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Staying Healthy This Winter

When we look outside, we see that nature has gone inwards. Whether it's the trees losing their leaves to make room for new ones or animals having filled their bellies and hibernating for the cold, winter months.

However, as humans, we've decided to detour from nature and go outwards during the winter months with the holidays. Unfortunately, this winter, not only do we have to navigate going against nature by going outwards with socializing, family trips, etc. for the holidays, but we are still dealing with a pandemic.

So how do we make sure to stay healthy during the winter months?

The first thing we need to do is to take stock of where we are, physically and mentally. Are we stressed, burnt out or on the cusp of being burned out? Knowing how we are doing is just as important as knowing what to do!

And how do we know if we already are stressed or burned out, which leaves us more vulnerable to becoming overwhelmed and even sick during the holiday season? If we are dealing with chronic stress, we might notice changes including: trouble staying or falling asleep, restlessness, irritable or easily triggered, fatigue or tired, digestive issues, headaches, muscular tension and feelings of anxiety or panic. If we are starting to dip into burnout, we might experience the above symptoms in addition to: feelings of apathy or lack of motivation, extreme fatigue (even after sleep), trouble focusing or concentrating, thinning or loss of hair, or weight issues.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, then please consider following some of the recommendations below in addition to going in to see either your primary care physician or a licensed acupuncturist.

For everyone though, the following are helpful tips for staying healthy this winter season:

  1. Dietary Therapy: With the colder weather, increasing your intake of warm, cooked foods is a must. Start with getting at least ONE cooked meal in per day. Why cooked foods? They are easier to break down and have their nutrients utilized by the body. This allows our body to utilize those nutrients easily and expend our energy elsewhere. Some good foods to incorporate include root vegetables (think sweet potatoes and yams, mushrooms, squash, as well as legumes). Winter corresponds with the color white in Chinese medicine so incorporating cooked 'white' foods is often recommended as well, such as tofu (like miso soup!), bone broth, turnups, and rice.

  2. Supplementation: Sometimes we need supplements, even if we are healthy eaters. Some supplements that are great for keeping us healthy in the colder weather include Vitamin C, D and Zinc (every day) in addition to quercetin, bromelain and N.A.C. which have been shown effective at boosting respiratory health. Chinese medicine is also a fan of Huang Qi or Astragalus.

  3. Enriching Your Yin: Even though a lot of us have social obligations during the holiday season, we need to make sure that we find time to 'go inwards' and enrich our yin (or inward) energy. Some recommendations for building our yin include: meditation, mindfulness or qi gong, gentle exercises such as walking and stretching or yoga, decreasing stimulating food (think really hot spices), nourishing with clean, dark food and making time to rest the body and mind - whether that's scheduling in 15 minutes a day to take a mental break or making it a resolution to get to bed 30 minutes earlier each night during the winter. I personally like to wake and eat with the sun and go to sleep and stop eating while it's dark out; this often shows up as me both getting up and eating earlier, while having my last meal and going to bed earlier in turn. In other words, I am trying my best to nourish my yin and follow the flow of nature.

  4. Get your acupuncture appointments in. As has already been mentioned in other posts, acupuncture has been proven effective in boosting the immune system, including the activation of our kill T-cells and macrophages in addition to an increase in white and red blood cells for up to 72 hours at a time. The more appointments you get, the more boosted your immune system will be. And if you do get sick? Acupuncture can help minimize your symptoms and kick the cold to the curb quicker, while cupping and/or scraping are great therapies for helping to move mucus and infections out of the throat and chest. Adding in certain foods (such as those mentioned above) as well as Chinese herbal formulas (based upon your particular signs and symptoms) can help tremendously as well.

In addition, I would always recommend keeping your feet warm and wearing socks, even when you're inside as well as making sure to keep your hydration up. If you are more anxious or stressed, mint, lemon balm and passionflower are great herbal teas to try. If you are feeling lethargic, more warming teas like ginger, cinnamon and cardamom are great herbal teas to add in.

Any questions? Feel free to reach out!

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