Oh, the joys of winter. Trips to the mountains. Cozy evenings by the fire. Finally wearing your favorite down jacket. And, everyone in the office coughing as they walk past your desk. We know, that last one is anything but a joy…And we also know that sinking feeling as you realize you’ve been exposed to a whole host of germs in an enclosed environment and you really don’t want to get sick right now. But what can you do when everyone around you is getting sick?
We decided to check in with Drs. Shakha Gillin and Scott Gillin from The Warrior Clinic — two doctors who strongly believe you have the power to take your health into your own hands — to hear their top tips for staying healthy this winter. Here’s what they had to say.
EAT AND DRINK WITH HEALTH IN MIND
Your diet is a huge factor in staying healthy! We don’t recommend anything particularly different during the winter — just to stick to a healthy eating plan. This means eating real food, and avoiding processed foods while limiting sugar, eating healthy fats, and not eating in excess. Some of the best foods for boosting the immune system are green leafy vegetables, especially spinach. These are actually much higher in Vitamin C than citrus. Broccoli and colorful vegetables like peppers are also very beneficial. Also, remember that while fruit juice is advertised as being good for you, the truth it’s more like the equivalent of injecting sugar. The sugar, in turn, creates inflammation in the body. We recommend hydrating with healthier drinks like bone broth, which is known to strengthen the intestinal lining, providing a barrier to infection.
OPTIMIZE YOUR SLEEP SO YOUR BODY CAN TAKE OUT THE TRASH
Sleep is also important in keeping the body protected against infections. When it comes to boosting immunity, a minimum of eight hours is the amount found to be necessary in studies. The glymphatic system is the waste clearance system of the central nervous system, and it is regulated during sleep. (To learn more about the glymphatic system, check out this article.) During sleep, the body’s amount of stress hormones are reduced, and the immune system is boosted. Don’t underestimate its power!
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should cosy up inside and postpone exercise until Spring. In fact, remaining active is important for several reasons… Physical activity actually lowers stress levels and reduces inflammation. Exercise also improves the circulation of white blood cells which allow them to attack foreign substances before an infection can become established. So dig out that rain jacket, and get outside! One caveat to this rule: If you are sick, assess how you feel. If you are too tired, then rest is best.
SUPPLEMENT WITH NATURE’S OWN REMEDIES
Some people feel you should take a multivitamin or vitamin C, D, or E to boost immunity, but studies on the benefits of supplements are mixed. Some natural alternatives to supplements that we love (and that are known to boost immunity while decreasing infection) are tumeric, green tea, garlic, and ginger.
MAKE GOOD CHOICES
It might sound obvious, but there are a few simple things you can do to stay healthy even when those around you are dropping like flies. If you’re already following all the advice above, then make sure you are also practicing good hygiene. This includes washing your hands, covering your mouth when coughing, staying home if you’re sick, and using an alcohol-based hand cleaner. Respiratory germs are passed on in respiratory droplets and saliva, so stay away from sick people, don’t touch your face, and don’t touch everything around you. Finally, both stress and alcohol have been shown to decrease immunity, so be mindful about stressors in your life and switch out the alcoholic drink for something more healthier (hello, bone broth!) if you feel you might be coming down with something.