Michigan Natural Winter Health Tips from a Certified Naturopath

By Dr. Amy Jo Howard

Along with winter comes cold, windy weather, snow, dreary days, and lots of immune system challenges.  It seems like when we take that turn into winter, everyone starts coming down with something:  runny noses, congestion, coughs, sneezing, fevers, and more.  What’s important to know is that germs seek environments and conditions that are conducive to their growth.  This means that if you focus on natural health and keeping your immune system strong, then those germs won’t even want to bother with you.  Here are some winter health tips to help you remain healthy through these frigid months:

woman blowing nose

Eat warm, nourishing foods.  To state the obvious, winter is cold.  To keep your own body’s thermostat up during the cold weather, you will want to eat warm, nourishing foods.  Focus on bone broths, soup, and plenty of steamed vegetables.

Water.  Don’t forget to drink your water.  Because it is cold outside, many people turn to coffee or other warm (often, sugar filled) drinks and neglect their water, which is terrible for maintaining winter health.  You still need to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day to function; otherwise, your body will dehydrate and cause symptoms like dry skin, constipation, low energy, etc.  How about warm water with a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon to hydrate you?

Avoid sugar.  By now, most of us know that sugar is harmful to the body.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that we take that to heart and really weed out all of the sources of sugar in our daily diet.  In considering your immune health, keep in mind that sugar does deplete the body of key nutrients, including vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium.  Further, it upsets the insulin-cortisol balance, creating additional stress for the body.  These deficiencies and imbalances will negatively impact immune health.  So, especially during the holiday season, try to keep your sugar intake in check.

Exercise.  Wintry weather can hamper outdoor activities, so many people find that they slack off on exercising throughout the winter months – don’t! Maintaining a solid work-out routine is one the best winter health tips we can give you. Regular exercise has been shown to prevent or manage health conditions, as well as improve mood, boost energy, promote better sleep and is just all-around great for maintaining natural health.  Plus, activating the lymphatic system helps eliminate toxins from the body.  So, find an activity that you can continue to do, and keep moving!

Vitamin C.  This amazing vitamin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is also an excellent immune booster and has been shown to be effective in preventing and shortening the duration of illnesses.  Because it is water soluble, it can be taken to improve bowel tolerance.  Aim for at least 3,000-5,000mg daily.

Probiotic.  Here’s a daily healthy living tip, you should probably be taking a probiotic year-round.  If you are not, though, winter would be a great time to boost the friendly bacteria in your intestinal tract to keep your immune system healthy.

VS-C.  This is a Chinese herbal blend from Nature’s Sunshine, and it is the go-to immune booster and anti-viral formula.  This can be taken all through the winter months or especially if you feel like you’re coming down with something or if you notice everyone around you is starting to get sick.

Thieves essential oil.  This oil blend from Young Living is dynamite!  Containing the oils of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary, it is great for the immune system and those oils have been historically noted as having anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-infectious properties.

Elderberry.  This herb has antioxidant properties that boost the immune system and help against bacterial and viral infections.  There are studies that have shown it shortens the duration of the flu and lessens its symptoms.

Vitamin D3.  Living in Michigan, our vitamin D3 levels often wane during the winter because our exposure to sunlight decreases.  This vitamin has a host of benefits, including the ability to help fight cold and flu infections because it regulates the expression of genes that influence the immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.

Mushrooms.  Medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, maitake, and chaga, stimulate the activity of immune cells in the body and help to bolster the body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Avoid commercial hand sanitizers.  Yes, sanitization is healthy, but not when the products contain chemicals that are foreign to your body, kill off the natural bacteria that aid your immune system and create antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.  This defeats the entire purpose.  Choose an essential oil that you like and mix it with water to create your own sanitizing spray or mix it with a natural lotion; this is much healthier and smells oh-so-good!

Natural Health Tips in Michigan

To sum it up: eat plenty of natural, nourishing foods, drink lots of water, avoid harmful/excess sugars, exercise daily, take natural vitamins and herbal supplements and keep your hands clean. Doing these things will cut down on your chances of catching the dreaded winter cold or flu. The biggest daily healthy living tip of all is to follow most of these tips all year round and learn to listen to your body, so that you have a healthy immune system no matter what season it is!