Getting sick in winter is never fun.
Here are some of my favorite tips on how to beat the winter flu:
- Eat the right foods to support your immunity and stave off colds and flu: Certain foods can help prevent catching the office flu. What we eat profoundly affects our health, and as such, the main route to good health lies in our diet. Vitamin C, found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as berries, oranges, and capsicum, will support your immune system, and zinc, found in red meat, nuts, and seeds. Garlic is one excellent food that will help fight off colds and flu and has antibacterial and immune-strengthening properties, so eat lots of it! Avoid sugar as much as possible as it suppresses our immune system and can fuel a bacterial infection, so put that cookie down and back away slowly.
- A healthy gut means a healthy immune system: A large portion of your immune system resides in your gut, making gastrointestinal health a key factor in immune building. Spoon some kefir (a fermented, cultured, enzyme-rich yogurt-like drink which helps balance the microflora in your gut) or some natural organic yogurt onto your porridge in the mornings, or take a good-quality probiotic throughout the winter months. Other fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and Lacto-fermented veggies, will do the trick. Try my raspberry, coconut, and kefir pancakes or immune-boosting smoothie. Yum!
- Top up your vitamin D levels: With the arrival of cooler weather and less sun exposure, we become more vulnerable to developing a deficiency in Vitamin D. This nutrient is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system and elevating your mood. It is important to get your blood levels of vitamin D checked and if you are deficient, then boost it with fish liver oils, organic eggs, organic full-fat cheese, and dairy, as well as supplements if needed.
- Herbal medicine: Herbs can be used acutely if you suddenly come down with a fever or a cold. Interestingly, herbal medicine is wonderful when used as a preventative treatment. My dispensary comprises many beautiful herbs that are antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiseptic, and antiviral – should I go on? Ok, with pleasure – antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antiallergic, anti-inflammatory. If you’re sick, about to get sick, usually healthy but can sometimes get sick, or you don’t want to get sick this winter, I have a herb (or several) that can help you.
Winter hibernation, less sunshine, and the desire to curl up at home with a book can sometimes lead to low moods in winter.
Depression isn’t a disease you’ve either got or haven’t. We are all somewhere along a sliding scale, from upbeat, positive, and happy most of the time to clinically depressed. You may not be one of the one million Australian adults living with depression each year, but it’s possible (probably even) that you feel ‘blue’ from time to time. This number increases in the winter due to SAD – seasonal affective disorder, also known as the winter blues.
There are several promising ways that naturopathy, proper nutrition, and herbal medicine can help people who suffer from depression or SAD.
Let me list the ways:
Herbs are a wonderful way to treat low mood and depression. One of the best parts about Western herbal medicine is that by using liquid herbs, I can prepare a herbal formula specific to you, working on either one or several issues at once. Depending on your needs, the formula can be changed and adapted throughout the winter months. The right formula can help keep you feeling energized, improve your mood and help your body cope with day-to-day stresses.
Herbal medicine is a safe and well-tolerated system of healing that has been used for centuries. As a herbalist, I am not doing anything new! The World Health Organization estimates that 70-80% of global healthcare is provided by traditional, non-conventional medicine. Many common pharmaceutical drugs originate from herbs. When you use a herb for healing, you benefit from its active healing constituents because it adapts and modifies its own actions, often eliminating possible side effects. When you take only the active constituent, such as in many pharmaceuticals, unwanted side effects may also occur.
There are several common imbalances connected to nutrition that can worsen your mood and motivation:
- Nutrient deficiencies can worsen mood, specifically vitamins B6, B12, folic acid (B9), C, D, zinc, magnesium, chromium, and essential fatty acids. A deficiency can occur for many reasons, including malabsorption, increased nutritional needs (e.g., pregnancy), and malnutrition due to a lack of variation in the diet. A varied, balanced, whole-food diet is crucial in lifting and maintaining your mood. It is all too easy to eat the wrong foods or the right foods in the wrong amounts! As a nutritionist, I can look out for inadequacies in your diet and correct them easily by using food as medicine. You might think it’s too hard to eat well, but isn’t it too hard to live your life feeling down and blue all or most of the time? Life is too short for making excuses not to eat well, and you will surely feel more motivated to eat well once you see the difference that a good diet can make in balancing your moods.
- Blood sugar imbalances: Maintaining your blood sugar levels is key to keeping your mood stable. Make sure to eat breakfast! I don’t want to hear that you were too busy. It takes 3 minutes and 20 seconds to boil the perfect egg (this is tried and tested in my household) and 3 minutes to toast a piece of sourdough or spelled bread. Add some avocado, rocket, and a squeeze of lemon, and you have the perfect breakfast, full of protein, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and essential fats (see above dot point for relevance!)
- A deficiency of the amino acid tryptophan (a precursor of the powerful neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates mood, sleep, and appetite) can also lead to depression. If you don’t eat enough tryptophan-containing protein-rich food, your body just doesn’t have what it needs to produce serotonin. Here are some ways to ensure you get an adequate amount of tryptophan: eat oats with organic milk, almonds, and 2 scrambled eggs, a baked sweet potato with cottage cheese and tuna, chicken breast with sesame seed crust or tahini dressing, grilled salmon with a salad containing pumpkin seeds, grilled turkey and cheddar cheese sandwich on sourdough bread. I can also prescribe supplemental amino acids – including tryptophan or other amino acids if required – until we stabilize your mood.
- Food or environmental allergies or intolerances: A high percentage of individuals with depression also have signs and symptoms of allergies. This means that there could be an intertwined relationship between allergen exposure and mood triggers in individuals at risk of depression. If you suspect you have allergies that are not being managed, it is a good idea to go and see your doctor and get a referral for an allergy test. Nutrients such as essential fats, vitamin C and zinc, and herbal medicine can help reduce inflammation and help your body manage allergic reactions.
We can also make many changes to our lifestyles that can improve our mood. Adequate and restful sleep is important, as is exercise, socializing with friends, and reducing stress where you can. I also prescribe meditation as a “supplement” to many clients and often provide meditation tracks to ensure they follow their prescriptions. These are all fundamental and inextricably linked to your overall health, state of mind, and general happiness.