Sunday, December 11, 2016

Staying Healthy This Season

I woke up this morning to 12 degrees of coldness outside, but to 60+ degrees of warmth inside, thanks to our lovely woodstove insert.  Such happiness, to not have to rely on 60 year old electric ceiling heat to try to keep up when outdoor temperatures are frigid.

But enough on that; that's not why I'm writing today.  I'm writing because of the excess of colds and flus that accompany winter.  I work in a school, with students aged 10-15 -- I am surrounded all day every day by a variety of bacteria and viruses and other bugs -- and here are my tips to staying mostly and relatively healthy.

1. Rest & relax
2. Hydrate
3. Get outside
4. Eat lots of vegetables (and fruits)
5. Take an elderberry tincture
6. Drink kefir
7. Find reasons to be happy

Rest & Relax
Winter is a stressful time, especially for northern folks.  The days are short and dark and cold, many layers are required to simply go outdoors.  A lot of jobs become more stressful in the late-fall, early-winter months, and holidays cause their own brand of anxiety.  It's an exhausting time.  In eras past, this time of year was one for sleeping and resting and finding time to *enjoy* the company of others.  Follow the lead of those long past and create regular downtime for yourself.  You'll be glad you did.  (Our pets are also master-relaxers, so if you don't believe in learning from history, you can learn from them.)

The body needs water to work, and the dry cold weather and the dry pumped heat of winter wreak havoc on physical body systems.  Hair dries, skin cracks, and the internal systems aren't immune either.  Drink plenty of water (add a piece of citrus to your water to improve taste and add natural electrolytes) and get a humidifier -- fight off those dehydration headaches and sinus issues and the exhaustion that comes with a body that doesn't have enough water.  Humidifying can also help with sleep, which is also part of that "resting and relaxing" bit above.

Get Outside
I'm not much of a winter person (neither are my chickens), and I quite frankly hate being cold.  But I find that I have been getting sick less often since we got a dog and I have to take the dog out, rain or shine or snow or wind.  I get at least 30 minutes of semi-active outdoor time every day with our dog, and I'm pretty sure that has boosted my immune system.
Getting outside will also help you get more sunlight into your eyes, which can help counter the "winter blues."

Eat Lots of Vegetables (and Fruits)
It's old news, if it's news at all, that vegetables and fruits are healthy for you.  They are full of vitamins and minerals and hydration (if fresh) -- all things that can help ward of colds and flus.  Plus, eating more simply helps your body have energy.  Fruits and vegetables make up close to 50% of the daily recommended food intake (if you take advice from MyPlate and others).
There are many ways to eat vegetables and fruits -- fresh, frozen, dried, smashed, steamed, cooked in soup, pickled -- just make sure they aren't over-processed, because then they loose a lot of their potency.  (We love salt-pickled veggies and a potato-cauliflower-spinach smash and fruit-veggie-kefir smoothies.)

Take an Elderberry Tincture
A couple of years ago, I took an online herbalism course.  I learned a lot about natural remedies to common problems, and elderberry was something that I learned could improve the immune system.  I started making (and taking) an elderberry tincture, and it has been great!  My body has more capability to ward those nasty bugs.  (My tincture is filtered water, vegetable glycerin, elderberry, echinacea, and apple cider vinegar.)

Drink Kefir
Kefir is one of those special things that not everyone takes to right away -- it's a kind of a sour, liquidy yogurt.  But, it's full of probiotics and bacteria that are good for your insides -- and a healthy gut helps make for a healthy body. 
Using kefir for smoothies by adding fruit and vegetables (banana, frozen mango, spinach for example) is a delicious way to drink kefir and get the extra fruits and vegetables recommended above.

Find Reasons to be Happy
The mind affects the body and vice versa -- a whole person is an amalgamation of complex systems that work together.  Finding something to be happy about or thankful for on a cold, dark, dreary winter day positively affects those systems -- it's like taking a different kind of vitamin!

One last tip:
Did you catch that cold already?...  Mince and crush some garlic, mix with honey, and take in tiny portions throughout the day.  The duration and symptoms of your cold should decrease.

Happy health!
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