Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Staying Healthy During the Winter

By Vivian A. Kominos, M.D., FACC
Integrative Medicine Physician
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

The winter is a festive time, but it also is a time when many of us get sick. What causes winter coughs and sniffles? The misconception is that cold temperatures cause illness. Dry air and cold temperatures can constrict nasal blood vessels and cause mucosal dryness, providing easy entry for viruses and bacteria. But this is not the main cause of winter ailments. Our behavior is mainly responsible. We travel in big groups in trains or planes with poor air quality. We attend large gatherings where we shake hands, hug and kiss. We stay indoors, often in close contact with others who are sick, with stale and recycled air. These factors along with stress, poor nutrition from food high in sugar, and decreased physical exercise causes our immune system to become taxed and it is easier to catch colds. But there are things you can do to prevent illness.

1. Get fresh air. Our homes and offices are well insulated against drafts. This is good for our heating bills but not for our air quality. Opening the windows and doors, even for a few brief moments helps to disperse germs. Go out to breathe fresh air at lunchtime, during breaks and after work. This is good for the lungs and the soul.
2. Continue to exercise. We tend to become less active with cold weather. But physical activity is important for our bodies and souls. It improves our sleep, brain function and releases anti-inflammatory hormones that help us fight illness.
3. Get enough sleep. An occasional late night of partying is not harmful. But staying up late night after night shopping, planning, and drinking can wreak havoc on our normal sleep cycle.
4. Practice stress reduction techniques. Get into the habit of meditating daily. A good way to start is by practicing the relaxation response for 5 minutes in the AM and PM. Click here to view Dr. Herbert Benson. Or learn some simple breathing techniques that help active the relaxation response. Look at Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 relaxation breathing technique.
5. Wash your hands often. Anything you touch contains viruses and bacteria. After shaking hands, touch anything in public use (think door knobs, light switches) use simple soap and water to wash away the germs. And keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
6. Eat healthy food and drink enough water. Stay away from sugar, eat lots of vegetables and fruit and stay well hydrated. Whole food is good medicine!

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