If you haven’t already… Check out Part 1 of Avoiding the Winter Bug Blues and read our first round of tips for staying healthy in the winter time!
Being knocked out of your daily routine by a wicked cold or virus can be frustrating, especially when the outside world chooses a less than ideal time to get you sick. Like before an important interview, a show, a first date, hell – a weekend.
Prevention is always the best medicine, whether you’re keeping the house clean or maintaining immune function, which is why we thought we should compile a list of ideas for warding off that wintertime bug – before it hits. With no further ado, Part 2.
Never Neglect Your Z’s!
Sleep is one of the most neglected parts of maintaining a healthy life. Generally, we are keen to do things about our health: exercise more, eat better food, make time for meditation. But sleep always feels, by nature, like not doing anything. The mindset of our busy lives is often to get as much done each day as possible, and one surefire way to get more done is to add more hours to the day. Unless you’re Dr. Who, that can only be accomplished by going to bed later or getting up earlier, at the expense of our sleep hours.
But consistently losing that sleep ends up making your waking hours less productive and more exhausted. Even mild sleep loss, carried over the course of a couple weeks, can produce cognitive impairments that mirror the effects of 48 hrs with no sleep at all.
Okay, so we all knew losing sleep causes some mental fatigue – but what does sleep have to do with staying healthy? Well, the importance of sleep for the immune system has been well-characterized. Sleep is the time our immune system ramps up, building new microscopic guardians and controlling the circulation of already-existing cells. It is also the most active time for our adaptive immune response, which kills specific viruses and bacteria trying to infect us.
So, if you were to be infected by a virus during the day, the amount of sleep you get that night could have an impact on whether you end up getting sick. If you get a lot of sleep, your body might mount enough of a defense to kill that virus off. If you don’t get much sleep, your body may not have the firepower it needs to knock back the infection, meaning soon enough you’ll wake up with symptoms: a sore throat, cough, congestion, etc.
The problem is you’ll never know exactly when and where you’ve been exposed to an illness, so it’s best to maintain healthy sleep habits as a rule, not an exception!
Try the Garlic Guard
Yep, that’s right – garlic. Your foe needn’t be a night-walking bloodsucker for garlic to be your friend. As it turns out, there’s reason to believe garlic can help prevent cold and help fight it off if you were to get sick. Researchers believe the effect is due to a molecule called allicin, which is widespread in garlic cloves.
Now, before you take the smelly train to Garlic Town, it’s important to note that volunteers in this study, which is the only one of its kind, took supplements with 20 times the allicin in a garlic clove for eight weeks. But those odorous volunteers (bless their hearts) saw a 50% reduction in colds and an 80% reduction in cold length. You aren’t necessarily in need of such staggering effectiveness – just a boost to help keep you well through the winter months!
So fire up some chili, chicken noodle soup, or garlic stir-fry, but beware that high heat will reduce the allicin content of the garlic. The best way to ensure your cloves keep their medicinal properties when cooked is to crush them and let stand for 10 minutes before heating, or use lower heat methods of cooking (like stewing instead of sautéing).
Make Time for Tea
Herbal teas have long been part of medical practices around the globe. Many teas have anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties, so it’s a good idea to get into the habit of having a daily cup of tea during the winter months. We like non-caffeinated herbal teas about 30 minutes before bedtime, as nothing sets you up for a great night’s sleep than a warm cup of chamomile or peppermint!
Adding honey to tea will give your brew an extra boost of anti-microbial properties. So if a bacterial infection is working away at the cells lining your throat, a warm tea with a good portion of honey will help fend off the infection. More generally, tea can eradicate incubating illnesses gaining strength in your mouth and throat – probably the most common avenue through which people get infected – so maintaining the tea routine throughout the winter should help ward off nasty bugs.
That about does it for our ideas… This winter, we hope you stay happy and healthy — leave us a comment if you love these ideas or think we left something out!