The winter months can really take their toll on your overall health and well-being. While you may think you have it all covered when it comes to self-care, it is important to tailor this to the seasons, so that you can ensure that you are truly providing your body with all it needs throughout the year.
What should you be doing to care for your body this winter?
Here are some guidelines to get you started…
Do you find that you tend to have less energy in the winter months?
There’s a reason for this…
Humans, as well as other animals, experience a decrease in metabolism during the colder months, with this being one of the factors that trigger wild animals to go into hibernation.
While hibernation isn’t an option for you, this decrease in metabolism leads to a drop in energy levels, making you feel easily tired and sluggish in the winter.
It may be tempting to spend your free time curled up on the sofa in front of the TV, but it is important to stay active during the winter months.
Regular exercise has a number of different benefits for your body, including:
- Helps with weight loss
- Builds muscle and strengthens bones
- Increases energy levels
- Reduces your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes
- Boosts the health of your skin
- Improves memory and overall brain health
- Improves sleep quality
- Reduces chronic pain
- Improves your mood
These are all benefits that your body needs in the winter, as well as the summer, making it important not to skip out on the exercise now that the weather is turning cooler.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you need to be spending an hour in the icy cold each day…
There are so many exercises that can be done from the comfort of your own home, and there is a seemingly endless array of routines and tutorials online that you can follow to make this task even easier.
Eat Seasonal Winter Produce
Seasonal foods contain all of the nutrients and antioxidants that your body needs in order to deal with whatever that season throws at it, which is why eating seasonally is so important.
The human body tends to be drawn towards richer foods in the winter months, and this is because these foods help to keep the body toasty warm and well-lubricated in the cold. Extra spices and herbs are also beneficial, because these will help your digestive system to cope with the heavier foods coming its way.
When it comes to the rich, warming and seasonal foods of winter, here are some healthy options:
- Root Vegetables – many can withstand colder temperatures, meaning that they are often sold quite fresh in the winter. Look out for carrots, turnips and beetroot, all of which contain beta-carotene and vitamin C to give your body a boost
- Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower – cruciferous vegetables are packed with vitamin C and other nutrients to keep your body strong during the winter season
- Leafy Greens – everything from kale to spinach to Swiss chard will provide your body with plenty of nutrients, including anti-inflammatory compounds that will keep it running optimally
- Winter Squash – high in carotenoids, vitamin A and potassium
- Seasonal Fish – this varies depending on where you live, but oily fish is important for keeping your joints and skin healthy, thanks to its essential fatty acid content
Keep Your Skin Protected
Not only is your skin the largest organ in the body, but it is also the part of your body that is most exposed to the harsh elements of winter.
The outer layer of your skin consists of a protective barrier known as the stratum corneum. It has two main roles:
- Keeping dirt, bacteria and other unwanted particles out of the skin
- Keeping moisture in the skin by preventing it from evaporating
In the winter, the cold, along with harsh winds, end up stripping down this protective barrier, leaving your skin exposed and vulnerable. This is why so many people experience an increase of skin problems in the winter, with dryness and dehydration being one of the most common issues.
Wondering if there’s anything you can do about this?
Of course! The key is helping your skin stay protected, which can be done through the use of a couple of skin care products.
The first is a moisturizer, but the one you choose should depend on your skin type. For those with oily skin, a water-based moisturizer will keep your skin protected without clogging up your pores. For those with dry skin, a thick and greasy oil-based moisturizer will be beneficial.
If your skin is especially dry, you may find it helpful to apply an oil over the top of your moisturizer for some added nourishment.
No matter what your skin type may be, hydrating and skin-repairing masks will always be appreciated by your skin in the winter months. Don’t focus solely on your face either – the skin on your body needs attention too, and body masks are perfect for this.
You may also want to swap out some of your skin care products, most notably your cleanser, for something milder. Foaming cleansers in particular are known for the way in which they strip the skin of its natural oils, but these are something that you want to keep around as much as possible in the winter.
Keep Your Gut Healthy
You likely already know that your immune system is so important when it comes to keeping your body healthy, and it really does work extremely hard in the winter.
What does your immune system have to do with your gut?
Well, 70% of the cells that make up your immune system are actually located in your gut, meaning that gut health and immune health are closely linked.
How do you improve the health of your gut?
Here are a few tips:
- Eat a diverse range of plant-based foods – each microbe in your gut requires different nutrients from a variety of plants
- Consume fermented foods – these contain probiotics that boost the good bacteria in your gut
- Take probiotic and prebiotic supplements – to balance out the good and bad bacteria in your gut
- Cut back on artificial sweeteners – these negatively impact the good bacteria in your gut
- Choose whole grains whenever possible – these promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut
- Eat more polyphenols – these compounds reduce inflammation while increasing the quantity of several strains of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Foods such as dark chocolate, red grapes, green tea and blueberries are high in polyphenols
- Avoid antibiotics if possible – these are known for killing the good bacteria in the gut
It is common for people to not feel quite as thirsty in the winter, and there is a reason for this…
When your body experiences cold temperatures, blood flow decreases, as this enables your body to keep more heat preserved at its core. This then sends a signal to your brain that you are fully hydrated, even though your kidneys are still excreting the same amount of water they always do.
The result of this is dehydration – something that is surprisingly common in the winter months.
Even if you don’t feel very thirsty, it is important to keep your body well-hydrated in the winter.
Cold water will likely not seem quite as appealing as it did in the summer, but there are plenty of winter-friendly drinks to turn to instead. Try warm teas and warm fruit juices instead.
Pay Attention to Indoor Air
You will probably be spending more time indoors in the winter, and this means breathing in more indoor air.
How does indoor air differ from outdoor air?
There are so many toxins within the average home that end up circulating through the air. These come from several different sources, be it cooking fumes, smoke from a fire or candle, chemical cleaners and more.
Due to the artificial heating used during the winter, indoor air can also actually be drier than outdoor air, which is not only dehydrating for your body, but also your skin.
What can you do about all of this?
Well, let’s begin with the toxins in indoor air. ..
The best way to deal with these is by investing in an air purifier. These basically collect up the toxins in a room, preventing you from breathing them in. Some models even identify which toxins they have collected, meaning that you know exactly what the air in your home contains.
If you don’t want an air purifier, there are certain indoor plants that can do the same job when it comes to cleaning toxins out of the air. Try placing a few pots of the following plants around your home:
- Spider plant
- Snake plant
- Boston Fern
- Ficus/ Weeping Fig
- Peace Lily
- Bamboo Palm
How many plants do you actually need in order for the air to be cleaner?
It is hard to say, but experts recommend two medium to large sized plants per 100 square feet of indoor space.
When it comes to dryness…
A humidifier will help to counter this. These add moisture back into the air to raise humidity levels back up, not only benefiting your breathing but also your skin.
Consider Taking a Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D is key when it comes to keeping the teeth, muscles and bones healthy.
While vitamin D can be found in certain foods, the majority of your body’s vitamin D usually comes from exposure to sunlight. When your skin is in direct contact with the sun’s UVB rays, your body is able to produce vitamin D.
However, this changes in the winter…
In many parts of the world, winter sunlight simply doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation. This may be great news when it comes to skin health, but not so good when it comes to vitamin D, as your body then relies on food sources to obtain sufficient amounts of this vitamin.
Which foods can vitamin D be found in?
Good sources include:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods
However, it is generally quite difficult to obtain all the vitamin D your body needs through your diet alone, which is why many experts are now recommending people take a vitamin D supplement in the winter.
How do you go about choosing a vitamin D supplement?
Ideally, you want to be taking vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, at a dosage of between 400 to 800 IU a day. Vitamin D3 is the form of the vitamin that the body stores, making this the most effective form to take as a supplement.
Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, make sure that you take your supplement along with a healthy fat, such as extra virgin olive oil or some avocado slices, as this will ensure that your body is able to absorb the vitamin.
Are you vegan?
If so, make sure that your supplement has come from a plant-based source, as many vitamin D supplements are derived from animal products. You may need to opt for D2 instead of D3 if you can’t find a vegan form of D3.
Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so you will need to do quite a bit of research on your preferred brands before deciding which one to buy.
You may not realize it, but your body can really do with some extra help over the winter months. From your diet to your exercise to your environment, there are so many steps that you can take to properly care for your body this winter, and you will no doubt notice your health beginning to really thrive once you incorporate all of the above tips into your life.