Winter Weather: Help Your Body Adjust, Manage, Thrive

There is much to do, even in colder weather

By Barbara Pierce

Winter isn’t just a shock to nature. Our minds and bodies also need to transition to the colder weather, snowstorms and shorter days. January and February are the heaviest months for snow.

Winter temperatures average below freezing during January and February. The sunny days and budding flowers of spring seem like a distant dream.

This takes a toll on our minds and bodies. It’s common to experience a variety of side effects, from winter blues and trouble sleeping to achy muscles and joints and rough, dry skin. Of course, winter is always a hotbed for cold and flu viruses. And, the coronavirus that just won’t go away.

Unlike animals that grow thicker fur and hibernate during winter, we must continue to work and handle our regular responsibilities.

Heidi Baldwin is the practice manager at Integrative Medicine of Central New York in Chittenango. She is an internally board-certified integrative nutrition holistic health coach.
Heidi Baldwin is the practice manager at Integrative Medicine of Central New York in Chittenango. She is an internally board-certified integrative nutrition holistic health coach.

The good news? There are simple ways you can help your body adjust, manage, even thrive, despite the freezing weather and snow.

Heidi Baldwin, holistic health coach, and physician Heidi Puc, founder of Integrative Medicine of Central New York in Chittenango, offer some tips to boost your immune system and stay healthy through these winter months.

• Eat healthy: Boost your immune system by eating a balanced, healthy diet to help your body fight off illness. “Eat wholesome foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables daily,” said Baldwin.

“Minimize or eliminate sugar and processed foods,” Baldwin added. Your body might crave refined sugar and processed carbs, but binge eating will cause weight gain, blood pressure imbalances, energy crashes, and digestive upset. Fortunately, here is a reputable place like Clementine St. Louis which is a residential treatment program exclusively for adolescents of all genders seeking eating disorder treatment.

Baldwin recommends eating warm or cooked foods during the colder months. “Baked apples with cinnamon are a nice way to get daily fruit, and the cinnamon helps with blood sugar control and inflammation,” she said. “Also, as well, Asian mushrooms and spices/herbs such as turmeric, garlic, onion, paprika and oregano.”

Spices and herbs contribute to our health just as much as fruits and vegetables, providing anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

“Take immune boosting supplements such as vitamins C, D, B complex, zinc, and selenium,” said Baldwin. They support your immune system.

“Getting these nutrients in food is also important,” she explained. They can be found in citrus (oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruits), vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, and garlic, leafy greens like spinach or kale, and poultry and shellfish.

There are a lot of vitamins your body needs to function properly and to keep your immune system strong. Winter is a terrible time for catching and spreading viruses, with people being indoors most of the time. The best way to resist illness is to ensure that your immune system has the support it needs to stay strong and fight off germs.

• Get plenty of sleep: Baldwin recommends. Adults need roughly seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This varies from person to person, but if you regularly get less than seven hours of sleep per night, this may weaken your immune system, because sleep deprivation keeps the immune system from building up protective substances like antibodies.

“Be sure to eliminate blue light exposure before bed,” added Baldwin. To encourage a restful sleep, unplug from electronic devices early in the evening, and take the time to relax and unwind as much as possible to encourage the required hours of sleep each night. Baldwin also recommends unplugging your Wi-Fi at night for a more restful sleep.

• Stay active: “Exercise and get outside,” recommended Baldwin. “Regular daily exercise is important for staying healthy year-round, but especially during the winter months when we naturally move our bodies less than in the warmer months.”

Moderate exercise is an excellent way to support your immune system.

“Getting outside in the fresh air is equally important, so getting outside to enjoy activities like hiking, snow shoeing or skiing are good options,” she added.

Or, go outside for a walk or run. Doing something active outdoors will keep your blood pumping and encourage warmth. Embrace the winter weather instead of locking yourself inside. Get outside in the fresh snow to make snow angels and snowmen with your children or go on a hike to explore the winter wonderland with family or friends. By exercising with friends, you’re more likely to stick to it.

By exercising regularly, you’ll greatly improve your mood and energy and prevent or reduce your winter-associated blues. Exercising regularly also strengthens your immune system. It may be difficult to stick to regular exercise in winter, but the benefits are too great to ignore.

Be sure you bundle up to be outside for a few hours. Frostbite can occur within minutes in extremely cold temperatures and no one enjoys being outside when they’re shivering the whole time.

“Use daily meditation or other forms of relaxation to boost natural killer cells,” suggested Baldwin. Humor also boosts natural killer cell activity. Enjoy spending time with funny people! Enjoying activities that you have a passion for can also strengthen your immune system.