Keeping well through winter
Joshua takes a look at some of the things you can do to keep yourself healthy and strong, and help fight infection through the autumn and winter months.
1. Eat for your lungs!
This is always important at this time of year, as autumn turns towards winter. In Chinese medicine, everything you eat and drink has a part to play in your health. The British Lung Foundation also recommends you eat a balanced, nutritious and varied diet, and maintain a healthy body weight.
Keeping the lungs healthy plays a huge part in keeping your immune system strong and helping you recover faster from seasonal infections such as colds and flu. Never has this been more pertinent, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip. And if you have an existing lung condition, eating well is especially important.
So what should you eat?
Where possible, always eat foods that are fresh and in season. In Chinese Medicine, ‘white’ or white-centred foods are considered lung-strengthening so vegetables such as cauliflower, potato, turnip, parsnip, onion and garlic, fruits such as apples and pears, and seeds, nuts and grains such as rice and oats, almonds, sesame seeds and white peppercorns – but absolutely NOT white flour and sugar which can actively deplete the immune system. Fermented foods can also help support intestinal flora and boost immune health.
2. We hardly need say it but keep toasty, inside and out!
Eating cold and icy foods during the winter months will lower your body temperature, so aim to drink warm water and herbal teas to keep your body hydrated. Fresh mint or peppermint tea is good for digestion and great at the first signs of a cough or cold for pushing it out of the body. Warm food too is better for the system – however much you love your salads.
Indoors and out, wear layers. And, as many of my clients will tell you, I always advise wearing a scarf. In terms of the acupuncture meridians, there are important Lung points running along the back of the neck: keep them warm and you will help keep your immune system strong. Outdoors, a hat and gloves will keep your extremities warm and preserve heat in the body.
3. Walk, practise meditation and don’t forget to breathe!
Exercising gently, moving and stretching – even better if it’s outdoors – helps keeps the chi (your vital life force) moving, helping the systems of our body to work at their optimum. If you’ve never tried before, why not try a gentle yoga class, Tai Chi or Qi Gong, something new to stimulate the mind, move the body and energise the spirit.
Practising meditation – or ‘mindfulness’ – even for just five minutes a day can help support your health and even more so when the focus is on your breath. Just find yourself a comfortable position, seated or lying, bring your hands to your belly, and focus on breathing in and out through the nose. Once you’ve established a rhythm, feel how your belly rises with the inhale and falls away with the outbreath and keep your attention there. Simple.
4. Boosting your vitamin intake will help boost you immune system!
We should be able to get most of our daily requirements through the food we eat, but sometimes our diet needs a helping hand, especially if we’ve been cooped up indoors for a long time. The NHS has a great resource here, which details all the vitamins and minerals your body uses, but Vitamins C and D are especially important.
Vitamin C can help you fight off viruses, colds and respiratory infections. For adults, the recommended daily amount is 40 milligrams a day. Vitamin D3 is believed to help reduce inflammation, and fight bacteria and viruses and keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy. During the summer months, we can get our Vitamin D outside, through the skin’s exposure to the sun, but if you’ve spent more time than usual indoors this year – whether you’ve been actively shielding or not – your personal stocks might be depleted.
5. Make sure you follow NHS advice to keep yourself safe and avoid spreading the coronavirus. Remember, you can spread the virus even if you do not have symptoms.
- Stay at least three steps (two metres) away from anyone you do not live with – or anyone not in your ‘support bubble’
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- If you’ve been out and about, always wash your hands as soon as you get home
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve – not your hands – when you cough or sneeze. Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
6. Finally, be well and stay safe!
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