By Dr. Frank Lipman
The key to staying well in the winter is treating your body well and feeding it what it needs to fight off invaders and not let them get a toehold.
If, despite your best efforts, you still get a sniffle or two, chances are, your fortified system will make sure the bugs don’t hang around for too long.
Here’s a roundup of my favorite, easy-to-incorporate wellness tips to help keep your defenses strong all winter long:
1. Eat – and Drink – Your Greens
The more dark, leafy greens you can work into your diet, the better. All that good green stuff is filled with fiber, which is exactly what your good gut bacteria love to feast on. And, when our good bacteria are well-fed, they’re armed and fortified to help keep your immunity high. Greens will also supply you with energy-boosting phytonutrients so you can power through the day without a caffeine or sugar drip. Add fresh leafy greens to breakfast, lunch and dinner, and keep a supply of high-quality greens powder in your fridge or at the office so you can stir up a glass of immunity-supporting greens anytime.
2. Eat the Tastiest Treats
No, not sugar or junk food. I’m talking about delicious whole foods that also have medicinal properties that enable your body to torpedo many of the bug that bring on winter ills. Among my favorite food-as-medicine picks are antimicrobial and antiviral edibles like extra-virgin coconut oil (EVCO), garlic, ginger, and turmeric. For thousands of years they’ve helped make life tastier and fend off colds and flu, no prescription required. Another tip from the ancients? Add a few fermented faves like sauerkraut or kimchi to your plate. They’ll help seed your gut with good bacteria that help repel the microorganisms that can make you sick.
3. Keep Yourself Well-Watered
Most people don’t pay as much attention to hydration in winter, and that’s a mistake. Keeping yourself well-watered throughout this season is equally important. Drinking up is good for your skin, organs and bodily functions, all of which can suffer once dehydration from cold, dry air and indoor heating settle in. Another reason to drink up? Staying well-hydrated helps thin the mucus in your lungs and sinuses, making it easier for your body to clear the sludgy stuff out of your system — so cozy up to soothing herbal teas, hot water with lemon and hot, healthy beverages until the warmer weather returns.
4. Clean Up Your Act — Without the Nasty Solvents
Fingers. They are amazingly useful. They’re also excellent transporters of germs, so be mindful of where they’ve been. To cut contact with cooties, add a barrier: Wear gloves and use your coat sleeve to grab door handles and subway poles. Also keep in mind:
At home: Keep surfaces clean, wiping them down frequently with non-toxic green cleaners. That goes double if you’ve got school-aged kids bringing home tons of germs every day. Also make sure the kids get into the hand-washing groove as soon as they cross the threshold.
At the office: Virtually any shared item at the office — such as printers, copy machines, the office fridge handles, restroom door knobs, access keypads, elevator buttons and so on — are excellent places to pick up whatever ills may be going round the office, so wash hands frequently for at least 30 seconds with hot water and plain old soap —not the antibacterial kind.
Out and about: Not to make you paranoid, but when you’re out in the world, be conscious of all the places your hands wind up. Using pens and touch screens at the grocery store, punching in codes to access your office or locker at the gym, touching keypads at the ATM — consider each an opportunity to pick up a few cooties you could do without, and keep your paws away from your eyes, nose and mouth until you’re able to wash up. When hot water and soap are nowhere in sight, rinse your hands with a no-or low-toxin hand wipe made with naturally antibacterial essentials oils, vinegar and/or citrus.
5. Supercharge Immunity with Key Supplements
When it comes to fighting off seasonal ills, I believe in stacking the immunity deck and giving your body a helping hand. My go-to winter wellness arsenal includes:
- : This is one of my favorite immunity-boosting antioxidant supplements.The body produces less and less of this compound as we age — thus the need to top off the tank!
- A daily, high-quality : Packed with billions of organisms to keep your gut — which houses most of your immune system — in top form.
- : If you’re falling short in the cooler weather months – as most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are – supplementing with vitamin D3 is a wise way to boost levels. But have your doc check your levels first. Here are a few guidelines on how to do it smartly.
- Elderberry extract: Travel frequently in winter? Then pack some elderberry extract, an antiviral herb that helps fend off flu and respiratory problems.
6. Get a Little Lit
But not with alcohol! Get lit with sunlight. Granted, you’ll need to bundle up, but take a few minutes every day when the sun is visibly shining to have a brief wintertime sunbath. Doing so will help regulate your circadian rhythms (a.k.a. your sleep/wake cycle) — which impacts everything from your body temperature to your hormones to your weight — and help lift your spirits. And improved mood helps boost immunity – nothing like a full-circle, free fix, eh?