Winter Wellness and Boosting Immunity
Updated: May 16
It's definitely appears more challenging to keep well during the cooler months.
We're inside more which means less fresh air, grounding and sunshine (Vitamin D production) and less social connections, alongside more sugar/carbs especially in the form of comforting foods like mashed potatoes and hot chocolate! Various compounding factors may come together to compromise our delicate internal ecosystems, so what can we do? I wanted to help cover off some basic aspects of keeping well and general immunity for all year round, because I'd like to believe that our bodies have innate self-healing processes and that we can positively influence these in a holistic way to strengthen our immunity resilience.
One of the most important concepts here is consistency, given that developing a robust immune system is not usually based on luck but rather a series of choices made on a regular basis. So with this in mind, I genuinely hope this overview helps you in some way.
1. Sleep, rest and replenish.
There is something in following our inclination to sleep more with the shorter days, as we allow our bodies to move with natural circadian rhythms to restore and replenish. It's one reason I actually don't love daylight savings, and it often feels "off" to me.
I also often observe a mild cleaning-out process at the change of each season, usually indicated with a clear runny nose and increased lethargy where you're not 'sick sick ' but not quite optimal either - and my inclination is to encourage extra rest and simple, nourishing foods during this time.
It's much harder to thrive when you're under chronic stress so taking the time to consider what some of your decisions may be costing you, physically and emotionally? Healing can't be a priority for the body when it's in constant fight, flight or freeze mode as many stress hormones are released, which is why gentle bodywork such as integrative body therapy can be helpful. To support better sleep, make sure to turn off the wi-fi at night and limit screen time especially before bed. As soon as you wake up, open the curtains to signal to your body that daytime has arrived! My Shakti Acupressure Mat helps me unwind if sleep isn't happening, which is ironic given I'm lying on a bed of nails, but it works and feels super relaxing.
2. Create an expectation of wellness.
Ever notice how many people speak their anticipation of sickness, even before winter has even started? Stay mindful in observing your internal chatter. Of course it's not just that simple, but perhaps give a try and investigate how it influences you.
Doing what makes you feel good helps to create a space to process your thoughts and feelings is helpful too. For me, nothing beats a walk on the beach with my rescue dog and is a great time to do some grounding, if the sand isn't too cold!
2. Nurture and listen.
Digestion is an energy intensive process so when unwell, we like other animals, appear to switch our appetites 'off' so our body can dedicate it's available resources to heal - rather than digest. Learning to honour your hunger cues is something not many of us were raised with (remember being told to eat everything on your plate before you could leave the table, whether you were still hungry or not?) so it's sometimes a bit of learning process.
Chronic dehydration can wreak havoc at a cellular level, but just drinking more doesn't usually give us the hydration we need. Read more here: The Real Deal on Hydration
Nutrient dense wholefoods nourish and fuels us. I encourage avoiding or minimising inflammatory packaged and processed foods where possible, focusing on zinc-rich protein and fats rather than seed oils, sugars and starches. Winter is the perfect season to book cheaper cuts of meat low and slow incorporating as many goodies such as: broths, ghee, collagen, garlic, onion, leek, turmeric, ginger, apple cider vinegar, lemon, and seasonal greens such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and courgettes.
My family's recipe on chicken bone broth is enjoyed by many, and is the perfect base to a healing chicken soup loaded with garlic, lemon and herbs.
A spoonful of black strap molasses is fantastic for supporting minerals. I don't like it much on it's own but I love it in my Magic Mineral Chocolate Recipe. Delicious, nutritious and easy (albeit messy) to make!
Our digestive system governs around 70% of our immunity so it's important to look after our guts all year round. Learning to check in and listen to your body after eating to ascertain what foods are working for you, and what ones aren't, is important. I know if I've eaten something that doesn't really work for me, even if I like the taste, (looking at you sushi!) because after eating, instead of feeling energised, I just want to sit down and slob, which often means my digestive system is struggling so rather than fight that, I now honour it.
4. Provide extra support as needed.
While it's vital to build a strong foundation, sometimes we find ourselves needing some extra tools to help prevent, or recover from, illness. I'm sharing the top picks that I use for my family, but if you're seeking specific advice, chat with your naturopath or doctor.
You can shop my general faves here.
Magnesium is an essential master mineral and research has indicated that as many as 80% of us are deficient, so supplementing is often useful. I prefer epsom salt or magnesium chloride baths. Food sources include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, avocados, bananas, dates and cacao (hence why a chocolate craving usually is seen when magnesium is low).
Supplying probiotic bacteria alongside fermented foods such as sauerkraut supports optimum digestive and immune function. I really like this immune modulating probiotic for kids and it's what I buy for my girl, but the best product out there in my opinion is GutPro.
This this is not meant to be an exhaustive list but just a place to start. Sometimes becoming unwell is more about our bodies asking for a break, so if you do find yourself unwell at all, take some time out to consider what got you to that point and what are some strategies to kick start a more balanced lifestyle. Keep well, Maryana x
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