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Winter Wellness: 14 Tips to Stay Healthy During Winter

Updated: Jan 2

Staying healthy during the winter months can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. By following some simple tips and taking steps to protect yourself from cold weather-related illnesses, you can make sure that your body stays in tip-top shape throughout the colder months. Here are 14 tips to stay healthy during winter.


Winter Wellness: 14 Tips to Stay Healthy During Winter, Dr Deb Brunt, Otepoti Integrative Health

Preventing colds and flu

1. Immune Boosting Foods


Eat nutrient-rich foods. Healthy eating incudes a balanced diet of fresh fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains can help boost your immunity and keep you healthy.


Additionally 2 studies showed that people consuming a plant-based diet had a 9 percent lower risk of having a covid-19 infection and 43% less likely to have a severe infection. Those on plant-based diets consume a wide variety of plant foods containing anti-oxidants and immune boosting vitamins such as vitamins C and phytonutrients. Foods to include in your winter wellness kit includes a good stock of:

  • citrus fruits

  • ginger

  • garlic,

  • chilli,

  • fermented foods such as saurkraut and kimchi

  • turmeric

  • mushrooms

  • leafy greens

  • berries

My favourite winter warming recipes are listed below in the recovery section.



9 fresh fruit and vegetables that boost the immune system.


2. Consume fish regularly or supplement with fish oil


Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help to support healthy immune function. If you don't eat enough fish then look for a supplement with fish oil or Krill oil.


3. Get enough vitamin D


Spending time in the sun helps your body create Vitamin D, which can help boost your immune system, and help it to stay on top of any respiratory viruses that come your way. You may need to take a supplement to make sure you’re getting enough of this essential vitamin. For example vitamin D supplementation is a good idea to support immune function if;

  • you’re not able to get outside during sunlight hours,

  • have more melanin pigment in your skin or

  • you live where the UV does not get high enough to generate vitamin D (such as south of Christchurch in New Zealand).


4. Ensure Your Home is Healthy


Your home in winter needs to support your health and wellbeing. The following are healthy home essentials.

Enable Fresh Air Circulation


Open windows and doors for a few minutes each day to let in more fresh, oxygen-rich air to help flush out the stale, stuffy indoor air, if you do not have a ventilation system built into your home. Additionally you can use an air purifier which will also remove airborne allergens such as dust mites, mould spores and pollens.


Eliminate Mould and Mildew


The damp, cold winter months can create the perfect environment for mould to form in your home. Regularly check all areas of the house for any signs of water damage or mould growth and address it quickly if found. Repair leaks, and ventilate bathrooms and cooking areas. Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air and be sure to regularly wipe down surfaces with a solution of water and vinegar.


Insulate For Warmth


Proper insulation and ventilation will help to keep your home at a consistent temperature throughout the winter months. Invest in thermal curtains, double glazing, underfloor and in ceiling insulation, thicker rugs and blankets for extra warmth.


5.Exercise Regularly:


Getting regular exercise helps improve circulation and boosts immunity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity 4-5 times per week to stay healthy and fit and reduce your risk of cold and flus.


6. Cold Water Therapy and Increased Immune Function


Cold water swimming, cold water bathing and cold showers can be a great way to boost your immune system. These activities increase the production of white blood cells, which help fight off infection.


After your regular shower try turning the temperature down and having a cold shower for 30 seconds. This has been shown to boost the immune function and reduce time needed away from work due to illness by 30 percent.



tips for winter wellness


7. Flu Vaccination and Covid-19 Vaccination


Get your flu vaccine. Protect yourself from the flu by getting a yearly vaccination. It’s important to get it early, as it takes two weeks for immunity to reach its peak. In New Zealand the flu vaccine is usually available from mid-march each year.


Flu vaccines are available free in New Zealand for people most at risk including:

  • children aged 6 months to 12 years old

  • people aged 65 and over

  • pregnant people

  • Māori and Pacific people over 55

  • people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and serious asthma

  • people with significant mental illness such as schizophrenia or those currently accessing mental health services.

If you are not eligible to a free flu vaccine you can still get one at your medical practice or a local pharmacy for a small fee.

Covid-19 boosters are still being recommended in New Zealand and you can find out if you're eligible here.


8. Handwashing


Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been outside or in contact with other people and before you prepare food or eat. This simple measure can help reduce the spread of many illnesses.

9. Manage your stress


Stress can weaken the immune system and put extra strain on your body. There are many ways to reduce and manage stress in healthy ways. Try yoga, meditation, or other relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, box breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation to help manage stress.


Walking and spending time in nature is another important way to lower stress levels.


Recovering quickly from winter illness.


10. Stay hydrated


Staying hydrated is important all year round, but even more so in the winter when the air is dry and cold and we spend a lot of time indoors breathing air with less ventilation and air conditioning. When you are unwell take extra care to stay well hydrated as dehydration will slow your recovery. You may lose more water than normal due to sweating with fevers.


11. Warm tea & Soups


Warm fluids such as broths, teas, soups and herbal tonics help to keep hydrated and provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support your body’s natural healing abilities. Here are a few of my favourite recipes for winter wellbeing:


1) Ginger, Lemon, Turmeric & Honey Tea


This warming tea contains vitamin C and is great for boosting immunity and soothing dry/sore throats.


Winter Wellness: 14 Tips to Stay Healthy During Winter, Dr Deb Brunt, Otepoti Integrative Health

Put 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger,

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder and

1 teaspoon of honey into a mug.


Fill with hot water (not boiling) and stir until ingredients dissolve, then sip as needed.

2) Immune-boosting Soup


Heat up a pot of vegetable or chicken broth.


Add in lots of whole, crushed garlic cloves, onion, carrots & celery - including the leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.

For added nutrition add you favourite seaweeds and mushrooms.

Add fresh herbs such as sage, thyme and oregano and some green veg such as kale or spinach leaves.

Add a dash of chilli and a tsp of turmeric.


For some added protein add red lentils or cooked chicken breast

Simmer for another 5 minutes until ingredients are cooked through and add salt and cracked pepper to taste.

Serve with your favourite crusty bread such as sourdough or rye bread.


Winter Wellness: 14 Tips to Stay Healthy During Winter, Dr Deb Brunt, Otepoti Integrative Health

12. Get adequate rest and sleep


Adequate restful sleep helps to support your body in its fight against illness, and helps you recover more quickly. Give yourself plenty of chances to catch up on sleep when feeling unwell or recovering from the flu or cold.

If you are having a disturbed sleep due to coughing or a sore throat, keep your favourite immune boosting warm drink in a thermal bottle/cup close to bed. Also make sure you take the time to catch up on lost sleep during the day. Don't rush back to work and responsibilities until you are feeling significantly better or your recovery could just drag out.


Seasonal affective disorder


A number of people start feeling the winter blues as the cold season kicks off. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s triggered by the changing of the seasons.


Lower vitamin D levels are associated with poor mental wellbeing, including depression and seasonal affective disorder, as well as fatigue and low energy, so this is another reason to ensure you supplement with vitamin D.

13. Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder


As the winter season is often accompanied by dimmer skies and lower light exposure, an important intervention to prevent and treat seasonal affective disorder is light therapy. You can get some light therapy by getting outside in the morning light.


Additional light exposure can come from a light box of at least 10,000 lux. This mimics the light from the sun and supports chemical changes in the brain that lift your mood and reduces fatigue.


It is recommended that the light box be used within the first hour of waking and is turned on for 20-30 minutes. The light source should be 16 to 24 inches (41 to 61 centimeters) from your face, but you do not need to be looking directly at the light.


14. Have Fun in Winter


Winter doesn't have to be a dreary time of the year. Create some winter rituals and traditions that you can look forward to and enjoy. Our family looks forward to the Dunedin Midwinter Carnival each year as well as a winter getaway to break up the long. cold winter months.


Get outside, explore nature, or book in for a hot spa, sauna or try new activities to keep your spirits up and stay healthy.


Enjoy winter hibernation mode, using winter to read, journal, and rest in anticipation for the more energetic spring and summer months.


By following these tips and taking good care of your body, you can happily make it through winter, protect yourself from illness during the cold winter months and enjoy yourself too.


As a Specialist GP, Dr Deb Brunt @ Ōtepoti Integrative Health loves to support all aspects of your health and wellbeing.


Dr Deb Brunt is a Specialist GP in New Zealand and also provides health coaching internationally to support the best health habits. She has a passion for supporting women adapt to their changing female physiology for optimum health through their whole lives.


Schedule a free discovery call with her to learn more.



References


Kim H, Rebholz CM, Hegde S, et al. Plant-based diets, pescatarian diets and COVID-19 severity: a population-based case-control study in six countries. BMJ Nutr Prev Health. 2021 Jun 7;4(1):257-266.


Immunise Health NZ: Flu Influenza Vaccine



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