Winter. In most of the United States, cold winds blow. Snow, sleet, and icy rain pound the rooftops and pavement. Streets are slushy. Shoes are wet. Clothes are cold and damp. Even in the Southwest, winter is a radically different season. Temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s in Southern California feel like the 30s to local residents. It’s definitely not warm.
In winter, the sun is low in the sky. Sunlight is angled downward and brings much less warmth. The sun goes down around 4:30 p.m., hours earlier than in spring and summer. You may wonder how to stay healthy and well in these challenging weather conditions. 1,2
You know that winter is approaching when “FLU SEASON” ads start blanketing the airwaves, even in Los Angeles and San Diego. It seems that every other commercial is for a cold medicine or flu remedy. Well, as an old chiropractor used to say, “When it’s going around, let it go around you”. Really. You don’t have to be sick, too, just because everyone else is. The key to having a fighting chance of staying well in the winter is to strengthen your immune system. There are a few simple ways to do this, but it’s important to be consistent.
1. Drink sufficient water each day. For most of us, this is a radical proposal, but it’s the most important nutritional advice that can be given. However much water you’re drinking each day, it’s probably not enough. If you’re not drinking enough water, your internal environment is toxic. This will, of course, make you a prime candidate for hosting unfriendly germs and viruses. A good standard is six to eight glasses each day. If you’re not drinking much now, start with two or three glasses, building up to six or eight glasses per day over the next four weeks.
2. Each week, make sure you’re eating consistently from all the major food groups: whole grains, fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry, and dairy products. If you’re not a dairy fan, make sure your daily calcium intake is sufficient (1000 mg per day). If you’re not a meat and poultry fan, make sure your diet contains “complete protein”, containing all the necessary amino acids.
3. Get enough rest. This is self-evident. Not getting enough sleep (seven hours is a good median) will tend to weaken your immune response.
4. Exercise for at least 30 minutes, four or five times per week.3 Even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends this amount of daily exercise. Exercise causes your body to produce endorphins, which promote a sensation of well-being. Additionally, many peer-reviewed scientific studies have demonstrated that exercise strengthens the immune response. Empiric observations suggest that those people who exercise consistently get sick a lot less than those who don’t.
5. Finally, a note of personal hygiene. Wash your hands several times a day. In New York City, for example, mass transit is a plentiful source of germs. Handrails, doors, and seats have all been recently touched by many other commuters. Likewise at the gym, the free weights and machines all contain microscopic residue of recent human contact. So, do your best to avoid touching your face, eyes, and lips with your hands during your gym time and travel time, and wash your hands frequently.
6. Visit your chiropractor. Chiropractic health care is one of the best treatment methods available for maintaining optimal levels of health and well-being. Visit your chiropractor regularly and make sure you’re performing at your peak!
1McGeehin MA, Mirabelli M: The potential impacts of climate variability and change on temperature-related morbidity and mortality in the United States. Environ Health Perspect
109(Suppl 2):185-189, 2001
2Molneddin R, et al: Seasonality of primary care utilization for respiratory diseases in Ontario: a time-series analysis. BMC Health Serv Res 28(8):160, 2008
3Tucker P, et al: Preventing paediatric obesity; recommendations from a community-based qualitative investigation. Obes Rev 7(3):251-260, 2006