Winter wellness: easy ways to look after yourself this flu season

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Look after yourself this festive season with these expert winter wellness tips.

While some of us look forward to the festive season with eager anticipation, many of us are bundled up beneath a pile of blankets, anxiously awaiting our next cold.

Last year, Britain saw its worst flu season in a decade. And although experts advise that there’s not yet any signs of a seasonal spike this year, colds and illnesses are still prevalent (as is probably evident from the lack of attendance in your office).

According to Jaspreet Randhawa, founder of Whole Body Pharmacist, there’s a number of reasons we’re more prone to getting sick in the winter months.

“Many viruses thrive in the colder weather and want to invade us as humans so they can continue to multiply,” says Jaspreet. “We also need to keep our vitamin D topped up in the winter as we have less time in the sunlight. Vitamin D helps the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses, so without it, our immune system is somewhat unprotected.”

If you’ve got a busy social calendar planned, getting sick is the last thing you need. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself better protected.

“They might seem fairly obvious, but factors such as maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated can help keep you feeling your best,” says Simone Thomas, founder and CEO of Simone Thomas Wellness. “It’s also important to practice good hygiene — frequent handwashing, using hand sanitisers and avoiding close proximity to those who are sick can reduce the risk of infection. Another obvious yet often overlooked factor is sleep. I’d recommend at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night to support your body’s immune function.”

In addition to the more familiar tips, as listed above, there are several holistic practices that Simone believes can boost your immune system.

Seven winter wellness hacks
Oil pulling

If you can find time in your routine, Simone recommends oil pulling for potential health benefits. “Swishing coconut or sesame oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes can promote oral hygiene and potentially overall health,” says Simone.

Oil pulling is a health ritual credited to ayurveda, an ancient Indian medical system that’s gained popularity in recent years. Although it can often be overlooked, oral health is directly related to the health of the whole body. Oil pulling may help to kill harmful bacteria in the mouth, while some ayurvedic practitioners claim that oil pulling can be particularly helpful in treating headaches and asthma.

Cold showers

Cold water therapy practices such as the Wim Hof Method have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Benefits can include improved circulation, increased metabolism, reduced inflammation, pain relief and improved immunity. If you don’t have the time for a cold-water swim, then switching to cold showers can be equally beneficial. In fact, one study originating in the Netherlands found that people who switched to cold showers for 30, 60 or 90 seconds over a 90-day period called in sick to work 29% less than people who didn’t switch to cold showers.

If you’re new to cold-water showers, Simone recommends introducing them into your routine gradually.

Sleep better

Sleep is crucial for overall health. If you’re struggling to drift off, Simone has a few strategies that may help.

“If you’re going to take one vitamin for sleep, it should be magnesium,” says Simone. “Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in muscle regulation and the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. With regular use, it may help you fall asleep more easily and experience deeper sleep. You can increase your magnesium intake through foods like nuts, seeds, leafy greens and whole grains. There are a lot of supplements on the market, too, but as with any supplement, seek advice from your healthcare provider before you start taking it, as it’s not suitable for everyone.”

Secondly, Simone stresses that a proper bedtime routine is equally as important. “Establish a consistent bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. This might include relaxation techniques, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath or practising gentle yoga stretches.”

Stay energised

Maintaining energy levels during the colder months can be a struggle for many, and in turn, can leave you feeling sluggish and lethargic. Simone recommends two vitamins to maintain your energy levels: iron and B vitamins.

“B vitamins, especially B12 and B6, play a crucial role in energy metabolism. They help your body convert food into energy. You can get these vitamins from a balanced diet that includes lean meats, fish, eggs, and fortified foods. Iron is vital for transporting oxygen throughout the body. An iron deficiency can lead to fatigue and reduced energy levels, especially in people with anaemia. If you suspect an iron deficiency, get your levels tested by a healthcare professional — it can make a real difference.”

Keep socialising

Not only can the colder months wreak havoc on our physical health, but our emotional health can take a hit, too. While it can be normal to feel the winter blues from time to time, if negative mood is affecting your day-to-day life, you might be suffering from SAD.

Interacting with friends and family, even when you want to stay in and watch your favourite comfort show, can do wonders for your mood.

Unfortunately, sometimes no matter what we do, we get sick. And what should we do when the cold or flu strikes, alongside binge-watching Bridget Jones and stocking up on ice cream? Dr Alexis Missick, at UK Meds, has some tips.

“Because you can’t cure it, getting over a cold is about managing and relieving the systems as best as you can,” says Dr Missick. “This usually means taking mild painkillers (such as paracetamol and ibuprofen), to help with common symptoms such as sore throats, aching muscles and headaches.”

“Alongside medicines, there are a number of ways you can aid a fast recovery. Stay hydrated with plenty of water or juice (steer clear of fizzy drinks or caffeine) and eat nutrient-rich foods that will help fuel your body and fight the infection. Try and get plenty of rest and consider steam solutions to relieve congestion.”

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