Staying Healthy with the Seasons: Winter
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), having been around for more than 3,000 years, is rooted in the philosophy that people should live in harmony with their environment. Winter is a time for hibernation, and as nature slows down, the process of new growth and regeneration has already begun internally, in preparation for springtime. In wintertime, we are prone to many illnesses that are not as prevalent at other times of year, such as colds and flus, and also some aches and pains. Here in the U.S., flu activity is at its highest between December and February, the coldest winter months. However, there are many things that you can do to stay healthy during wintertime. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get Plenty of Sleep
Again, since this is a time of hibernation sleep is more important than ever during winter. Huang Di, a legendary Chinese emperor of ancient times, says: “During the winter months, all things in nature wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period…Therefore, one should refrain from overusing the yang energy. Retire early and get up with the sunrise, which is later in winter.” Adequate sleep will help to keep your immune system strong.
- Drink Warm Water
This helps to improve circulation in the body, and protect the internal organs from damage from the cold. It improves sluggish digestion, which is important in winter since many of the foods that we eat tend to be somewhat heavy. It also helps to keep the body hydrated, especially since the air in winter can be drying, with the use of heaters. If you add some lemon in the morning, this can help the body get rid of toxins, but be cautious if you have inflammatory skin disorders, such as eczema or psoriasis.
- Keep Warm, But Not Too Warm
Don’t overdo the heat indoors. Your body’s temperature is naturally slightly cooler in winter months, but you do need to stay warm in order to keep your blood and body’s energy circulating. If it is too hot indoors, and you go outside, your body will not be able to adjust properly.
- Exercise Moderately
Don’t wear yourself out too much by exercising too strenuously. Exercise can boost your energy, but too much can deplete the kidney energy. A walk outdoors will usually be enough, and the fresh air is invigorating. Too often, if our doors and windows are constantly closed in winter, the air can become stagnant. Since indoor air pollution can actually be worse indoors than outdoors, it is helpful to open the windows briefly in the winter time. A HEPA air filter can also help to keep the indoor air clean.
- Take Supplements to Boost Your Immune System
Nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C, Echinacea, and Vitamin D3 can help to protect you from getting a cold or flu. Find the one that is right for you. You may want to ask your doctor or other health practitioner for advice.
- Eat Warm, Nourishing Foods
Foods such as soup, hearty grains, and nuts, will help to warm you from the inside out. Soup is also easy to digest. Keep the portions small, since your exercise level is probably a bit lower than at other times of year. Add warming foods such as ginger and garlic. Eat foods appropriate for the season, such as root vegetables.
- Reduce Stress
The Holidays can also be a very stressful time. Stress can harm your immune system, so it is important to do whatever you can to keep stress to a minimum. Yoga, tai chi, meditation, stress reduction classes, these can all help to keep you calm and stress-free.