The Winter seasons brings with it many changes to our body's natural physiological function.
Essentially, there's a slowing of general digestion, metabolism and circulation, as the body seeks to retain nutrients, energy and warmth.
While this natural slowing was a survival mechanism for our ancestors, it can create some unwanted changes to our normal healthy selves. These may include:
Low energy/ fatigue
Do you notice more of this in Winter? The good news is that with a few seasonal tweaks, you can keep your body running like a well-oiled machine.
Here are 5 really simple things you can (and should!) do every Winter to optimise your health:
1. Eat Seasonal Foods
It's pretty amazing that Mother Nature provides exactly the nutrients your body needs to work with the season. Winter foods, including all citrus fruits will give you a boost of vitamin C for healthy immune function. Lemon, especially is good for digestive fluids to help break down incoming foods. The red, yellow and dark leafy vegetables of winter provide Vitamins A, C and E for more immune support and all are rich in prebiotic fibres that support lower bowel health, gut bacteria and better bowel movements. Eat up!
2. Support digestion
The foods above are a great start. Now add specific foods to keep your digestive fire burning. Pickled vegetables help produce digestive enzymes and add beneficial bacteria (probiotics) to your gut. Kiwi fruit, lemon and ginger are winter foods that increase digestive enzymes and boost food breakdown. Kiwi with skin on is an amazing pre-biotic fibre for healthy gut bacteria and bowel movements. Other great Winter prebiotic foods are pumpkin, sweet potato, apples, pears oats (porridge). Probiotics are excellent as they support digestive enzymes as well as proper fermentation of food and elimination of waste. Try quality (sugar free) yoghurts, kefir, kimchi, kombucha.
3. Cook your food well
What you eat matters and how you cook does too. Eating well cooked or soaked foods is healthier as the long cooking process breaks down the foods, so your digestive system has less work to do. Stews, soups and slow cooked meals (including curries) are my favourites because they don't just make digestion easier, they also retain nutrients (in the liquid) and make them more available to absorb. Traditional cooking wisdom across the globe features slower cooking methods in winter to amplify health.
4. Add warming spices
Warming spices have so many health benefits because they are highly anti-inflammatory with antibacterial, antiviral and potent antioxidant properties. These spices support healthy circulation, reduce systemic inflammation and boost digestive function and gut health. Healthy circulation is vital in Winter to ensure nutrients reach the peripheries of the body for movement, joint, tissue and arterial health. These spices maintain healthy gut bacteria which in turn supports digestion, bowel movement, immune health and so on. In yoga, we refer to these foods as stimulating agni - digestive fire. Use black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, star anise.
5. Maintain movement
The final piece of the puzzle is movement. Not 1 hour at the gym every day, but consistent, daily movement at regular intervals through the day. This type of movement boosts winter health in every way. Light, daily, consistent exercise will:
Assist thermal regulation so your body doesn't have to work so hard to stay warm
Support digestive flow
Assist healthy bowel movements
Maintain healthy mobility and flexibility
These 5 strategies are easy add-ins to your daily routine that will powerfully support better winter health.
Individually, each will improve winter health concerns from constipation to indigestion, weight gain, low energy and reduced mobility. Together of course, they are much more potent. How many you can add to your life this Winter?
Watch this space for more Winter health tips, and some great Winter recipes coming soon too!