Tomorrow is the 1st of June and officially the first day of winter, despite it still being a comfortable 26 degrees here, many parts of the country have already experienced their first dumping of snow.
Have you ever wondered why the incidences of respiratory infections increase over winter, giving it the reputation of being the ‘Cold and Flu’ season? There are several contributing factors, but in a nutshell, we catch a cold when the conditions in the body are right for a virus to thrive. Every time we are confronted with stress, the body has to work harder to maintain homeostasis – “any automated process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival”; thus, challenging the immune system and creating the right conditions for a virus.
I always remember Nana telling me to put more clothes on or catch a cold and me left wondering why the Eskom’s never had colds…she was right. In winter, regardless of where you live, the temperature drops and our bodies compensate to keep warm; this creates a ‘stressor’.
When it is cooler most people reduce the amount of water they drink, this combined with reduced humidity and artificial heating can result in dehydration; this creates a ‘stressor’.
With the reduced levels of humidity viruses that are transmitted via droplets, as in coughing and sneezing, travel greater distances once airborne as there is reduced resistance. Therefore potentially increasing your exposure to viruses; this creates a ‘stressor.’
Typically in winter, daylight hours are reduced; sunlight assists in the production of serotonin – a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, memory and mood. Researchers from the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne found that levels of serotonin are lower during the winter than the summer; this creates a ‘stressor’.
So generally, the ‘Cold and Flu’ season can be attributed to an increase in the number of ‘stressors’ we are exposed to.
So what do we do to protect ourselves from the flu this winter…reduce the number of ‘stressors’ we are exposed to. Prevention is always more enjoyable than the cure.
Dress for the climate. Wearing the appropriate clothing to keep warm reduces the need for the body to work to keep warm.
Maintain hydration. If it is too cold for water (remember cold water will cool the core temperature, requiring the body to work to warm its self), try drinking herbal teas and bone broths– warming and healing.
Ensure your diet is rich in nutrients; fresh fruit and vegetables – the greater the variety of colours the more nutrients being consumed. Warming foods such as those containing chilli, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, basil, chives, rosemary and thyme.
Increase the consumption of foods rich in vitamin C – black currents, broccoli, citrus fruit, pawpaw, capsicum, pineapple, strawberries, sweet potato and tomatoes, and Zinc – capsicum, egg yolks, ginger, liver, and lamb, oysters, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Reduce or eliminate mucous forming foods such as gluten, dairy and sugar. The lungs naturally contain small amounts of mucous, foods such as gluten, dairy and sugar contribute to inflammation and the production of excess mucous.
Ensure you are getting plenty of sleep and are well rested.
Remembering the importance of exercise. Increasing the heart rate stimulates the circulation of blood assists in the oxygenation of cells and the elimination of toxins. The contraction of muscles stimulates the lymphatic system.
If all this fails and you do feel yourself coming down with a cold, there is hope…chicken soup has been scientifically proven to reduce the effects of a cold.
We are having roast chicken for dinner on Wednesday night so the left over bones and meat will be going into the slow cooker for a batch of bone broth. I keep this in the freezer and add to cooking as needed. It also makes the base for the perfect chicken soup.