you don’t consume a lot of dairy. Vitamin D comes in so many forms now - tablets, capsules, drops, gummies – pick the one that you are going to remember to take and ensure it’s a D3. We won’t soapbox on all the benefits here but there are a ton (immune, mood, bone health to name just a few) and the evidence is well documented. So if you aren’t taking it, get some and start. It’s the cheapest, easiest thing you can do to stay healthy in the winter we can think of.
Photo by Krisztina Kovari on Unsplash