Stay-Well Winter: Healthy Habits for Cold Months

    When it comes to your health, it is always best to be proactive. Taking simple steps can help ward off the possibility of being struck down by viruses that are prevalent during the winter season.

    Many illnesses peak during the cold months, and unless you plan to just stay in and hibernate, you will most likely be exposed to sick people and viruses floating around. You need to maintain a strong immune system to build your resilience against those dreaded illnesses.

    Check out these healthy habits and cruise through the season without suffering from any down time:

    Nourish your body.

    A healthy diet never goes out of season. It is especially crucial to load up on nourishing soups and stews during the winter months to keep your body warm and strengthen your immune system.

    Do not forget your winter fruits and vegetables — there is a wide variety of produce that are at their sweetest and freshest during the season — like sweet potatoes, squash, pear, banana, kale, collard greens, etc.

    What you put inside your body can help regulate your body’s temperature too. Great examples of warming food include: iron-rich meat products, such as lean beef, poultry, pork tenderloin, and lamb; whole grains and complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, potatoes, and lentils; and  food ingredients such as cayenne pepper, ginger, curry, and cumin.

    Keep moving.

    It might be tempting to stay comfortably huddled under the covers and do a Netflix marathon when it’s cold outside, but remember that our bodies are not meant for a sedentary lifestyle. It is always crucial to move around and get the blood flowing.

    Circulation is a problem during the cold season, especially around your extremities as the blood vessels tend to constrict and limit circulation to these areas. This can cause cold hands and feet, and can lead to other health conditions — such as varicose veins, brittle nails, nail fungus infection, leg ulcers, blood clots, and swollen hands and feet.

    Exercise is one of the best ways to warm yourself up and to maintain healthy circulation around your body. Take your workout inside during the winter season — Zumba, Pilates, yoga, aerobics, jumping ropes, jogging in place, planking, push up’s, cardio routines — all these can be done inside your home without any special equipment needed.

    Take vitamins and supplements.

    Supplements containing natural herbs and various vitamins and minerals can boost your immune system and shield you from common winter woes — like coughs, colds, flu, and the norovirus.

    Echinacea, garlic, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and zinc can offer you the protection you need from the dreaded cough, colds, and flu. A high-quality multivitamin is a great way to ensure that you are meeting all your body’s daily nutritional needs. Be sure to take your supplements at the proper time to promote better absorption.

    Taking a probiotic supplement can help supply good bacteria and improve your digestive health, minimizing your risk of getting struck by the norovirus.

    Hydrate your skin.

    The cold weather can suck the life out of your skin and cause it to dry, crack, itch, and lead to eczema flare ups. You need a lotion, ointment, or cream that provides more intensive hydration — one that is especially formulated for the winter months. Use a moisturizing body wash and avoid harsh soaps that can cause your skin to dry further.

    Avoid wearing wet gloves and socks for prolonged periods of time as they may cause skin dryness and irritations, sores, or fungal infections.

    Use a humidifier to help disperse moisture evenly throughout your home or workplace.

    Avoid catching the bug.

    An influenza vaccine can significantly lower the risk of getting sick with the flu and can reduce the severity of the symptoms if you do catch it. Trivalent (protection versus three kinds of flu viruses) and quadrivalent (protection against four kinds of flu viruses) are available and the CDC recommends annual vaccination for everyone 6 months and older.

    Remember that germs are passed through skin-to-skin contact, as well as through everyday objects and surfaces. Most of the things that we touch everyday are full of germs: doorknobs, pens, purses, remote control, phones, elevator buttons, stair handrails, shopping carts, etc.

    The single most effective preventive measure is to wash your hands with soap and water regularly. Make sure to clean your hands when you get home, before you eat or drink anything, and before you touch your face or put your fingers inside your mouth or nose.

    Keep your surroundings clean and disinfect your home once a week to avoid the spread of viruses or infections.

    Maintain good hygiene.

    How often should you shower during the winter season? At least once every two to three days. You might not be sweating and your body might be covered in layers of clothing, but that doesn’t mean that you can skip the shower.

    Opt for short, warm showers or bath — avoid hot water as it can dry your skin and make you feel colder when you step out of the bathroom. Use a mild body cleanser that will not strip off your body’s natural moisture.

    Washing your hands as often as you should might not be possible all the time, so it’s a good idea to have a hand sanitizer with you. A solution that contains at least 60% alcohol can work in eliminating germs and keep your hands clean. Rub the sanitizer for at least 10-15 seconds between your palms and on the back of your hands, include the areas between your fingers, and around your fingertips and nails.

    Drink plenty of water/liquid.

    It might be easy to forget about drinking water when the weather is cold, but you still need to consume at least 2 liters of water or liquid per day. Proper hydration keeps your body functioning well and helps combat winter colds and flu. Remember that you still lose body fluids even when you are not sweating.

    Placing a slice of lemon or lime in your water can provide extra Vitamin C and motivate you to drink more. Or take in warm beverages to help regulate your internal body temperature.

    Diuretics, such as caffeinated coffee or tea, hot chocolate, or alcohol are not substitutes for your liquid intake. In fact, you have to drink more water when you drink these beverages, as they have a dehydrating effect on the body. Try drinking decaffeinated coffee, tea, or fresh fruit juices instead.

    Rest and unwind.

    Get adequate sleep every night. Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, while children need 9 to 11 hours. There is a direct link between sleep and the immune system, as it has been shown that lack of sleep makes you more vulnerable to illnesses. During sleep is when your body rejuvenates and repairs itself.

    No amount of superfood, supplements, or exercise can make up of the benefits of adequate sleep and rest.

    Chronic stress is known to weaken the immune system, cause inflammation, and increase risk of sickness. So make sure that you take time to relax, kick back, and have fun!


    Sandy Getzky
    Sandy Getzky
    Sandy Getzky is the executive coordinating editor at The Global Nail Fungus Organization, a group committed to helping the 100+ million people suffering from finger and toenail fungus. Sandy is also a registered Herbalist and member of the American Herbalist’s Guild.

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