Beating the winter blues and flu

Beating the winter blues and flu

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OK, I have to admit that getting an extra hour’s sleep when the clocks went back was a real bonus. What this also means, though, is winter is not far away (although a couple of days recently seem to think it’s already here!).

I love autumn with the cooler days to get out into the garden and the wonderful colours we have here in the hills but it does also mean we’ll shortly start to spend more time indoors, out of the sun and in close proximity to those who may be a bit sniffly. While this can be offset to a degree with a hot chocolate and a good book, for some people, the lack of sun can be a real problem as they have something called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you have SAD then you suffer severe depression as the days get darker and shorter. A lesser version of this is the winter blues. You may want to eat more comfort food (see hot chocolate above), have difficulty getting motivated and hit a bit of a general slump. Unfortunately, the change in diet and close proximity to people with colds and flu mean we will probably also catch it as our immune system suffers as well.

All is not lost though. There are a few simple things we can do to offset this.

Limit your intake of sugary foods – tempting as it is to snuggle up on the sofa with a chocolate bar on a cold night you’re doing your immune system no good. Sugar impairs the function of white blood cells – the ones that fight the infection. It also affects your blood glucose giving you a bit of a boost but then dropping your energy levels so you feel even less motivated.

Get out and about in our beautiful hills – recent research has found that the Japanese habit of “forest bathing” reduces the stress hormones, boosts immunity and improves feeling of wellbeing. Rug up and just take a walk, around 30-45 minutes, taking in the sights and sounds around you. The results last from a week to up to a month after.

Check your overall diet as you adjust from summer foods. There are some things that will really boost your immune system and your mood and are still healthy and tasty!

Mood boosters:
Oily fish – sardines, tuna, salmon;
Turkey, lean red meat;
Leafy green vegetables – lightly cooked;
Eggs; and
Dark chocolate (70%+) – yes, it is allowed but preferably dark and not
too much.

Immune boosters:
Berries, citrus fruits, kiwifruit;
Red peppers;
Leafy green vegetables – lightly cooked;
Green tea;
Sunflower seeds and Poultry.

So start your day with a lovely oat porridge with bananas and berries, lunch on chicken soup full of vegetables and end the day with some salmon or tuna with stir fried leafy greens. Wash it all down with a green tea and some nuts and fruit for snacks and you’ll come through winter with a smile on your face and all ready for spring.