Prepare for winter!

What you can do now to get ready for cold & flu season


Dr. Jen Tan
@AVogelUK


29 September 2017

Why you should prepare early

Getting ready for winter early is the best way to avoid colds and flu – or at least reduce their severity! Nobody wants to get sick over the festive break, so it’s important to make sure your immune system is strong and healthy now. And with colds and flu already making an appearance across the country, now is a great time to take a look at what you could be doing to prepare.

Check your diet 

As the colder weather comes around it can be easy to turn to comforting, stodgy foods instead of all the fresh, healthy food you’ve (hopefully!) been eating over the summer. However, now is the time you really should be focusing on eating well. So let’s look at a few of the basics:

Fruit and veg. You should still be aiming to eat at least 5 portions a day, and make sure these are varied – eating 5 apples a day doesn’t count! Brightly coloured fruit and veg are good ones to focus on in winter as they generally contain high levels of vitamin C. You should also include plenty of green leafy veg like broccoli, kale and spinach. Soups are a good way to get extra veg into your diet!

Complex carbohydrates. Eating plenty of complex carbs like brown rice, brown bread, wholewheat pasta, oats and starchy veg are great ways to keep you fuller for longer and keep unhealthy cravings at bay. They’ll provide lots of energy to get you through the day, and will support a healthy gut which, in turn, will look after your immune system.

Protein. You may need extra protein during the winter to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Try to incorporate lots of plant proteins like nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and tofu, as these are also full of vital vitamins and minerals.

Establish an exercise routine

Keeping active is important during the winter, so getting into the habit of exercising daily now will make it easier to continue once the weather turns colder. 

Exercise is especially important in the winter for a few reasons. First of all, it boosts circulation, helping to send immune cells all around the body to search out pathogens. It also helps to release feel-good hormones called endorphins, and this is important because many people experience low mood as the days become shorter, darker and colder.

Like your diet, I’d recommend a varied exercise routine. Running outside a few times a week is a great way to get some fresh air, whilst a half hour yoga practise each evening can help to stretch the legs and get the blood moving after a day at work. 

My ideal exercise plan for winter includes:

  • Running outdoors 2-3 times a week
  • 30 minutes yoga 4-5 days a week
  • Swimming or a sport like badminton or netball once a week

Sleep well

Sleep is vital for energy levels, mood and the immune system, which you’ll know are all incredibly important during the winter months. Get into the habit of going to bed a little bit earlier to ensure you get your all-important 8 hours sleep a day – you’ll definitely feel the benefit when the cold weather comes around!

If the cold weather stops you sleeping well, make sure to invest in a thicker duvet now, and make sure your windows are draught-free.

Vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies

During the winter it can be difficult to decide which vitamins, supplements or herbal remedies to take, as everything seems to be touted as vital during the winter! However, there are a few that I’d recommend you stock up on now so that you’ve got a good supply to get you through the winter.

Vitamin C. As you’ll probably know, vitamin C is vital for the immune system, and especially for the respiratory tract where colds and flu strike. Opt for vitamin C from a natural source, as this will be easier for the body to absorb and use. Avoid huge single doses, and opt instead for smaller doses throughout the day, as this vitamin is water soluble so the body can only absorb so much at once.

Our own Nature-C vitamin C supplement provides 100mg per tablet, and is sourced from plants such as Acerola, passion fruit, and blackcurrant. 

Vitamin D. Famous for its role in supporting bone health, vitamin D is also important for the immune system. During the winter you’re likely to become deficient due to the lack of sunlight, but this is, arguably, when you need it the most! Don’t be tempted to go for the really high doses – vitamin D fat soluble so will be stored up in your body, meaning that very high doses can actually be problematic. We recommend around 400IU a day. 

Zinc. When it comes to minerals, zinc is one of the most important for immune function. If you’ve got a healthy, varied diet with plenty of nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), then you should be getting enough. If not, a supplement might be a good idea.

Balance Mineral Drink. Our handy Balance Mineral Drink contains magnesium, potassium and calcium, as well as the all-important vitamin D and zinc. This drink is generally recommended for fatigue, which is a bonus during the sluggish winter months, but the inclusion of vitamin D and zinc makes it a great choice during winter. 

Echinacea. Last but definitely not least, I’d recommend getting your hands on some Echinacea now. Colds and flu can strike at any time – we’ve already had a couple about the office – and you don’t want to be caught without some. We recommend this to ease cold and flu symptoms, but many of our customers opt to take it throughout the winter months to keep their immune systems strong and healthy.

Wrap up warm!

Staying warm in winter is important to reduce your chances of falling ill. Invest in a warm jacket while you’re out an about, ensure your home is well insulated and free from draughts, and look out some cosy blankets to keep warm in the evening. 

If you find that your joint pain is getting worse due to the colder weather, make sure to have some Atrogel Arnica Gel handy.

Echinacea is a traditional herb known to aid the body in its fight against the symptoms of cold and flu. Supplements like Echinaforce help increase the body’s resistance to infection by strengthening the immune system, allowing the body to fight the misery of colds and flu.



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  • Lin's photo avatar
    Lin — 13.10.2017 10:06
    What can you suggest for a retired person that can’t run and has had some ill health?

    Reply

    • Jen Tan's photo avatar
      Jen Tan — 13.10.2017 11:01
      Yes, this is a reasonable question. I am a big fan of being outdoors as much as reasonably possible and if you can run, perhaps you may still be able to go for a gentle stroll around your neighbourhood or in a park. If you have less mobility, simple stretching and bending exercises can be done either sitting or standing whilst indoors - this will still get the muscles and circulation going. Have a look at this link: \http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/sitting-exercises-for-older-people.aspx

      Reply

  • Sally Mulholland's photo avatar
    Sally Mulholland — 07.10.2017 15:22
    Also I work with under 3s so any extra tips for keeping well esp during the winter

    Reply

    • Jen Tan's photo avatar
      Jen Tan — 09.10.2017 10:22
      Children under 3 tend to pick up and harbour more viruses than adults because their immune systems are immature. Regular hand-washing, avoiding touching your nose and face will be your first line of defence. If there are sniffles going round, use Echinaforce Throat spray - it was designed for treating sore throats but the spray also delivers the active ingredients directly to the throat where viral infections usually start.

      Reply

  • Sally Mulholland's photo avatar
    Sally Mulholland — 07.10.2017 15:20
    The exercise comments are really good It's so easy to snuck up and not go out each evening My job gives me loads of exercise so maybe my dance class once a week would be ok??

    Reply

    • Jen Tan's photo avatar
      Jen Tan — 09.10.2017 10:22
      Hello Sally. Yes, dancing is great exercise and increasingly popular. Choosing the right music to suit your mood and age also makes it versatile as a form of exercise - and you don't have to wait for your dance classes to come round for this exercise.

      Reply

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